It crept in slowly, like a pebble wedged in the toe of my shoe that I’d only feel occasionally. If I moved a certain way – or, in this case, if I caught a certain scroll, pin or post – then there it’d be, a tiny stab of insignificance.
I’d brush it aside, thinking maybe I was just jealous or being judgmental, giving too much room to those self-centered tendencies we can have as human beings. But it started getting worse. What’s more, I started getting worse. I was becoming annoyed and cynical with anything new, anyone billing themselves as artistic or creative or living their best life. As ugly as it sounds, I’ll admit: I’ve internally rolled my eyes more times in the last year than maybe ever as an adult.
Pride is a nasty root. And underneath its web, there’s usually something more.
For me, what lay beneath was insecurity (shocker – despite my firm belief that it’s a great decade, how many women can’t relate to self-doubt in their 30s?). Insecure that I wasn’t on track. Insecure that I was losing relevance in friend groups. Insecure that time was slipping away and I was just wasting it. All of it.
Yes. That was me.
How does Italy fit in?
From the outside, you’d never expect it. That’s what’s great about being different, isn’t it?
Pulling up (or walking up — its location is conveniently walkable) to Villa Tra’monti in Bassano del Grappa doesn’t achieve the assumed grandiosity of saying you’re off “to vacation in a villa in Italy.” You don’t weave up an exclusive drive and a liveried service staff isn’t standing at attention. Instead, you turn off the main road and immediately to your left, as if still on the off-ramp, you arrive at the front gate.
The stone structure with its mid-century modern, almost commanding silhouette slices itself into your view of the mountains, now an ombre blue against the sunset in the distance.
I’m welcomed by Carolina, who owns and runs the villa and is apologetically distracted; a hailstorm tore through the night before and her plants, which frame the perimeter of the property, remain in critical condition. The door handle is old, she says, so only use the key. She twists the lock and pushes the iron grate.
In we go.
Immediately, I get the sense I’ve just entered someplace special. There’s a warm glow as the setting sun — still infusing the living room’s pink sofa and matching armchairs — spills onto the wood-paneled floor at our feet. It’s the best kind of light.
I decide I’d happily camp in the entryway if I could. But I can’t.
Carolina leads me to the kitchen where the color palette changes from pink to yellow. The walls are tiled and there’s a vintage yellow fridge in the corner, not the ironic kind. A bottle of prosecco with my name on it chills inside, awaiting a later pour. I’m invited to use the kitchen at leisure with the only reminder to segment my trash for recycling.
It’s a green home, she says. The green energy is important.
As we wander back through the rest of house, Carolina explains how her father collected art. Uniquely chosen, every piece in her home — some dating back to the 17th century — has a story. Originally just two floors, two additional levels were added to the villa in the 1950s; not the top two, as you might expect, but the bottom two. Italian architect Francesco Bonfanti guided the project. Depth was carved out intentionally.
I note the life metaphor and follow Carolina down the arched corridor to my room.
Over the next five days, whether waking up jet-lagged to lavender skies and the swaying cypress trees outside my window or coming back to the villa mid-day to rest my blistered heels (and cursing for not packing sandals), I settle into the stillness of Villa Tra’monti. It’s ironically active with something I can’t put my finger on.
The pattern on a table runner. A collection of vintage books behind a curtain. The detail on a wall sconce. My eye seems to find the things that aren’t asking for attention. Appreciation is the reward and there’s a sense of refreshment edging in.
Eventually, it hits me: I didn’t know how much I needed to see a place like this. That was unapologetically itself. Where time is an art form instead of a burden.
I’m not just talking about the magic of Italy in general, that’s well-documented, but being in a home with a unique sense of collection. The villa isn’t trying to be anything but what it is and in doing so, it invites you to disarm a guard of ineptitude. You, too, have details waiting to be discovered.
It’s the parts that feel different that end up being distinct.
And it’s the view from the shared balcony that really cements this for me.
