Birthday reflection time!
It was my birthday this past weekend (April 23)! I had an AWESOME birthday.
One of the things I did was reflect upon all of the things I’ve learned over the past year.
I do this EVERY year.
You might think I’m weird, but you should try it! It’s a lot of fun. And it’s good for the soul.
Normally, I would share the things I’ve learned with Husband.
Since he is currently at basic training, I will share these things with you!
I’ve learned a LOT over the past year. I’m 26, now, in case you’re wondering.
I attribute 70% of my newfound 26-year-old wisdom to blogging. Blogging fleshes out all of those secret issues I have buried deep within me. The self-reflective powers of blogging are second to none. I learn more about myself simply by writing to YOU than I do via anything else.
7 Things I’ve Learned Over the Past Year
1. How much of my self-worth is wrapped up in my body image.
This lesson was tough to face. Before this year, I was clueless about how much of my self-esteem came from looking good in a mirror, naked.
As I slowly packed on the pounds this past year, my body confidence crumbled.
And I am STILL struggling with it. I haven’t quite figured out how to feel sexy with a little extra junk in my trunk (or at least as sexy as I feel when I’m thinner).
For the record, it’s not like Husband is deterred by a few extra pounds. I have to beat him off me with a stick whether I’m 20 pounds overweight or fit as a fiddle.
For years, I was thin, and I had the confidence that came with it. I never worried about my curvatures because they always stayed the same. I worked out a lot, too, so I was pretty buff.
Once my body started to lose its shape, so did my emotions. My confidence warped right along with my puffed out figure. I tried to blame it on feeling “career lost” and “uncertain about my life purpose,” but, really, I was just feeling terrible about not having a kickass bod.
I’ve realized over the past year that, when I am thin, all my worries dissipate. This is a fact. It’s not a pretty fact or a healthy fact, but it is a fact nonetheless. And I have a sneaking suspicion that I am not alone in feeling this way about my figure.
I am a work in progress, always. After I lost a bunch of weight on the 21 Day Fix, I was still uncomfortable in my skin. It was like I didn’t trust the mirror or something. I was actually quite frail and vulnerable the entire time I was on the program. I felt so much pressure to lose so much weight that I pushed myself to the point of getting sick. My mindset wasn’t right. It was all wrong. I wasn’t following the program in a way that was conducive to me keeping the weight off. I went a little crazy and took it to the extreme.
And that’s part of the reason why I gained a bunch of weight back after my first round was over. Which leads to thing #2.
2. How terrible my relationship with food is.
I suppose a better way of saying this is: I’ve learned how powerful my EMOTIONS are in affecting what I choose to shove in my mouth each day/night.
I definitely have binge-y tendencies. And binging on food is 100% emotional. Normal eating is physical. You eat to sustain yourself and nourish your body. When you binge, you are not eating for nourishment of your body. You are eating for nourishment of your emotions. To soothe yourself. To pacify yourself. For pleasure. I am guilty of letting my feelings drive my eating habits. And I am still working on correcting this.
I have always struggled with my relationship with food. Even when I was thin, it wasn’t because I was eating healthy food every single day, nor was I eating correct portions. I was DATING. Which meant I would go days living off alcohol and a salad, and then I’d go days eating everything in sight. And somehow, that always kind of just…balanced out.
Plus, I was taking prescriptions that stifled my appetite and made it SO EASY to not eat. I’ll tell you more about that another time.
I’ve learned over the past year that my TRUE eating habits are NOT GOOD. Getting married and being happy and comfortable has shed light on this. Once life became normal and ritualized, I let go of my odd/occasionally strict eating habits and workout regimens, and my tight muscles and thin waist disappeared.
It’s not healthy to be thin because you’re not eating enough. And it’s not healthy to be heavy because you’re eating too much. I realize both of these things. I just haven’t quite found the middle ground, yet.
