Long ago, well, twelve years ago to be more exact, my Good Friend Chris Wooding and I had debates on the merits of romance. He was a staunch defender, I the cynical opposition. The joke is on me because I eventually married him. However, I still carry a healthy amount of realism when it comes to getting all twitterpated and dousing our brains in dopamine. Today, I decided to let you in on my inner rant world with one of my biggest pet peeves: "Romantic" movies. I'm warning you now. If you love "The Notebook" you might want to skip this post. I'm not hating on you enjoying a movie, I'm just.... hating on the movie.
I have a few beefs with movies typically labeled as Romance.
The first: All's fair in love. Codependence, Emotional abuse, Manipulation, and Gaslighting are all romantic if you choose the right setting, time period, and music.
I apparently disagree with 80% of movie makers who seem to think healthy, consensual relationships between two adults with full autonomy aren't interesting. You don't need that crazy misunderstanding that would never actually happen plot line, I promise. It's just lazy writing.
There are a few TV couples whose depth of character development and relationships I would like to laud.
Marshall and Lily from How I Met Your Mother,
Turk and Carla, from Scrubs,
and believe it or not, I ship Deadpool and his girlfriend too.
A superhero movie holds way more spark and romance than any iteration of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan ever had, think about that.
The second: You may have seen me gearing up for this in #1 - Misunderstandings blown way out of proportion, and juvenile disagreements. There is enough drama, hurt, and hard ish in life without resorting to the plot where Love Interest A sees Love Interest B out with Attractive Stranger and twenty minutes of angst and hurt feelings ensue over nothing because Attractive Stranger is Love Interest B's family member.
Please just stop.
The third: The Terminal Illness. Movies based on historical events get a free pass here, but in general the movies that involve gut wrenching heartache for no reason, again, really? This is what you resort to? If I want a full empath meltdown I don't need "romance" movies, I can just watch the news.
The fourth: Movies that expect me to empathize with people suffering the fallout of their own bad decisions. "The Notebook" is a top contender here for me. I don't feel bad that you don't have love in your life if you chose a superficial relationship over deep connection. Imagine how short that movie would be if the characters were self aware, had mutual respect, and personal boundaries? In case you forgot, this is Allie's "I'm engaged to someone else, but I'm still in love with you so you can't really move on" face.
Oh, also, Serendipity. "Let's NOT exchange numbers, and wander around New York, wasting 90 minutes of our viewers time before we magically bump into each other again and live happily ever after."
Maybe I just have a different definition of Romance.
When I think of *actual* romantic movies, a few come to mind.
The first, an older movie, "What Dreams May Come".
Robin Williams pursues his love through the *afterlife* to rescue her from her own personal hell. I love so much about this movie. I love how he supports his wife through her mental illness after the loss of their children. I love how he knows exactly what to do and say to restore her. This movie has depth. While most of it takes place in an imagined afterlife, there's so much reality. The grief and loss pictured are what so many of us have dealt with on various levels, not to mention mental illness. These issues are the ones we walk through.
"This is one of my favorite movies for so many reasons. It is laced with loss, but also two people who refuse to give up on each other through it. After the first loss, their relationship is tested to it's limit, Chris Nielsen (Robin Williams) learns an important lesson. He learns about presence. In an iconic quote he says:
"That's when I realized I'm part of the problem. Not because I remind you. But because I couldn't join you. So I left you alone. Don't give up, okay?"
Later, he puts action behind his understanding, joining his wife in her own personal hell and showing her she's not alone. That's romance.
Next up: "Silver Linings Playbook"
Chris and I started this movie thinking it would be a romcom with Bradley Cooper and Jlaw. I'm really glad we were wrong, because this movie has sooo much depth. I loved that the two of them, who were working through their own mental health diagnoses, had more self awareness and clearer understanding of their lives than the rest of the characters in the movie. The supporting characters all had their own challenges as well, but they weren't facing them. I liked that this was realistic, Bradley Coopers character spent most of the movie hung up on his ex, but he shows personal growth in moving through those feelings and finding healing. They do end up together, but it's not overblown or insanely dramatic.
The last one, is more of the oddball, and definitely not a movie that even specifically features romance, but I really appreciated the dynamics: "Wish I Was Here"
This movie was crowdfunded and directed by Zach Braff. It tackles tough topics like the financial weight of a family, finding identity and fulfillment as adults, intimacy in marriage, the vulnerability and limited time available to reconcile with aging parents, and more. I know some people didn't like that it doesn't have a huge story arc. It doesn't start with Some Huge Problem and end with Happily Ever After. But it shows my favorite thing, growth. I especially appreciated the aspects of marriage it highlighted. Kate Hudson's character is working full time to support her husband, (Zach Braff) a struggling actor. Again, these are the challenges people face. Aging parents with terminal diagnosis. Estranged family. Shifts in personal identity.