Looking out over the edge of historic Bassano, I’m reminded that creativity by nature (and just like nature) cannot be compared. A deep sense of self is synonymous with significance. When we’re not striving to keep up, we can offer something new. Something imaginative and truly beautiful. Ourselves. That’s what we share. That’s what inspires. That’s where we rest.
It’s the fullness of our stories, with all their unexpected storms and stand-alone colors, that’s truly the reward.
Whenever we host a Darling Dinner, the intention goes far beyond just enjoying a great meal with one another; it is truly a chance to connect at a deeper level and leave encouraged and refreshed.
If you’ve been to our dinners, you know that each one is centered around a theme. For this one held in the Cafe at Thistle Farms in Nashville, TN, the word was obvious right from the inception: Light.
This is due to the fact that Becca Stevens, the founder of Thistle Farms, has created a company that literally pushes back the darkness on a daily basis by providing long-term housing, healthcare, and therapy for survivors of prostitution, trafficking and addiction without charging residents. They also provide survivors employment through their Body & Home line, The Café of Thistle Farms, and a Global Market.
With the dinner held in the Thistle Farms Café, we couldn’t help but talk about how we each hold a “light,” something we can give to others to encourage them—whether it be just our life story itself, a piece of advice, or a hug that says, “I’ve been there, too.”
As fifty women gathered, we started out by chatting and taking all the necessary selfies with wine by Winc in hand and cocktails by Hamilton Bartending, along with crostini appetizers with whipped goat cheese and strawberry bruschetta.
The dining area was so stunning with table design by Alex Cantrell from The New Eclectic with an aesthetic that was modern, warm and curated, yet bold at the same time—with hints of dusty rose and mustard yellow.
Alex even hand dyed all the napkins into the most beautiful pink tone we’d ever seen! It was a cozy, welcoming and calming space to enter, and we settled in for the intro to the evening by Darling Founder Sarah Dubbeldam and Becca Stevens. They each told their stories of overcoming hardship in their lives and how although these times were tough, they brought about vision for what they do now—encouraging women to thrive, heal and find light again.
As the first course was served—a stunning colorful salad with shaved watermelon radishes, chioggia beets, heirloom carrots, pickled onions, and goat cheese—we started wth our icebreaker question:
What is the story behind your shoes?
The room filled with laughter as women lifted up their feet around the tables to show one another their shoes and the story of where they got them and why they chose them.
As the main course was brought out—airline chicken breasts with eggplant tapenade and dill-yogurt sauce along with tabbouleh w/ tomatoes, cucumbers, and fresh herbs—Sarah shared the second question:
What’s something you’ve been through that you’ve seen light come from?
First opening up about her own struggles with severe anxiety and depression, she set the level of depth and the permission to “go there,” for the room. It’s interesting how as women, it can be so hard to put down our masks and share what’s really going on, or even where we’ve truly come from. As people began to share, a special love and care fell upon the room—there were tears or sadness and joy, shared experiences, and a general feeling of celebration for the light that has come out of the hard places, and the rough patches that have been made smooth.
A big surprise of the evening was having renowned singer/songwriter, artist and entrepreneur, Amy Stroup play a song for us live between each table question—each filled with vivid storytelling and rich, emotional honesty. She is multi-talented as part of the acclaimed group, Sugar & The High-Lows, but also one of the most licensed females in music today. Her music helped each of us soak up all that had been said and that we learned from each conversation.
Becca Stevens posed the third question:
What special light do you hold?
This thought brought up the fact that no matter how big or small, we each have a light that we can shine in whatever environment we find ourselves in. We might be at home with our kids, or at a 9-5 job, or starting a business—whatever it is, we each carry something and we shouldn’t measure our light against anyone else’s.
Lastly, dessert was served—an orange almond layered cake w/ whipped cream, fresh berries and edible flowers. The last question of the evening was a call to leave the evening with vision and fresh inspiration:
What’s the distant light on the horizon for you?
