One thought struck me the other day as I revisited the idea of blogging again: It has been a long year. Yes, I know we’re only four months into 2017 and while this year seems long enough for several reasons, I’m talking about the last twelve months. It has been a lonnngggg year.
Some seasons of life pass by quickly, while others not so much. You’ve probably heard the Bible verse (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8), or at least The Byrds version, which says “To everything there is a season.” It is true – there really is a season for everything, and we can go through many different seasons over the course of twelve months. Reece and I have been through several seasons; however, the one thing that has remained constant is that this past year was meant to be one of learning.
This time last year, I was just starting to get into a groove. I had found Beachbody and loved it, was working out a ton, had booked up the summer with photography work and really thought I had finally figured it all out, at least for the time being. Of course, I knew that you never really “figure” life out, but jeez, I really thought I had a good thing going. Sheesh, I even wrote a blog post about our family schedule because I really thought I had found the secret sauce. And I had…for about a week.
While it appeared that I had everything under control, under the surface I was mentally and emotionally spinning out of control. A crash was inevitable. In fact, the analogy I used to describe to my husband how I was feeling was basically riding a bike full speed downhill and having the most fantastically epic wipeout. Between photographing multiple sessions on the weekends, staying up late to edit, running Beachbody accountability groups and trying to be present with the girls, I was spread thin. Really, I was trying to be Supermom. We went into the summer at full speed and instead of taking off, everything just came to a crashing halt.
There were a few stumbles at the beginning of the summer that probably should have been my warning signs, but my “crash” finally came in the form of a panic attack during a trip to Denver last July. I do not get panic attacks very often, but battle anxiety regularly. Soon after the trip, I wrote down what had happened so I wouldn’t forget. Re-reading it, the problems seem so minuscule. I mean, my triggers were almost missing the train to the airport (spoiler alert: I would have been able to catch the next one) and not finding my ticket when asked for it. Sometimes, though, it is those little moments that can snowball into something much bigger and more significant.
After that experience, I felt like I had lost my footing. Every time I started to get back up, something else would knock me down again. I was wiped out, laid out, and humbled.
People I considered as close friends would come up to me as say “Wow! We follow you on Facebook and Instagram and everything just looks awesome for you right now!” Or, “Your kids are so beautiful and it looks like you are always busy with photography. You must be doing so well!” I am a big proponent of being transparent and honest about what is going on in our lives. I feel it is very important to throw back the curtain and show the whole picture, rather than just the best glimpses of your life because no one is perfect and we all deserve to be loved for our true selves, not just the version that we are 10% of the time. What I didn’t realize was that I had inadvertently created this persona online where many people felt like I was really sharing everything in my life when it reality, it wasn’t even close.
I could barely keep it together and had no idea how to communicate what was going on to my friends, let alone in a coherent blog post. I got tired of having people assume everything was good based on the beautifully edited photos and carefully crafted jokes that I posted on Facebook. So, I stopped sharing what was on my heart. Closed up shop emotionally, and gave up writing.
It got lonely there for a while. The fall brought a ton of extra work that I didn’t see coming. We so desperately needed the income, and are thankful for that. The issue is that our schedule got so busy from September to November, that I didn’t know how to get through it all, I wasn’t talking to anyone besides my husband and felt like we were in extreme survival mode. In times like these, it is hard to accomplish anything outside of basic needs like showering and eating. Every moment I wasn’t taking care of the girls was dedicated to working. I had spent the last six months on a pretty consistent exercise routine, but that habit evaporated during these season of life. Looking back, the worst part is that I realized I trusted very few people anymore, including myself.
One day in November, a colleague challenged me to start sharing what I was going through with a select number of friends. So I did begin sharing; slowly and more intentionally than I had in previous years. A small handful of ladies specifically became my rocks, my go-to’s. I have known them all for several years (two for over a decade), but it was during this season where I realized that they were true friends. They listened when I needed to talk and they shared their own struggles when I needed to hear I wasn’t alone. There was no judgment in our conversations, just love. They accepted my exhausted and anxious self without hesitating.
I think that one of the biggest lessons I have learned from the past twelve months is the value of true friendship. I suppose this is just a function of growing up, but I did not expect to learn this lesson so abruptly.