To me, romance isn't just a dopamine hit. Romance is showing up for each other, day in and day out. Romance is working on *ourselves* and committing to authenticity and vulnerability with our partners. Romance is knowing the quirks, smiling over inside jokes, and experiencing those moments that yes, sometimes take your breath away. There's enough story here for unlimited movies, books, and TV shows. Hollywood, you've already shown us you can step it up. We're waiting.
So I told you I would be featuring some fantastic Indigenous women this month, and I'm so excited to introduce you to the first one! Cali is Sičháŋǧu Lakȟóta from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. She is a trauma nurse, blogger, and ambassador for Native Women's Wilderness.
Cali details her journey to embracing her heritage on her blog, Through Her Native Eyes. Cali and I originally connected on Instagram. Her posts are beautiful, educational, and heartfelt. Her blog shares her story, Indigenous history, and how to be an ally to Indigenous peoples. I also loved her guest post discussing what it's like traveling as a Native woman, and how we can be respectful of Indigenous peoples and the history of Native lands.
Cali's love for nature and hiking has been essential as she has been called back to her heritage. Now she advocates for diversity and representation in outdoor and hiking industries, and is an ambassador for Native Women's Wilderness.
You may remember Native Women's Wilderness from last weeks post introducing the unique challenges Native Women face, and the fantastic organizations rising to meet those challenges. They are a Native run initiative that inspires and raises the voices of Native Women in the Outdoor Realm. They encourage a healthy lifestyle grounded in the Wilderness, and educate Natives and non-Natives on the rich beauty and heritage of the Ancestral Lands beneath our feet. (adapted from Native Womens Wilderness mission statement.)
Cali has become a strong advocate for her people, and justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women. I love her story so much. I'm inspired by her concentrated intention and determination to reconnect with and uncover her heritage and cultural traditions. I'm challenged by her calls to action and equity. I relate strongly to her love for the wilderness, and I'm galvanized by her hope.
I was so honored to have Cali answer a few questions for this post!
I loved your post "Being Native in a White World" and how shared so beautifully about your personal history. What has it been like for you more recently as you've been embracing your heritage? Do you feel like it has been a homecoming in a way?
"I feel like I have finally had the honor of truly getting to know myself. There were parts of me that were covered, hidden and ignored for so long. I’ve had a few moments recently where I’m like… “everything makes so much sense now.” I lived a lot of my life unhappy, with no true identity. So growing into my newly reclaimed identity has been life changing for me."
Tell us a little bit about your ambassadorship with Native Womens Wilderness.
"When I was contacted about becoming an ambassador for NWW, it was an obvious yes. I had been growing into my Lakota identity and finding my voice, while simultaneously reconnecting to the outdoors. So to be able to embrace both as they intersect is a huge honor for me. NWW is applying for it’s 501c3 status this year, and we have been focusing on obtaining sponsors so we can provide gear and funding to Native girls and women, sending Native girls and women to outdoor camps and participating in DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) work within the outdoor industry. We have some really exciting and big plans for next year!"
If you could recommend a few resources for my readers and myself to become better educated on Indigenous peoples and their history, what would those be?
"The entire #TravelingWhileNative series on HNTTLABB.
An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz.
Be sure that you are reading books and articles from Native authors."
What does decolonizing mean to you?
"For me, decolonizing has been learning Lakhotiyapi (Lakota language), returning to ceremony and fully embracing my identity as a Lakota winyan (woman)."
How do you and / or the native communities that you're part of generally feel about the Thanksgiving holiday?
"I can’t speak for the entire Native community, but my family has always used this as a time to be together and enjoy good food. I would never want anyone to miss out on family time, but I do think it is important to acknowledge the truth surrounding the day and how it came to be."
Years ago, I read a blog post from Jon Acuff about a phenomenon he titles “The Jesus Juke”. You know that moment you’re having a totally normal conversation, and then someone manages a Christian one up. If you aren’t familiar with this, go read Jon’s post. It’s short, hilarious, and also TRUE.
Sometimes in the past I’ve felt like the month of November is one big Gratitude Juke. It probably doesn’t help that in years past this is also when my seasonal depression has really kicked in. Either way, if you’re realistic about your life, you don’t get to be in the Gratitude Club. (You also don’t get to be in the gratitude club if you don’t post about it on social media. Every day.)
“Gratitude” can easily become a distraction from things in life that we really need to address. It’s easy to fall into the mindset of “Let’s use this month to avoid any emotional labor by admiring each and every sunset!” Sometimes, we are all so damn busy being “grateful” for the sunset, or our warm houses on cold nights, that we forget to see *each other.* This is in the same vein as "There are starving children who would love your meal" guilt trip. Any time shame enters the equation, we've gotten something wrong.
Last week I talked about the importance of having gratitude game, and I do believe that thankfulness is a key component of living out the most wholehearted and authentic expression of ourselves.
But let’s remember a couple key points as we all work to up our gratitude game this month.