This was a lovely question to end on—speaking out into existence the things we’ve been pondering or dreaming about for our future.
Women stayed long after the dinner, chatting and exchanging numbers, along with peeking into the lovely gift bags from the following sponsors:
Missio Hair: A beautiful gold scarf that can be worn so many ways! They also have an amazing hair care line that’s incredible product that gives back to victims of sex trafficking.
ABLE: A gorgeous ring from Nashville based lifestyle brand that has beautiful bags, jewelry, fashion and shoes. They focus on ending generational poverty by working with women who have often overcome extraordinary circumstances and manufacture directly in the communities they wish to impact—also publishing wages publicly to be fully transparent.
Dakotah Smith Designs: A Pinky Promise Enamel Pin Set that is great kept together or split up to give to your best friend, your #1, your sibling, your S.O., your mom – the options are endless!
We are so thankful to Thistle Farms for co-hosting this dinner with us, and continue to support the work that they do.
Especially during this time of year, we’re all about the cold. Ice cream. Popsicles. Frozen for days. But is splashing our system with ice-cold-goodness actually doing more harm than help? Thankfully, we can turn to Chalkboard Mag* for some answers here. Below, Certified Health and Wellness Coach, Nicole Granato, is filling us in about the negative effect cold foods and drinks can have on our body.
In our smoothie-crazed health world, have we ever stopped to wonder if frozen drinks are really healthy for us? We’re ingesting an ice-cold drink while bundled up in socks and a sweater warming the outside of our bodies but freezing the inside.
Auyervedic medicine explains that every season is associated with a dosha – spring with kapha, summer with pitta and fall and winter with vata. These seasonal fluxuations with doshas are essentially balanced through diet. While pitta is the most dominant in women, each dosha has one main thing in common: None of them recommend ice-cold drinks or food. Chinese medicine also says women should be eating warm to room temperature foods throughout the seasons – anything colder greatly increases the chances of hormonal imbalance, skin irritation, bloating, digestive sensitivity, blood stagnation, hair loss and mood disorders like depression and increased anxiety. So could our iced drinks and smoothies really be hurting us?
THE FIX: Nourish yourself with warmed foods like soups, almonds, fresh ginger, vegetables boiled or roasted, bone broth, fruits like dates and figs, warm nut milk or goats milk, turmeric, ghee, pumpkin seeds, whole grains, avocado, sweet potato, room-temperature salads and matcha green tea. Stay away from frozen fruits and berries, cold acai bowls and fruit bowls, iced drinks, cold vegetables and salads and iced coffee. Drink things at room temperature.
3 REASONS TO NIX ICED DRINKS + COLD FOODS
1. GUT HEALTH
Our digestive systems are extremely sensitive to foods and liquids and, most importantly, the temperature of those foods. Nothing disrupts the digestive system more than a cold beverage, especially on an empty stomach – it sends a big shock throughout the entire body. Women who ingest cold beverages first thing in the morning tend to experience bloating, puffiness in their face and neck, mild forms of acne and digestive sensitivity throughout the day and into the evening. Replace that cold drink in the a.m. with a warm or room-temperature one.
2. HORMONAL HARMONY
Pitta governs all heat, metabolism, hormone balance and transformation in the body and mind. Symptoms like irritability, thinning hair, excess stomach acid, loose stool, skin prone to rashes and puffiness in the face and neck may be connected to an imbalanced pitta. Most women tend to suffer from this imbalance in the fall, winter and spring months. Eating a diet based on warm and room temperature foods is key.
Warm foods have been suggested as the best foods to eat while trying to conceive. Nourishing our body with food that is easy on the digestive system allows our bodies to absorb the nutrients within the food. When we eat ice cold foods and smoothies our body freezes up, creating a blockage, preventing our tissues from absorbing the nutrients that are being given to us. Warm foods promote a healthy menstrual cycle, ovulation and lower symptoms of PMS as our bodies are able to shed uterine lining and build blood efficiently. It is highly important to eat warm and nourishing foods during this time of the month and stay away from cold foods and drinks!