But I am getting better at it. The 21 Day Fix is truly a phenomenal program for this. I am climbing that Healthy Relationship With Food mountain every day. I am learning more about why I eat what I eat and what tends to rule me in the kitchen. And the more I learn, the more tools I’m collecting in my arsenal to beat the Food Monster down and turn him into a well-behaved, nicely groomed gentleman.
3. How much I love Husband.
Marriage changes everything about your relationship with your lover. There are a lot of things no one tells you about marriage, and I have written a whole SERIES about those things.
One of the things I’ve learned this past year is JUST HOW MUCH I love Husband. We had been in a love war for a decade before we wed. When we finally decided to legally fuse ourselves together, we were forced to learn how to get along, which made getting married the best decision we’ve ever made. We should have gotten married a long time ago, just to save ourselves years of heartbreak and emotional turmoil.
Husband and I have always had a rocky, sparky kind of love.
We have a very passionate relationship, which means that the loving is as intense as the fighting. We happily take both, because the loving is so insanely worth it. I love him so much I could explode. I also sometimes want to murder him.
When Husband went off to boot camp, I realized just how MUCH I love him. Which, it turns out, is way more than I ever imagined.
I have never been much of a crier, but once Husband left for boot camp, all of that flew out the window. Now, I’m a basket case. The simplest, happiest things turn me into a horrendously blubbery mess.
I MISS him so much. But, you know what? As much as I crave just ONE KISS from him, just ONE CHANCE to touch his perfect ears, just ONE SNIFF of his neck, I am actually thankful for the army stealing him away for months. Because him being gone has shown me how important he is to me. Absence, in our case, has made our hearts grow infinitely fonder of each other.
Before he left, being around each other 24/7 had allowed us to take for granted each other’s presence.
Now that we can’t see each other, we YEARN for each other. And it feels like high school romance all over again. But BETTER, because marriage deepens a relationship. Yes, you’ve got to work your butt off to keep your marriage strong, but what you get in return is certainty. Certainty that you have each other. Certainty that you love each other. And certainty that you’ll both show up for the other when each of you needs someone to show up. Marriage is permanence.
Sending my soldier off to boot camp has made my heart explode into a million burning suns of devotion. I love Husband more than I ever thought it was possible to love someone.
And I am so happy that we are able to experience being apart for months and months in our lifetimes. Because it has shown both of us how invaluable we are to each other. And it has given us a refreshing, brand new dose of that classic romanticism and fairy tale light we both see in our relationship.
Yes, we think we are a fairy tale. Why not? You only live once. And I just so happen to have married my soul mate. That’s what I tell myself every day, just to make sure I never forget it.
How lucky I am in love…that is what I have learned this past year.
4. How to depend on another person as much as I depend on myself.
My childhood is peppered with events that trained me to believe it is safer to depend myself. I have always been a sure thing. And I’ve never had to risk being let down whenever I counted on myself. So, that’s what I did. All the time.
I built my own bookcases and found my own answers. I still asked for help if I ABSOLUTELY needed it. But that was RARE. I hated asking for help. I still hate asking for anything.
When it came to romantic endeavors, all of my relationships were soaked with an air of detachment. From me. Because I was perfectly happy on my own, and I didn’t need love from a boy to make me as happy as I could be.
Until I married Husband, I always ran the Show. The Emotional Show. The Relationship Pace Show. The Communication Show. I was completely independent in every relationship, which is why I fled from all of them when I wasn’t 100% happy. I mean, if I already contained everything I needed, why would I want to be with someone who did anything OTHER than add fluffy happiness to my life? I broke up with tons of men because I was happier on my own than I was with them.
What I realized this past year is that I have actually always subconsciously depended on Husband. When things went sour in my other relationships, I texted him immediately. Sometimes, I’d text him randomly just to make sure he still had the same phone number. And I ALWAYS texted him when things went south at home and I needed to run away/be rescued. And he always came. He always rescued me.