Life can be hard, and beautiful.
Thankfulness isn’t a band aid or distraction from hard things in our lives. It tethers us, adds emotional dimension, and keeps us present, but we still need to remember that to heal, we have to feel and deal first. (Thanks Tiffany Roe for that little mantra!)
I liked things about Ann Voskamps book, “One Thousand Gifts” but she also goes down this path. Part of her more radical thankfulness practice was to replace uncomfortable and painful feelings with feelings of gratitude since we supposedly only have room to feel one thing at once. (I’m also not really sure about that.) This is dangerous territory to me.
Just like physical pain is a warning that something is wrong or that we are in danger, our emotional pain and uncomfortable feelings are instructive. They are always telling us something. Finding any way to suppress them puts us in danger of not actually doing our emotional work in order to grow.
Thankfulness is personal.
What we are grateful for can be minute, and meaningful, and that is so personally specific to US. I fully believe in letting people have the things they enjoy. I’m not going to tell you not to post thirty days of thankfulness on social media. I AM going to suggest that celebrating personal thankfulness for circumstances is on a different level from finding thirty people throughout the month to personally thank for their presence in your life.
Let’s use gratitude as a way to nurture connection and relationship instead of using it to steamroll feels.
In case you were wondering, I am incredibly thankful for every one of you that read, comment, DM, and share my blogs. It means the world to me and gets me up at 6am to keep writing.
Thank YOU for your support.
This Friday, I want to share with you a roundup of my favorite things about my week!
While I'm pretty sure I sat in traffic from accidents every day on the way to and from work, I really love seeing the fall color and the trees change along the road and in the medians.
Chris and I are finishing up our basement project, and I am so happy with how it's turning out, and also the fact that it will be DONE.
The SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) Instagram chat I have with a couple of friends. We send silly and unflattering selfies to the group when we're using our light therapy lamps and they make me smile.
My Monstera plant that is growing TWO new leaves right now!
Planning and plotting crafty projects.
Looking into the holiday season with the understanding that I have the autonomy to choose what I show up for and what I sit out. I was so overwhelmed last year at this time, it's great to see personal progress and growth. I am much more hopeful this year.
The content I'm planning for the rest of November and December.
What is your favorite this week? Let me know in the comments!
I LOVE spotlighting amazing women for you all to follow, learn from, and support. Besides thankfulness, November and the Thanksgiving holiday are often when we remember what we know of our roots, and stories of the “First Thanksgiving”. Unfortunately, the mental picture of peoples from vastly different backgrounds sharing a meal and tenuous peace is often where our understanding of Indigenous Americans ends. So this month, I have a treat for you. I am going to link you up with fantastic Indigenous women to follow and learn from. Let’s expand our understanding of and respect for these women together.
Today, I want to share just a little of what I’ve learned as background. For the last couple years I have been actively working to fill my social media feeds with people who are different from me. Originally this started out as resistance to diet culture. I wanted to follow women who looked different from me because I wanted to build new pathways of what “normal” looked like in my brain. But as I followed these other women, and started learning about their lives and struggles, it became something more.
I realized that representation doesn’t only affect our self image through showing us airbrushed and photoshopped versions of reality.
Representation shapes our communal understanding of each other.
To put it more plainly, we understand and assume that most people are like us, the people we know, and those we see represented in media and government. We have more empathy for those people because their stories and lives feel familiar.
I used to think representation wasn’t a big deal, until I started paying attention to those who I really didn’t see represented. They showed me new worlds full of perspectives and histories I had never considered.
Violence against women has been headlining lately. I’m glad to see women gaining their bite, and a movement forming. But Indigenous women have been especially vulnerable to sexual violence for centuries, due to unjust legislation and lack of priority. Non indigenous people visiting a reservation were not chargeable with crimes committed on that reservation until the VAWA act was passed in 2013. 1776 to 2013 held 237 years of crimes (against Indigenous women) that were not able to be prosecuted. As of this year, there are 5,712 missing and / or murdered Native women.
According to the Indian Law & Resource Center;
“In the United States, violence against indigenous women has reached unprecedented levels on tribal lands and in Alaska Native villages. More than 4 in 5 American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced violence, and more than 1 in 2 have experienced sexual violence. Alaska Native women continue to suffer the highest rate of forcible sexual assault and have reported rates of domestic violence up to 10 times higher than in the rest of the United States. Though available data is limited, the number of missing and murdered American Indian and Alaska Native women and the lack of a diligent and adequate federal response is extremely alarming to indigenous women, tribal governments, and communities. On some reservations, indigenous women are murdered at more than ten times the national average.”
When I first heard these numbers, it was staggering. I thought about how how most of the women that I know have experienced harassment or assault in some way, and that all of us have felt unsafe because of our gender at one point or another. Then I thought about how our “normal” could be so. much. worse. There’s knowing that female genital mutilation and gendercide are still happening on the other side of the globe, and that is terrible. It’s another thing entirely to realize the breadth and nuance of what Indigenous women are facing right here.