Some of our favorite warming recipes from Chalkboard are: Cauliflower Rice, Coconut Quinoa Pudding, and Sweet Potato Nachos with Vegan Queso.
*The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease. All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise, or other health program.
Here at Darling we cherish our pets as the family members they are. We love dogs, cats, turtles, hamsters, fish — all sorts of creatures — and we give all species the same degree of worth, knowing that while some of us may be distinctly dog people, others of us have the very same relationship with our pet ferret or snake or bird.
Having a pet can be challenging, certainly, but we unanimously agree that the effort of caring for our beloved creature is worth it; in fact, we often feel like we need our pets more than they need us. Animals can teach us so many lessons about life. Today we’re waxing poetic about the pets in our lives and the things they’ve taught us that have shaped us into the pet owners (and people) that we’ve become.
Pets Teach Us About Loyalty
I must confess up front that I am a dog owner, so my realm of understanding of other pets is a bit limited, but I think we can all agree that pets of all kinds are incredibly loyal creatures. They greet us when we come home, they protect us from the mailman (whether we’ve asked them to or not), and they show us great affection.
Photo of Amanda Shine for The Setting NYC via Camila Gutierrez | www.thesettingnyc.com
The loyalty they display reminds us of the ways in which we can be loyal and loving to the important people in our own lives. Loyalty isn’t a topic we discuss much even though it’s a hugely crucial component in relationships. We often focus on honesty, openness and love when discussing relationships (all good things!), but we less frequently expound upon the importance of being loyal to one another by being supportive of one another’s decisions, showing up when someone’s in need, and protecting the parts of each other’s lives that should be kept confidential. Pets remind us of how it feels to be on the receiving end of someone’s loyalty, encouraging us to treat our family and friends in the same way.
Pets remind us of how it feels to be on the receiving end of someone’s loyalty, encouraging us to treat our family and friends in the same way.
Pets Teach Us About Contentment
In a world full of opportunities to compare ourselves to one another, I find this lesson to be the one that resonates most with me. In the midst of being blessed with a wonderful husband, an incredible family, a beautiful community of friends, good health, a full-time job, and a lovely place to live, I still find ways to compare myself to others. It’s ridiculous, really, but I find myself falling into the trap time and time again.
Whenever I need a reality check, I think about the ways in which I’ve learned about contentment from the dogs I’ve had over the years. Granted, pets don’t have to worry about overdue bills, insurance snafus, home repairs or ill relatives, but they still remind us of all there is to be content with, including the basics like food, water, shelter, and love. Pets are content to simply just be present with their owners, which is a tender reminder of how special and meaningful it is to spend time with loved ones, whether we’re engaging in an activity together or just resting in one another’s presence.
Pets Teach Us About Gratitude
Pets remind us of the value of being grateful for all that we have. This life lesson goes hand-in-hand with the concept of contentment: First we learn to be content with what we have, and then we learn to express gratitude for those things. Pets are thankful for the simplest little things in life, and most are able to express their gratitude in specific ways, whether they come in the form of slobbery kisses or loud squawks.
I often reflect on the way my dog excitedly runs around our living room in circles when he realizes he’s about to go on a walk, and it makes me wonder if I ever approach the little things in my life with that much enthusiasm and gratitude. His sweet behavior puts life into perspective for me, and it reminds me that there’s something that I can be thankful for every single day.
Pets Teach Us About Responsibility
As any pet owner knows, taking care of our animal friends is a lot of work. It’s worthwhile work, certainly, but it’s work nonetheless. Scheduling appointments, tracking medication, keeping living spaces clean, and taking pets out for bathroom breaks are consuming tasks that help teach us to become more responsible with our time and our resources. We learn to better prepare for financial emergencies, should they arise, and we make our schedules in such a way to be the best parents to our furry/feathery/scaly friends.