I learned that I really only have the capacity for life-giving friendships these days. For me, life-giving friendships are those where equal time is spent between the two of us, sharing what is in our hearts, celebrating our joys and sitting with us in our sorrows. There is no one-upping or dominating the conversation, just a mutual love and respect for the other person and comfort in knowing that you are understood. These ladies also know that if it takes me a few extra days (or weeks) to get back to them it has nothing to do with them. It’s just that #momlife is real and it’s easy to get caught up in it.
This does not mean that I am not nice to other friends or only spend time with these women. In fact, two of them are out-of-state and one lives an hour away from me. Seeing each other often isn’t really in the cards for any of us. I still deeply care for everyone involved in our lives, whether we share our hearts regularly or exchange the general pleasantries in passing. In the past I used to push myself to invest time and emotion into friendships that left me feeling “less-than”. While I still spend time with these friends, I have found confidence in understanding that the roles we play in each other’s lives is different and not as essential. This process has been painful at times, but by realizing this I have noticed that the pain eventually fades and is not drawn out by fruitless attempts to make a friendship something that it is not.
My lack of trust in others and myself is still there and something that I still feel that I am working through. However, I know that I am not alone, which is why I am sharing this with all of you. We are all dealing with something significant in our lives. We have all experienced a betrayal of trust, whether with others or ourselves.
I recently stumbled upon a talk titled “The Anatomy of Trust,” by Brené Brown. This video showed up on my Facebook feed earlier last week and I thought the timing was interesting considering I had just purchased her newest book (Rising Strong) on a whim. Listening to her talk about trust helped me realize that part of what has made this year such a growing year personally, is that it has forced me to redefine what trust means to me. Over the years, I’ve experienced the pain of losing trust in others and the hope in a trust renewed. I have also been through the crazy dance of losing trust in myself and (slowly) learning how to trust myself again.
In her talk, Brené shares an acronym (BRAVING) which she developed to help identify the difference parts of what should bring us to trust someone. I love how she says that by identifying these important pieces of trust, it gives us the tools to vocalize how and why we are feeling certain ways when trust is compromised.
Here is a synopsis of the anatomy of trust in a relationship:
Boundaries: They must be present, honored, and respected.
Reliability: We must do what we say we will, and clear with our own limitations so we do not come up short with our promises. That second part is SO important. Be clear with your own limitations. How many times have you committed to doing something that you know deep down you won’t be able to do?
Accountability: You must be willing to hold the other person accountable, and you must be willing to be held accountable.
Vault: What is said in confidence, stays in confidence.
Integrity: I love her definition of integrity: “Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.” For trust to be present, this applies to both people in the relationship.
Non-Judgment: You must be willing to give and receive help, without judgment.
Generosity: You must be generous with your assumptions and give each other the benefit of the doubt.
This is pretty deep stuff, but is 100% relevant to all of us, right? Brené also makes the point that not only should we evaluate our trust in others using these seven points, we should also evaluate our trust in ourselves. I would never be able to articulate everything as well as she did, and there are so many other points that she makes that are SO worth listening to. If you find you have 20 minutes or so, I highly encourage you to watch the recording of her talk HERE. Also, side note, the Oprah Soul Sessions (where her talk took place) are addicting and so empowering. It’s easy to get lost in all the videos (I may have done that during an editing spree last week), but it is definitely worth your time. I mean, it’s Oprah. You know it’s going to be good. ;)
12 months ago, I was sure I had things figured out, that I had cracked the code to keeping it all together. Now, I am more guarded and less sure. We are facing another ridiculously busy summer but this year, instead of committing to surviving the crazy, I am choosing to thrive. Yes, I know that this will be hard some days. Heck, it has been hard already. However, I’m tired of shying away from the discomfort of known failures and the fear of messing up yet again. This is inevitable, for all of us. Life is messy and far from perfect. My hope is that by shifting my focus away from the crashes, away from the stumbles and toward the rays of light that are my God and my little family, I’ll walk away stronger and less beat up this time around. It’s going to be a long road ahead, but I am ready to start moving. I know I’m not the only one who’s been down this road. Maybe you’ve been there, maybe you’re on it right now. If there is one thing I’ve learned this year, it is that we can find strength in numbers. Never underestimate the support of a good friend or the power of an honest conversation. Together, we’ll get through. So, who’s with me?