Here’s the thing about fighting for equity and equality. We aren’t here, til we are ALL here.
If our version of morality, faith, spirituality, or equality only works for people who look and think like us, we need to do better.
Sometimes that means coming up against hard things in ourselves. We must build the resilience to do this work.
I’m not writing this post to guilt anyone. There are myriad causes that we can (and many times should) be aware of. It can be overwhelming to absorb so much information, and if you’re an empath like me, emotionally exhausting. Resilience is my repeating mantra here.
We do what we can, with the understanding that as we learn our capacity for growth and affecting positive change will increase.
I’m going to leave you with a few really actionable and positive steps to take to improve your understanding and, if you choose, help Indigenous women gain safety.
The first thing we can do, and it’s often free, is educate ourselves. Amnesty USA has a PDF explaining the nuance in legislation that vastly contributes to Indigenous women’s lack of safety.
There are non-profits run by Indigenous peoples to combat violence against Indigenous women like
Native Womens Wilderness is a Native run initiative that inspires and raises the voices of Native Women in the Outdoor Realm. They encourage a healthy lifestyle grounded in the Wilderness, and educate Natives and non-Natives on the rich beauty and heritage of the Ancestral Lands beneath our feet. (adapted from Native Womens Wilderness mission statement.)
The White Buffalo Calf Woman Society is committed to providing shelter and advocacy for individuals victimized by violence. They recognize the necessity of a multi-faceted approach –the need to develop an effective response to systems in our community such as health, criminal justice, and other institutions that minimize violence against woman. They also believe it is necessary to raise community awareness by naming what has happened to them as indigenous women. At the same time, they recognize that responding to systems may or may not make significant institutional changes that will stop violence against women. Therefore, they are also dedicated to exploring and creating actions that will move us toward a social transformation that will allow equity for women.
(Adapted from The White Buffalo Calf Woman Society Facebook page)
Mending the Sacred Hoop grew out of regional organizing efforts and a Native women’s advocacy and support group for survivors of domestic violence in Duluth, MN in the 1980s. They began as a Native program operating within the Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs (DAIP), with the goal of changing the way systems and service people respond to American Indian people. Their first funded project was conducting systems advocacy and intervention: organizing a Coordinated Community Response (CCR) to domestic violence with Carlton County and the Fond du Lac Reservation in northeastern Minnesota.
(Adapted from Mending The Sacred Hoop Website)
The Mission of National Indigenous Womens Resource Center is to support and uphold grassroots advocacy by creating and enhancing the capacity of Native communities to end gender based violence through technical assistance, education, public awareness and policy development. NIWRC’s vision is to restore safety of Native women and their communities by upholding the inherent sovereignty of Indigenous Peoples. (from NIWRC website)
Native Hope believes in the power of storytelling to dismantle barriers, bring healing, and inspire hope for Native people. Why? Because telling stories of Native struggle and Native strength is a powerful catalyst for unity, generational healing, and personal growth. Each of us has an evolving story which no one else can write. Native Hope believe that healing for Native people starts with a vulnerable recounting of where one has been, where one is today, and where one wants to be tomorrow. That's why we tell stories. (adapted from Native Hope website)
Taking positive action can look like reading these (and other) websites, subscribing to their newsletters, and financially supporting them.
We can expand our mindsets by purposely following, supporting, and learning from Indigenous peoples on social media.
We can respect the sacred things in Indigenous culture, and abstain from degrading them to the level of personal trinkets.
We can make sure that if we buy clothing, jewelry, or household items featuring patterns from Indigenous culture, that they are made by (and the profits of the sale go to) Indigenous artisans.
We can allow the perspectives and histories of the Indigenous communities to show us their communal narratives, teach us, and broaden our mindsets.
If you've read any of my work, you know I'm all about building up other women and boosting their signals. The belief that drives this for me is a conviction that we all need each others gifts. We are not whole, until we are all whole. We haven't arrived until we all have arrived.
We are not safe until we are all safe.
I have just started my journey of learning about and from Indigenous communities and cultures. This post is not about me or my experience. This post is an arrow to the communities and women that I am learning from, so that we can grow together.
I have a dualistic relationship with gratitude. On the one hand, I see it as an important channel for joy and depth of life experience. On the other hand, it can be hard to talk about it without sounding trite and guilt trippy. Don’t worry, we’re gonna talk about that next week in detail. Today, I want to dig into just why thankfulness can be such a game changer.
Although the political landscapes that brought about a national holiday of thankfulness may hold more nuance than we generally discuss, I do love how we as a country turn our attention to gratitude for the better part of a month.