When you work hard to accomplish your goals, do everything in your power to achieve a milestone and earn a leadership position, you have every right to be proud of your successes. However, it’s also just as important to remain gracious and treat your team with the same respect once you have made it to the top. While you’re enjoying the view you so rightly earned, it’s very easy to lose sight of what is right and what is wrong. Here are some ways to stay grounded, no matter how prosperous you are in life.
Taking pride in your accomplishments and pushing for constant achievements are great characteristics to possess. But people admire the leaders whose accomplishments speak for themselves and whose greatest achievements are noted as a result of the success of their team or followers as a whole.
Remember Your Hardworking Team
Being in a leadership position, you have a team you are working with. Sure, in the system of hierarchy, you are on the top tier of the triangle. But if you flip the triangle to be pointed down, and work in the mindset that your team who works with you is just as important to the results of success in your business, you will have a much healthier team. Building your business, no matter what field you’re in, is a team effort; it is not a venture you accomplished on your own. Be thankful for your company’s crew and treat them with the same respect. Take the job seriously but not yourself.
Apply the Same Standards Before Your Big Win
No doubt that serious, focused discipline is what gets the job done effectively and productively. That’s why your business has thrived. But not everyone can go nonstop as a robot all of the time. It’s okay to allow your team members to be humans. They need time to relax, recharge and take breaks. Show your team that they can have fun while they work as well. A little humor and light-hearted celebrations are much needed with your team to make working enjoyable and more successful.
Stay in Contact
It is very important, as you climb the stairs to success, that you do not disconnect yourself from everyone else. Do not lock yourself up in your big, private corner office away from the heart and soul of your hardworking team. Stay involved just as you did in the beginning of your venture and continue that same workmanship. Remember the people you meet on your way up will be the same people you may meet on your way down. Always be kind to those you work with.
After we reach a certain point in our successes, some of us subconsciously subscribe to the belief that we no longer need to work as hard to get what we want, or that we are now better than those around us. By adjusting our expectations, we will stay involved, humble and above all, gracious.
I recently found myself surrounded by over thirty women, in many different stages of life, but who all shared my chosen career of physician. As a fledgling medical student, it was quite the honour to have been invited to the annual female physicians Christmas party. There was a gift exchange, home-made appetizers, and a chocolate box or two, but the ultimate treat was meeting real women living out their vocation – my vocation – five, 10, 25 years beyond my current stage.
Pursuing a professional career can be a daunting task in itself, yet as women, we face additional challenges beyond school admissions, performance reviews, and job interviews. We must overcome the fears and expectations that we are not capable, within ourselves and also within the lingering ideas of our respective work subcultures; ideas women before us have fought to overcome. We must also consider how we will integrate the other facets of femininity into our days, roles like friend, sister, daughter, wife, and mother. We wrestle over future days and projected responsibilities, imagining the possible challenges to innate desires of travelling overseas, pursuing interests, finding a mate, or having a family.
It’s these considerations that I was able to peer into at this holiday party. As I met and conversed with several women doctors, I did not have to dream up a future as a female in my career, since I was seeing multiple versions right before me: women sharing the news of their first pregnancy to women caring for elderly parents; women newly moved into town to women nearing retirement; women accepting work referrals to women needing relief support; women who played instruments for the city’s symphony; women who loved to sew; and women planning their next vacation trip. All lived full and rich lives as female physicians.
No one can decide for us how to balance the many roles we will play in the course of our lives, but that does not mean we cannot follow the example of those who have managed before us. Just as we may borrow our grandmother’s sure-fire recipes, or a good friend’s wedding program design, we can also borrow from our mentors’ course and decisions. Hearing how other women have played their many roles, alongside working as a professional, can demystify our own future balancing-act; as long as we take care to consider how our own values and priorities may differ.
No one can decide for us how to balance the many roles we will play in the course of our lives, but that does not mean we cannot follow the example of those who have managed before us.