When I married him, those barriers I’d built against dependence were a huge problem in our relationship. And the crazy thing is that I blamed him for the distance between us. Because, after all, I was still being “open” with communication and pushing him to talk about things he didn’t want to talk about. Those were my “efforts” to intertwine us. And my “efforts” convinced me for months that Husband was the problem. But all of my Husband pestering was just a subconscious tactic to avoid talking about ME.
I realized, after a while, that I was the one who was closed off. I wasn’t allowing myself to trust him with the deepest parts of me. Even though I had married him!
And why the hell would HE trust ME with his deepest self if I was never actually opening up?
Once I realized that I was the problem, my entire world opened up. And I was RELIEVED. Finally, I had an answer. I was the problem I’d NEVER been able to identify in my relationship. Which meant I could FIX it!
So, I started to peel back all of my rose petals (begrudgingly, at first) and show him the timid little cherub within me. And I started to trust him with things. Stupid things that people easily trust others with, like paying a bill. And when he didn’t smash my heart into a million pieces with those entrustments (that’s not really a word), I started to give him other responsibilities. You know, like self secret responsibilities. I started to share my past with him, and my private vulnerabilities.
It’s so hard to share something that makes you a vulnerable little polyp because you risk being REJECTED. You also risk having the person you share your secret with react HORRIBLY and make you feel like a total moron for sharing.
At first, Husband reacted wrongly when I shared my self secrets with him. And that was my fault. I expected him to say the PERFECT thing, which was impossible, because he had HIS brain, not mine.
Eventually, I shared more self secrets with him, and he started to get better at reacting to them.
One day, it occurred to me that I was DEPENDING on Husband. I was counting on him to do things like take out the trash and love me and support me. And those last two things scared the bejesus out of me.
Because all my life I’d considered it TOO risky and TOO unsafe to allow anyone to properly protect my heart, and here I was, just running around like an idiot with my heart wide open for the slaying.
And, a few times, Husband did slay my heart. Which was particularly heartbreaking for me, since I had finally lowered the Great Walls of Brooke China for him.
But, I forgave him. Because we talked it out. And because I explained myself thoroughly (is there any other way?). Because you KNOW communication is EVERYTHING in a relationship. You know that, right? Spill out words until they start to represent how you feel. Trust me, talking does WONDERS for a relationship.
The point I am trying to make here is this: within the past year, I’ve learned how to depend on Husband as much as I depend on myself. It was a personal feat and one of the greatest emotional achievements of my life.
It was an achievement because I had to overcome a perfectly sensible mode of existence by letting someone else into my heart where he could potentially do a lot of damage. When you’re really good at guarding your own heart, it feels asinine to let someone else help you hold down the Heart Fort.
But it’s actually MORE asinine to hold it down on your own when you’re married. And it’s counter-intuitive to building a strong relationship. And once I realized this, I stopped trying to be so “independent,” and my marriage flourished.
Now that I am fully and emotionally immersed in my marriage, I am the happiest wife on the planet. I am also the sobbiest wife on the planet, because my mushy love nugget is at boot camp. But I’m actually learning to not mind all of this spontaneous crying.
Because I can’t exactly control it.
5. How vulnerability = bravery.
Did you just read everything I wrote about marriage and body issues and emotions? That is me being vulnerable, right there. That is also me being brave. Because I have learned this past year that those two things are the SAME.
Risking exposure to rejection is one of the most difficult skills to master – and it most definitely IS a skill. We learn throughout life that it’s much more emotionally sustainable to be NOT vulnerable than it is to be vulnerable. A person can be crushed by social rejection. And, self-protective creatures that we are, we learn to do everything in our power to AVOID having our self-esteem demolished.
Well, I have learned that the greatest opportunities and gifts come to those who risk exposing themselves.
Look at me! I’ve come a long way on this blog. When I first started it, I had the HARDEST time telling people I had started it. I just didn’t want anyone reading my personal business!
Which doesn’t make any sense, since a blog is a public declaration of your personal business.