I’ve thought about this quite a bit, and I think “being thankful for what we have” is important, but I also don’t think we can tell EACH OTHER to “be thankful for what you have” without it sounding like we are invalidating challenges others face in their lives. Like the people who tell moms to “treasure every minute!” when all mom wants is an hour of uninterrupted silence. Is childhood precious? Sure. Is it also terrifying and testing for all parents everywhere? I don’t have personal experience but all my case studies come back with an emphatic YES.
Gratitude breaks down into a few facets for me.
The first is that looking for good things in our lives raises our awareness in general. So to be grateful, we have to pay attention.
Maybe a better adage would be “pay attention to what you have.”
Often, this is the part we miss in everyday life, right? Everything becomes so routine that we move through our days without pausing, without checking in with ourselves or with our people. Or, we are so afraid of what we would have to deal with if we paused, we stay busy as a form of numbing ourselves to get through.
But when we numb the hard, we also numb the joyful.
If we want to up our gratitude game but don’t know where to start, I think awareness is the best place. This is something we can practice even if we’re in a frustrating or hard place in life. We can start to pay closer attention to little things.
The second thing that has to be in place for gratitude to flourish, is a healthy dose of realism. I referenced this above, but if I’m using gratitude as a way to try and guilt myself out of uncomfortable or hard feelings, it’s not going to work. We have to give space to the challenges too. We have to be willing to sit with the hard things if we’re going to embody joy in thankfulness.
So it’s not “BE HAPPY, other people have it worse”. It’s “yes, life is hard, but we can also find joy.”
If we use guilt trip gratitude, the whole thing becomes ingenuine. When we acknowledge the hard AND the joyful, we make space for a full spectrum of wholehearted experience.
The last aspect I’m going to touch on today, is gratitude multiplied. Something magical happens when we share our thanks in a genuine manner, without holding back. Some part of thankfulness dies, when it’s not expressed. Think about it this way, if someone expresses thoughtful, authentic thanks for either who you are as a person, or the role you play in their life, how does that make you feel? Usually pretty damn happy, right? But it also strengthens your bond, and makes THEM feel fulfilled and heard when you appreciate their input. Authentic thankfulness is a relationship builder. As an action item, when I think of someone, or am really thankful for either in an act of kindness, presence, time, effort, or intention that they bring our relationship, I work to express that. It makes them feel valued and seen, and when they know that I value and see them, I feel good too.
So gratefulness journals, and 30 days of thankfulness are great challenges, but if you want something different this November, tell a person every day one reason you’re grateful to have them in your life.
Use your gratitude to build that community, and watch your relationships grow. I'm incredibly thankful for a group of bloggers that have come into my life recently. See what they have to share this November!
I’ve had a couple people ask me lately how I schedule everything that I have going, and how I have become so “disciplined” (her word, not mine. haha)
So today, I’m going to let you into the swirling vortex of my creative world. Buckle up!
Most importantly, I play to my strengths.
My Meyers Briggs personality type is INTJ, so I’m naturally very analytical and structured. I embrace that as much as I can in my life and creative projects, without letting it smother my inspiration. There’s a corresponding trait to all our natural bents, the thing that happens if they run unchecked. Mine is not leaving room for the unexpected. Once I get a plan in place, I tend to execute it, disregarding anything else that might get in my way. So this last year or so has been one of constantly checking in with myself, to see if my goals are still serving me or if I’m just hustling because they are there.
I value my time as much as I value my money.
I only say yes to events or people that I 100% want to engage with. I don’t believe in “should”. I guard and budget my time more strictly than I guard and budget my bank account if we’re being honest. I also acknowledge that I'm currently in a place where I can afford to do this, and not everyone is. Sometimes financial security is the top priority, but I'm saying that our time holds intrinsic worth in a whole different way than finances do.
I am a huge fan of automation & efficiency.
I automate and maximize the efficiency for absolutely everything I can in my life. For me, this looks like:
Using a grocery delivery service - Grocery shopping used to take a good couple of hours a week for me, plus it wasn’t something I enjoyed. The store and people are overstimulating and overwhelming. It’s an exhausting experience for me as a HSP. Getting my groceries delivered takes me at maxiumum half an hour to put in the order, and about ten minutes to put the groceries away when they come. I just bought myself about 90 minutes of my week back.
While I’m reconsidering this due to some personal work around expression and identity, I don’t get fancy or worry too much about what I wear. For some people this is an act of self expression (and I’m trying to find that part of myself again, so putting a *little* more energy in here) but I have easy, go to things to grab and wear in the morning. I can be dressed and out the door in 15 minutes, which leaves time for me to read or write in the morning before work for anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on where I’m working that day, and if I showered the night before.
I like to shower at night because it helps me wind down for bed. It buffers my screen time and my bedtime, and gives me more time in the mornings. I use a lot of dry shampoo, and usually take a longer shower where I wash my hair and such one to two times a week. This cuts the time I spend in the bathroom in half (at least) for five days a week.