Even if we make a point to have a few women mentors, there is something about the extent and diversity of perspectives found in a larger get together, especially one that is multi-generational. It requires intentional effort, but we must find ways as women to share with one another our routes in life. Whether it be a female Christmas party, our colleague’s baby shower, a women’s association conference, or lunch out with ‘the girls’; let’s make it happen. We may find a new viewpoint into aspects of our own future, and eventually find ourselves giving back and shedding light on those coming after us.
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Most of us have heard this phrase countless times, but its message couldn’t be further from the truth. We know that words are, in fact, able to hurt us. What we speak to one another has the power to either do good or to do harm, and it’s therefore essential for us to be mindful of the things we speak to each other. It sounds so simple, but shouldn’t it be a constant goal in our relationships to build others up with life-affirming encouragement and love rather than tear them down with gossip, criticism and negative speech?
I have one friend in particular who excels at this, and who has taught me the value of speaking kind and grace-filled words. She never fails to seek the good in others, and she is quick to pour out genuine, heartfelt compliments to all whom she meets. In our friendship, her positive words have given me hope and encouragement more times than I can count. Just knowing how much she values and supports me gives me immense confidence in who I am and leaves me feeling uplifted and capable.
Scottish author George Macdonald seemed to understand this power when he wrote: “If instead of a gem, or even a flower, we should cast the gift of a loving thought into the heart of a friend, that would be giving as the angels give.” Telling a friend what we see and love about them affirms their worth and also helps them to recognize and embrace their best and most beautiful qualities.
Of course, I understand that it is seldom the most natural thing to speak aloud the good thoughts we have about others. It is often easiest to hold onto our judgments and criticisms instead. When we adjust our attitudes, however, and work to cultivate hearts of truth and edification, we will discover the truth in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words: “The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when he discovers that someone else believes in him and is willing to trust him.”
So ladies, let’s make it a habit to speak words that encourage, build up, inspire, challenge, and comfort. Let us point out the positive qualities in our friends and praise them for their strengths, affirming the character traits that we appreciate so much and so often take for granted.
One of the most frustrating and helpless feelings I have ever experienced is being misunderstood with no way to fix it. No matter how much we try to communicate, and no matter how much we try to be ourselves, sometimes our inner workings are too different from each other to truly see the ground floor of someone. Through the years, it has become easier for me to accept because I have been graciously gifted with a handful of people that can see through to the core of who I am. I know that not everyone is so lucky, and some personality types suffer more than others. It truly grieves me to think about those women who feel like no one sees them.
It is safe to say that I have spent a lot of my life feeling misunderstood. I know that it is developmental in a way for young people, but there has always been this lingering, nagging feeling inside of me that people cannot see my heart. I have always longed to be known and understood. I have always craved understanding, for someone to just know what makes me tick. No explanations needed. No buffers or disclaimers. No fear. But we are all just humans. We are not perfect, and there are a few things I have learned that have kept me afloat when, for whatever reason, someone’s eyes are closed to my heart.
Ground Yourself In Truth
Being misunderstood leaves us feeling insecure. When someone looks at you with judgment or assumption, it is so easy to feel unloved. As people, we hunger for love in a very deep way and being denied it can shake us to our bones. It can leave us defensive, overly sensitive, and confrontational. Or many times, it can leave us just plain sad. It is important to own that feeling, but respond to it with truth. You don’t have to believe it right away, but when you constantly remind yourself of what is real: that you have worth, value, and deserve to be loved for who you are, eventually it will begin to sink in. If you feel like you can’t do it, go to a trusted loved one that you know will. Ask them to lay it on you so that you can hear it from somewhere. There is no shame in asking for a little love when the world is trying to twist your mind.