Once I got over my fear of being rejected, of potentially annoying a lot of people, of potentially having everyone hate what I was writing, I realized that people actually didn’t hate what I was writing.
Some people don’t like what I write. And that still kills me. Obviously. I’m a writer! I want you to like what I write.
Self-doubt is part of the writing deal.
So is vulnerability.
For example: I poured a lot of emotional baggage into my FREE eBook (aptly titled How to Fix Anxiety).
To find that emotional baggage, I had to dig DEEP into my past and dredge up old memories of what it felt like to be crippled by angst. All of that “reminiscing” was neither fun NOR easy. But I did it. Why?
Why would I purposefully relive some of the most stressful times of my life?
Because of you!
Because I wanted YOU to know that it’s possible to FREE yourself from those feelings, that it’s possible to DEFEAT anxiety. I wanted to show you that you definitely have what it takes to DEMOLISH your own angst.
And the only way to show you how to reach the end was by revealing my beginning. Which wasn’t pretty.
But reveal, I did. Because I came a long way from that pit of helpless darkness, and I knew that if I can defeat soul-crushing anxiety on my own, I can sure as heck can teach you how to do it, too.
So I reflected and poured. And I have an effective eBook that I am supremely proud of to show for it. And many of my readers have lots of helpful tactics for overcoming their angst, now.
My eBook is a perfect example of my blog’s purpose: to help you. To make your life easier, if I can. To make your day better, if I can. That’s why I’m typing on these keys right now.
But not everything I share is EASY to share. It’s a struggle I’ve grown accustomed to. In my beginning blogger days, I kept things professional and not very personal. I’ve actually edited my “About Me” page 16,000 times since I first created it. Each time, I make it a little bit more personal. Because that’s who I want to be for you. A big fat open book. Because why the hell else would you be here? No one wants to read a performance. People want to read REAL stuff.
It’s just that I have to put on a REAL suit of armor before I can tell you that I have a terrible relationship with food, that my ass is too big, and that I struggle with confidence when my ass is too big.
I share the hard stuff because my bravest sentences are my best sentences.
And my greatest hope is that, somewhere out there, amidst the sea of traveling online people, there is a person who needs to hear me be vulnerable and brave. There is a person who needs to hear about my crappy relationship with food and my struggles with emotional dependence.
And if I erased the Things I’ve Learned that were just too scary to share with you, what good would that do for the people who want to hear about those Things?
To be vulnerable is to be brave, and I have learned over the past year that my vulnerable self is my best self.
6. How deeply friendships can affect my own happiness/life satisfaction.
This past year, I have joined the world’s most amazing book club. Through our meetings, I have reconnected with some of the greatest people on the earth. We get together once a month to discuss a book we all read and a million other life things.
These women – this monthly get-together – all of it has profoundly enhanced my wellbeing. I am stronger, surer, more confident, and more at ease every time I see them. Because they are all going through the same things I am! They all still have husbands at home, but I have PLENTY of I-want-to-kill-my-spouse moments to add to the mix. Our struggles are very similar.
Especially our deepest secret struggles.
And it is through these shared struggles that I have learned about the true power of friendship.
When you have enough courage to share something that makes you want to vomit the moment it pours out of your mouth, and then three other women explode with relief because they know EXACTLY what you are talking about and have experienced it themselves, well…there isn’t anything in the world as spectacular as that feeling.
The room just BLOOMS with feel-good-ness during book club.
We all support each other, encourage each other, tell bad jokes to each other, and curse like sailors around each other.
We can all be our authentic selves when we’re together.
Every month, we cross each others’ hearths and drop our Real World Cloaks at the door, and all of us relax into the wine-drinking, tale-telling, emotionally-damaged elves we are. And we love each other for it.
These women are everything to me. They are very much a part of who I am. I learn about new books, foods, ideas, and perspectives from them all the time. We don’t always agree, and we don’t always struggle with the same things. But we struggle with each other every time we meet up, which makes life so much easier for all of us.