My house is pretty gross. I probably clean actively once every month or two, and my husband and I do the regular stuff like laundry and dishes together or we swap off.
I order basically everything online, I very rarely go shop in a store (see my feelings about groceries above.)
I maximize every minute
I have at least a 30 minute commute to work almost every day, and I usually listen to audiobooks and / or mindset podcasts while I drive. I also try to take a walk on lunch and listen to the same, or sit and read if its gross outside. That gives me up to 90 minutes a day where I’m educating myself, 5 days a week. It always feels like there’s more I want to absorb, but that’s quite a chunk of time if you think about it!
This frees up my nights and weekends to mostly do things I really want to do.
I also don’t have kids at this stage of my life. I know that if I were a mom, really everything structural would be out the window because that stage of life will depend heavily on meeting their needs as well. Not that I wouldn’t have similar considerations, but my “ME” time would look different.
When it comes to structuring my creative pursuits, again, I’m naturally really focused and goal oriented. I am motivated to do this stuff. If it wasn’t something I wanted to keep coming back to, it wouldn’t be worth it for me. I think this is a sign of finding my purpose, it’s the thing that won’t leave me alone. It’s the thing I’m scribbling ideas down in my notes on my phone, and on my to do lists at work about. I can put in this initial grind because I feel like I’m doing what I need to be doing, whether one, one hundred, or one thousand people read it.
I do the bulk of my scheduling (and writing) for the week on Saturday mornings. I also usually do self portraits and take photos during this time too if I need to. My husband likes to sleep way in, so this gives me uninterrupted quiet, sometimes from 6-8 hours. I schedule (right now) three blog posts, seven Instagram and Facebook posts (these are usually the same) and an email update every week. I’m still working on ways to get more efficient with this, especially as I am wanting to spend more time working on my book again.
I have topic ideas for all my blog posts and emails written out 2-3 months in advance. I try to leave myself breadcrumb trails and outlines of posts to come back and flesh out, so I rarely feel like I’m starting from scratch. This helps me avoid a block although sometimes that still happens!
I know that for a lot of creatives, this will sound really overwhelming and suffocating. That just means it isn’t your process, and that’s totally fine. This works for me, the analytical, goal oriented, scheduler woman. I work to create pockets of time, and then I have options of what I feel like needs to happen in them. For example before work in the morning, I can either work on writing something for the following week, work on my book, read, journal, or just look off into space. The important thing for me is that I’ve given myself the time to have those options.
I talked about my mantras for creatives a couple weeks ago, and all those have been instrumental for me. I work to surround myself and prioritize things that feed my inner creative. That can look like having houseplants and gardens, listening to inspiring music, and following inspiring creative accounts on social media. (I’m going to be writing about some of my favorites soon!) It can also look like always giving myself the option to take a break and tap out if my structure isn’t working for me.
I am becoming a big believer in personal seasons.
If I know what season I’m in, and I play to that, I’m happy and productive. Here’s the thing, we can only be in one season at once. One season has to die, has to end, to make room for a new one. I have a million interests I’d like to be pursuing right now, but I KNOW it’s my season for creating this space, and I’m 100% in for that. I look for signs of transition, signs that seasons are ending and not serving me in the way they once did. I work to hold them openly and participate with them as they come, instead of expecting myself to always be doing everything.
So that’s the microscopic level of how I find time to create. I hope it’s been helpful!
Last month, my friend Jaime texted me. “I just listened to this interview on NPR about a woman who wrote a book on evangelical purity culture, and I thought of you.” I immediately looked up the interview with Linda Kay Klein, the author of “Pure” and after listening to it, I ordered it on Amazon. It came in a day, and before I knew it I read the first chapter and was twelve again, feeling like it was God’s sovereign will that I marry my first crush.
I consider myself to have grown up on the fringes of purity culture. But “Pure” called out experiences that I’ve had or I’ve known friends to have that hit so close to home. I read the first few chapters and had to put the book down. It was just too real, too big of a reminder of mindsets I’ve come so far from.
I picked it up again a week later. The content was still hard, but also so vital. I felt like I needed to read the stories of these women, that they needed to count and matter for something. Their pain MUST pave others healing journeys.
Personally, the chapters that resonated the most with me were; “Going Home”, “Dementors” and “Sanctuary”. The rest were great examples that I identified with strongly, but I guess those three center either in where I feel I am right now (A mix of the creative owning of self explored in “Going Home” with the growth and expansion described in claiming faith through “Sanctuary”.) or where I feel my call lies (“Dementors”.)
"Going Home" explores the authors writing process as she confronted her family’s fears as she worked on a topic that is potentially so volatile. It pictures her still looking for confirmation of belonging, even as her faith and calling looked so different from what her parents ever imagined.