Let It Go
At some point, everyone will find herself in a situation in a relationship that is truly unfair. Accusation will fly, deception will creep in, and pride will rear its ugly head. In those moments, it is worth fighting for truth, but we have to have the wisdom to know where the line is. And we must know that ultimately, it is not our job to defend ourselves. We will not always be able to correct a wrong perception or explain until understanding comes. There are times when you have to open up your hands and let it go. That means letting someone perceive you in a way that you know is untrue. I have been in many situations where I eventually have to let an offensive comment go because I know I won’t be able to convince the person to see me for who I know I am. I have also made the mistake of fighting too hard for justice when it will never come. In letting go, we have to also let go of our own offenses and remember the times that we have done the same to others. Holding on to the hurt and building resentment against someone who does not understand you is not only counterproductive; it makes your heart feel sick.
Be And Stay Real
Look in the mirror. Get honest. It’s not all flowers and butterflies in there, is it? Part of being understood is not just being known for the goodness inside of you. If you really want to be seen you will have to be real about the things you are not proud of as well. When we are confronted with something we feel is not justified, the first question we ask ourselves has to be, “Is this true?” Sometimes it will be and sometimes it won’t be. We have to consider it and let it roll around inside of ourselves before we gear up for war. Sometimes it may be helpful to ask for another outside perspective. Being misunderstood can also create a tendency for us to be closed off. Don’t let the pain of misunderstanding and loss make you hide who you are. It takes a lot of courage to commit to being yourself when who you are has not always been appreciated.
If you are lucky enough to be the steward of friendships that give you the room to be transparent, be sure to return the favor and celebrate the people you care about. If you want unconditional love, you will have to give it. If you want to be seen, you will have to see, for yourself. If you want to be safe in relationships, you will have to create a safe place for others as well. Be more concerned about being free from anger than about getting justice, and you will have the opportunity to not only live it, but also teach it.
Kindergarteners are my favorite kind of people. They’re funny and quirky and always seem to be sticky. They’re also my favorite because they’re fearless.
Have you ever spent time with kindergarteners? If you get a chance, go up to a group of them and ask them this: Who of you are artists or singers or dancers?
I guarantee that before you can finish your sentence, you’ll have 5 or 6 of the bravest ones up front pulling out all of the stops, whipping out their best tree or twirl or rendition of ‘the sun will come out tomorrow.’ Now try that same thing in a group of college students—or even better, a group of professionals.
My dad tells the story of when he was at a conference with 400 law enforcement professionals—experts in their field, people with PHD’s and fully loaded guns on their belts. The speaker asked the same question: Who of you are artists or singers or dancers? There were a couple of nervous coughs as everybody averted their eyes, not wanting to make the rookie mistake of making eye contact with the guy up front.
Not one person raised their hand.
You’d assume that as we get older, we’d become more confident. You’d also assume that the kindergarteners have more to lose because their peers are probably a bit more vocal in their disapproval (not yet having learned the art of tact or political correctness) and because of the embarrassing reality of their still untrained bladders. But time and time again, I can promise that you’d find more reckless confidence in a group of 5 year olds than in a group of 500 qualified, professional adults.
Doesn’t that just make you wonder?
Here’s the conclusion I’ve been drawing as I’ve seen this played out in my life, over and over again: There’s a point, probably somewhere around middle school, when you start to become horrifyingly aware of your potential to embarrass yourself. You start to understand that there are certain people that are the artists and the singers and the dancers—and that generally, those activities should be left to those with a natural affinity for them.
We discover, or maybe just assume that a lot of humiliation can be eliminated if we avoid things that we might not be awesome at right away. And although in some cases there may be some truth to this, it’s not a truth that lends itself to any kind of freedom.
When I was little, I loved to sing—until about 3rd grade when I choked in a school talent show- marking the end of my solo career. I sang in choir, but I literally had to be medicated any time I was forced to sing alone—my voice squeaking out as a shadow of what I (and the walls of my shower) knew it was capable of.
It wasn’t until halfway through my 23rd year of life that I finally began to break through some of that fear, letting my actual voice out. I was terrified at first—scared of being rejected for something that came from deep inside of me—and then things changed. A friend of mine told me to sing and to sing loudly and to forget about what it sounded like. He gave me the permission to be terrible, if need-be, but not to let that stop me.