I love each of them with all of my heart, and I cannot imagine my life without them.
And, a year ago, I had no IDEA how much joy and satisfaction good friends could bring to my world.
You know me. I’m a recluse.
7. How I am the only one who can make my dreams come true.
It all cycles back around to the blog, doesn’t it. *sigh* I love my blog, which means I love you, because you make this all possible.
I started this blog last November, and I started it for a lot of reasons. One of those reasons was to have a creative outlet for myself. I needed more stimulation, more possibility for self-expression. And I was already doing lots of random, interesting things on my own, which I figured would be a perfect thing to blog about. I also wanted to write about life.
My blogging journey hasn’t been easy. I hit 18,000 bumps in the blogging road. And I still hit them all the time. I average one bump a week, these days. I discuss a lot of these bumps in my 5 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started My Blog post.
For example, I recently decided that I wanted to become a Beachbody coach, and then I completely changed my mind because of inner moral conflict + uncertainty about what it would do to my blog.
Anyway, Thing 7 boils down to this: I struggle and wage internal wars with myself because I had a dream. I wanted to create something big with this blog. I STILL have that dream! I want to morph my blog into something I can do full-time. As in full-time-while-making-a-living full-time. And I intend to see it through.
I am just taking a very backwards approach to it. And also a very relaxed approach. Because I still have a well-paying job. And I haven’t exactly figured out how to turn blogging into a money-making gig in a way that agrees with me, so TBD on full-time blogging.
I’m having way too much fun right now writing about whatever strikes my fancy to think about that, anyway.
Truth be told, I am living the dream right now, just by writing to you. I LOVE blogging. I am, frankly, obsessed with it. And with you.
Because blogging, paid or not, has been a long-time-coming dream of mine. Starting it was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. I was more frightened by the prospect of creating this blog than I was by the prospect of marrying Husband.
Given my suddenly evident commitment issues, that’s saying something.
I was terrified to begin because I didn’t know whether I’d be successful. And since it’s my DREAM to be a blogger, it was a HUGE RISK to start blogging knowing full well I might be a rotten failure!
But I jumped off the cliff.
Am I a failure? I don’t think so.
I have at least one person who reads my posts every time I post them, and that, to me, is success. Thanks, Mom!
And of course, thanks to all my other readers for perusing my musings.
My point is this: I look around my site, and I see the pretty colors I carefully chose and the images I finessed together in Microsoft Paint, and I read your comments and your funny emails, and I am just so thrilled and thankful. I am thankful that I took a chance on myself.
None of this would have happened had I not taken that initial leap. I jumped in, glued my blogger boots to my feet, and never stopped marching.
And I never will.
Because blogging is the greatest thing on earth. You should start a blog, in fact. You should. It’s a wonderful venture. Click on that link and read that post and then tell me you aren’t itching to start one. I’ll help you begin, if you want!
It’s a lot of work, but I have learned over the past year that it is the things I work for (and the RISKS I take) that bring me the greatest life gifts.
No one else could have created this blog for me. No one can ensure I live my dream life but me! I am the only one who can show up every day and edit till my eyeballs fall out of my skull and cry to my theme developers.
This blog brings me joy, fear, anxiety, euphoria, and excitement on levels I never would have experienced had I not signed up that first day. Which has shown me that I can experience the most wonderfully spastic feelings on earth when I risk it all and chase after what I want.
And, now that I know this, I will never stop pursuing my dreams…
…and blogging about my pursuits, of course…
…and blogging about other things, like what I realize about myself when I sit around and silently reflect on my birthday.
I’ve learned a billion more things than just the seven above, but, well, you know me…we’d be here for hours if I kept going.
Reason # 3,456 why blogging is ideal for me = I am verbose.
I like to think that you can just skip over all the parts that annoy you and have plenty left to read.
I swear I remove full PARAGRAPHS before I publish.
Not enough, though, right?
Wrap it up, Brooke! you shout.