Personally, writing and sharing is really scary. I get it. I have written parts of my book (and even parts of my blog and instagram posts) and wonder which one will bring the raised eyebrow, or the shutdown of local ministry opportunities. I went through the “will my family stick with me through major change and disagreement” phase a long time ago, but I had never openly questioned or critiqued long cherished patterns of life in Christian communities. Perhaps this is another commentary on evangelical culture, that I assume if I am fully myself and live into my calling, my community will desert me. I assume that parts of myself and my calling will be seen as “too much” or “too intense”. So I feel for Linda, knowing that she must write potentially controversial stories, even though the kickback could be severe.
“Dementors” describes the religious PTSD many women (and men) who have been traumatized through harmful teaching experience when they walk into a church. For some women Linda interviewed, just talking to a clergy person or standing in a pulpit brought on actual panic attacks. I write for so many reasons, but these people are such a HUGE reason that I write. I hope and pray that these people find the healing they need in whatever way they need it. But as long as this keeps happening, I have work to do. My goal is to see Christian faith acting as an actual sanctuary. A place of healing, safety, and reprieve for ALL.
“Sanctuary” gives me hope that this can be achieved. Linda features a few churches which have focused on teaching Christianity in autonomy. Somehow she managed to write a book on one of the most painful and traumatic parts of life for evangelical Christian women, and end on a beautiful, hopeful note.
Also of note, and covered in detail in this book, the physical, emotional, and mental trauma caused by various (non biblical) purity teachings in evangelical faith.
Who should read this:
Those of you who are searching for your path out of the life force sucking traumatic experiences that encompass purity culture.
You will find so. much. affirmation. You will find (hopefully) hope. You will finish this book saying #metoo and maybe #churchtoo but also with an understanding that you can overcome this messaging.
If you have influence in faith circles, I think knowing the dark side of purity messaging is really important. Purity culture is alluring because there are set ways to “win” when we play the game right. It sells the idea of “safety” from having to sort out an murky feelings about sexuality, desire, or consent. We need to know what mindsets we are passing on to the kids and teens in our spheres of influence. This book will stick with you. The stories will haunt you, and they should. They will be reminders every time you want to give a pat answer, or trite example of “sexual purity”. Let the eighty plus women interviewed for this book always help you remember the gravity of this topic. Don’t let your teaching be the reason someone can’t step in a church without having a panic attack.
While I prefer to keep a positive and actionable mindset, it’s worthwhile to consider our road blocks as well. Some of these I go into way more detail about in my book coming out next year so I’m not going to go too crazy discussing them here (or it will be a book.) But I do want to give a snapshot overview of a few things to watch out for.
I want you to know first and foremost that I believe victims. I believe that your trauma, whatever it was, changed your life indescribably. I believe you deserve justice. But there’s a quote that I saw a while ago that has stuck with me because it rings so true:
“Your trauma isn’t your fault, but your healing is your responsibility”
So often once we realize we have been wronged we want to sit in that, or we just don’t see a path out of it. We want The Perpetrators to come in, and somehow make amends for the harm they caused. The really hard truth to accept sometimes is that even if they tried to do that, there’s no way to reverse what happened. We still have to actively choose healing and look for ways to make peace with this new version of ourselves.
Waiting for anyone else to fix us is a dangerous game. We become easy to take advantage of, for anyone selling a “cure”.
We can know true healers by this - they don’t sell a cure, they hand us the tools to heal ourselves.
The idea of taking charge of our own healing can feel overwhelming and daunting, however it’s also incredibly freeing. We get to employ a level of autonomy in seeking healing that we may have never experienced before.
Casting harsh judgements on ourselves or on others is not conducive to personal growth. (This is why we started out this month talking about developing self awareness and self compassion) We spend so much of our time and energy on this!
When I finally started releasing my judgements about myself and others, I freed up SO much energy to spend in other constructive areas of my life. I also freed myself up to fail, to look silly, to be unproductive, even to *gasp* gain weight physically without shoulding everywhere. If you feel stuck automatically judging others, go back and take a look at some mantras for non judgement to inject in your mental landscape.
I’m going to invite you into some nuance here. I think many of us start mental health and personal growth journeys because we need help handling big emotions. We feel flattened by the hard things and we want to know how to either get rid of them or take them on without losing ourselves in them. I know personally, my first goal in mental health was finding groundedness, and knowing I would be OK.
This isn’t bad. But there’s more. I would never advocate that someone (especially those of us who tend to wrap our worthiness up in our positive impact on others) pursue personal growth JUST to be of service to other people. But our personal growth does affect our world. There is danger in complacency, in getting too comfortable. In too much “love and light” or “thoughts and prayers” without in the words of Rachel Cargle, “solidarity and action”.
At some point we have to get out of our comfort zones to stay on our growth journeys. Audre Lorde says; “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Self care and compassion enables us to show up in our worlds with resilience, and handle those hard things without them overcoming us. It should not be a place for us to hide from them.