And with the loving permission to be really, really bad, I realized that it actually was less about the product than it was about the process. It was less about what my voice sounded like, and more about the freedom I could step into if I just opened my mouth and let ‘er rip.
The freedom was incredible. It was amazing what my voice sounded like when it wasn’t choked by my fear of what other people were thinking of me. Within a month or two of that moment, I was playing guitar and singing in front of huge groups of people- actually surprisingly confidently. I may not become a recording artist—then again, you never know—but there’s a freedom that I’ve found in not being ashamed of the sound that’s inside of me.
And it made me wonder…
What would happen if we, as confident, degree holding, weapon wielding (or not…) adults, decided to paint? What would happen if we decided to sing or learn to play the guitar, or take a dance class? What would happen if we decided to go for that thing that we’ve always dreamed about, but always left to the professionals?
What kind of freedom are we missing out on by limiting what we do to the things that we’ve tried and already know that we’re good at? And what would our voices, paintings, and dancing be like if they weren’t choked with fear?
Every morning I willingly and blissfully awake to soothing yet soulful sounds of Ryan Edgar in the background. With my bright white smile, skin clearer than any model after Photoshop editing, and a body Heidi Klum would even be jealous of, I reach to my right and grab my freshly made white chocolate mocha with extra whip from Starbucks, delivered to my bed-side by the man of my dreams just because it’s Thursday. Right now, you’re probably jealous—I hope so. Nevertheless, since this is all a lie, you can save that self-pity for another time.
The truth is, my day actually begins a little bit like this: After hitting the snooze button on all eleven of my alarms, half asleep, I stumble into the bathroom. I stand in the mirror brushing my teeth wondering why I have two pimples on my forehead today that definitely weren’t there yesterday. I get dressed, lace up my running shoes, and head to gym. There,
I wage war on everything that’s in the way of the six pack that I’ve yet to see, while checking out all of the guys there who have no more muscle to gain, and laughing at the women wearing full face of make up. After fighting that downhill battle, I head home, shower, reply to emails, write out my errands for the day, and head to work. Glamorous, right? Yeah right.
We all have our fantasies of what we wish our lives to be. Nevertheless, for most of us that’s simply just not what our lives consist of. We get caught up in the mundane of our daily schedules, forgetting that we too deserve that perfect day we dream of each time we open eyes. Of course work, cleaning, helping the kids with their homework, and school all have their place, but so does you enjoying every single day of your purposed life. A lot of women today feel as if they have something to prove. They feel like they have to show the world that they can run a Fortune 500 company, cook dinner, make every dance recital and spend quality time with their husbands without losing their lovin’ minds.
But may I suggest to you that you have nothing to prove? May I dare to say that you have already proven your point through your existence and through the impact of the smile you gave to that person having a rough day? May I propose to you that just as important as your career is your bliss? May I appeal to the guilt raging within you right now that your fantasy isn’t a fantasy at all? What you perceive to be a waste of time is the life, the smiles, and the happiness you’re choosing to neglect by cluttering your day—every day—with a thousand “to dos.”
So, I propose this one thing: Treat. Yo. Self.
It’s not just a funny phrase heard on television, it’s a command. Take time today and do what you love. Go hiking, read a book, dance in your underwear to your favorite album, eat a tub of ice cream, see a movie with your man, spend too much money on a pair of shoes, go on that vacation you’ve always dreamed of, cuddle and watch a chick flick with your best friends; just DO SOMETHING that makes you happy.
Take a moment, thirty minutes, a day—or even a week—and do the thing you’ve always wanted. Forget about the everlasting checklist the world is calling you to and just enjoy the life you’ve been given. You weren’t created to just work your way through life. You were created to enjoy it and be enjoyed. God delights in us living our lives on purpose and with a smile.