Scarcity is the “not (ever) enough” mindset. It’s the assumption that more of anything will fix our problems in life. More sleep, more money, more attention, connection, intimacy, love, time, friends… you get the picture. There’s a whole chapter on Scarcity in my book coming next year (!!) but the five thousand foot overview is that often in our quest for more, we miss the reasons that we crave it. The opposite of scarcity isn’t excess, it’s ENOUGH. I think it’s hard for us to believe in Enough when we so often feel that we can’t ever measure up, and BE enough. Once we accept ourselves and learn to stay present in our world, it becomes easier to stop always looking around the next corner for More.
It’s a scientific fact that when faced with a unknowns, our brains try to fill in the most likely scenarios based on our personal experiences. This can be helpful in problem solving, but it also can be really dangerous. Leaving open ended unknowns can feel uncomfortable at first, but “I don’t know” is always an acceptable answer. Especially when it comes to big questions, questions of faith and theology, “I don’t know” is so much safer than building our lifestyle around facts that might not be true. Let’s leave space for more discovery and admit that we don’t have all the answers.
Here's a secret that may not really be a secret... I take most of my own photos for social media myself. Being a photographer has been really helpful as I've moved into this new space, and I want to share a few simple tips that can have you upping your selfie game in no time!
First lets talk setup. This may look like a lot, but in reality I rarely use the flash. (I prefer using natural light.)
I'm including two setups here - one I can use my phone, and one I can use my camera.
So first, my *main* setup is with my Canon 30D, and a 50mm 1.8 prime lens. I have a remote trigger that plugs into my camera. I put it on the tripod, and I'm good to go.
A lot of the newer cameras have built in wireless connectivity, so you don't need the same type of remote trigger, check the manual (or google) whatever model you have to see what your needs would be.
(A prime lens just means that it is a fixed length and doesn't zoom.)
The 50mm 1.8 is my favorite lens because I can easily control the depth of field (how blurry the background is) with the F stop, although with self portraits this can get tricky. It's easy to end up with the background in focus and my face completely blurred out. Not usually what I'm going for.
Also, 50mm is a great length, and it's fairly easy to get either a good panorama, or a portrait. I also have an 85mm 2.4 prime lens which gives really amazing bokeh, but I need SO much room to be able to use it well, and it's not very practical for self portraits.
I like to shoot on manual, because I am used to setting my own lighting, but there's no shame in flipping your camera on auto or portrait mode.
The big differences in digital SLRs vs phones and point and shoot digital cameras are how much control you have over your image. The ability to swap out lenses means you can get really specific with what kind of image you want to create, and then there's adding in lighting control, and more options in post processing as well. The nice thing is that digital SLR's are not nearly as cost prohibitive as they once were. I think I spent 500 on my first "cheap" camera, and the one I have now was 7-900. Of course now you can buy the camera body on eBay for under $100.
Now, that doesn't include lenses, lighting, SD cards, but you can get a bare bones setup for under $300 out the door now.
The second setup, is a remote trigger using my phone. I don't use this a lot, because the photo quality is just so much better with my "real" camera and the photos are easier to manipulate afterwards as well. But if you're looking for a cheap self portrait setup, this will get you going.
The remote trigger and tripod attachment I have was $12.00
The tripod was also $12.00
You can be in business for about $25.00 using your phone. Everything else though, framing, modeling, lighting, all of that applies no matter what your setup is.
If you want to get comfortable in front of the camera, the easiest way is to take some self portraits. It's so easy to try new things when you have full control of your images, and see what angles feel most comfortable for you specifically.
I personally like to try new ways to take up more space in photos (as opposed to trying to shrink as much as possible like a lot of us do!) Also, as a photographer, I find self portraits a great way to hone my posing skills for my clients. I can more specifically direct them when I've personally been there and done it.
You don't have to do any crazy amount of styling either, although you certainly can. My favorite spot to set up minimal self portraits is in my kitchen, next to my slider. It's like sitting in front of a giant softbox. (see above)
As I've gotten more specific about the pictures I want, I have no problem taking my setup out in public and clicking away. Does it look weird? Yes totally. Do I care? Not remotely.
General rules of photography apply here. Direct sunlight makes for strong shadows (and washed out highlights), overcast days and shade are our friends for well exposed photos.
I make sure to stay on public property as much as possible, or try to find someone to get permission from otherwise. Parks, trails, and woods are all great places, and if your setup is minimal enough, it's easy to pack and go.
Of course, my most styled shoot meant toting an empty frame and various other props into a walking trail, but it worked out!
I really love self portraiture as an art form for so many reasons. It frees me up from other peoples schedules, and I can just pick up and chase a sunset, fog, or light with no notice to create something beautiful.
I also like taking time to create self portraits when I get all up in my feels, and working to communicate those powerful emotions effectively.
I hope this helps you on your photography journey, I would love to see examples of what you create!
Megan is a writer and creator from Wallingford, CT. She is passionate about empowering women to step into the full power and identity they were created to embrace and claim.