Getting Back on the Wagon

I am announcing this secret to the world again: There is NO WAGON.

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I made a post on Instagram about this and I got a lot of feedback so I just did an IGTV about it too! Why not throw in a blog post? In my post and my IGTV, I was relating this to fitness. This time of year Halloween- New Years people throw a giant blanket of excuses called “the holidays.” I can eat that… it’s the holidays. I don’t have to workout … it’s the holidays. I can drink five days a week…it’s the holidays. I don’t need to save money… it’s the holidays. And come January every decides they need to get back on that healthy wagon. But my secret is THERE IS NO WAGON. There is no wagon for health and fitness and there is no wagon for life. Ebbs and flows are natural. Last year around this time I wrote a blog about the concept of tilting, and told you that balance doesn’t really exist.

I am still singing the same tune. This concept is not to make excuses for poor choices around the holidays, but because being at peace with a life that is not linear is the most liberating gift you can give yourself this holiday season. Ups and downs are inevitable. Weight fluctuation is inevitable. You can’t go too far one way or the other without paying the consequences but veering off course a little bit each way is acceptable, normal, and just HUMAN for goodness sake. Instead of relating it all to health and fitness, I’ll show you an example of there being NO WAGON when it comes to your creative pursuits (in my case, my blog but for you it may be song writing, painting, jewelry making, or pole dancing.)

Every year since I have started my blog in 2013, I have started the next year thinking “This year is the YEAR! I am going to become and A+ blogger, I’ll write a blog at least once a week, reformat my website, include vlogs, master Pinterest, learn SEOs and knock it out of the park!” I’m reminded every year that: 

  1. That’s not why I started my blog
  2. I don’t do well with pressure, self inflicted or not
  3. I have a successful coaching business & my blog hasn’t ever been used to make me money..AND it doesn’t have to be
  4. It’s really hard to write soulfully every week on top of the other content I produce for my social media platforms
  5. My blog= my rules.

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WCW: Melinda Bell

For November’s Woman Crush Wednesday and in honor of her birthday next week–  I am so excited to bring to you an interview with “My #1 Lady” as she is called in my iPhone contacts. This woman has raised me into the person I am today and I couldn’t be more proud of her and how far she has come. The Women Crush Wednesday hashtag and social media trend is nothing new. But I am trying to reclaim that title not just for half naked celebrities or women you actually know nothing about. The women I crush over are using their womenhood, their voice and their passions to make our world brighter. I have some incredible women in my life so I am honored to share them with you. I hope you find them as inspiring as I do.

Meet Melinda.

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My momma. I usually explain how I met the person I’m interviewing but she’s been stuck with me since birth. This photo is my absolute favorite and how I could depict her spirit.  My mother is an extremely impressive example of resilience, kindness and intellect. Growing up– every single person I met was so jealous that she was my mom. Her students worshiped the ground she walked on and she knew how to make everyone feel special. But as a teenager I was moody, my mom was exhausted, and we both struggled with mental health issues and normal mother-daughter growing pains. It was a rocky road at one point. And then I grew up and realized what incredible sacrifices this woman made for us. I saw her as a human being– not just my mother. I realized I needed to be there for her in her times of struggle and remind her all the good in her she lost sight of from time to time. It’s impossible to paint our story without the pain because my mother worked so hard to come back from a hard place. And to me that’s what makes her even more of a superhero. 

But this story has a very happy ending. She is now a retired teacher and her mental health (and physical health) is on a steady incline. She is the happiest I’ve ever seen her! Not to mention she has recently gotten very serious about changing her diet and nutrition and with the help of her coach daughter’s suggestions has lost 31 pounds!!! I am over the moon excited to see her thriving in her retired life after going through such a tough period. She is a prime example of never giving up! 

This woman has taught me how to be a cheerleader. She is the kindest, most supportive person I’ve ever met. She feels every up and down I have and listens to me without judgement. She has read more books than anyone I know and I’m still waiting for her to apply for Who Wants to be a Millionaire? She is the queen of random knowledge. She’s a great cook, loves to go out to eat  at new restaurants and talk about food while eating food(like only the best kind of people do.) She is a pure genius (not kidding), eloquent, funny and  always willing to help. I could gush for days but I’ll let her do the rest.

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Repacking My Life and My Blog

Never fear, my free form headspace articles have not been forgotten. As my blog has evolved over the past few years, I have felt the desire to do more with it. With daydreams of being a nomad,  I have watched countless webinars and read many blog posts on how to turn your blog into a profitable business. I already have my own coaching business which I began separately from my blog. I started my blog as my passion project, a way to communicate with my friends and family when I moved abroad to Thailand in 2013. I had NO IDEA what would come of it.

At the time, I was graduating with my MA from WVU in Secondary Education with a specialization in English. My BA was in English. Since I was a young child, I loved to write. I loved reading, creative writing, and creating entire fictional universes. I couldn’t understand why my classmates hated writing so much. If the assignment was one page I wrote three. I couldn’t fathom why it was so difficult for most people, but it just came so naturally to me.

Take a minute and think of your favorite teacher you’ve ever had. Every single one of us have “that teacher.” For me it was my 9th and 10th grade English teacher, Chapman. Chap. Chapstick (my personal favorite.) He is a living legend when it comes to teaching and he saw something in me I couldn’t yet see in myself. I am happy today to call him a friend and mentor to this day. In recent years and more stints living in foreign countries, I haven’t spoke to him as frequently as I would like but he will always be someone who I credit for my passion for English and especially writing. He made me believe I had something special, an actual talent. Mind you, both my parents were incredible teachers and my mother was a phenomenal English teacher whom I greatly admire,  but it’s really hard to believe your parents when they tell you you’re “special.” Mr. Chapman was that teacher for me and for that, I will always be grateful. I wanted to pursue this hobby because of him and I’m not sure where I would be without that spark to this deeply burning flame.

In high school, shortly after Chapman’s English class, my best friend tragically committed suicide. How on earth does a 15 year old cope with that pain? Partying. Check. Drugs. Check. Numbing the pain. Check. Writing. Check. Writing was my saving grace. I turned to this former hobby and past time as a form of therapy- an escape. This was really the only healthy coping tool I had at the time. I didn’t share much with others but finally I decided to share something I wrote for the one year anniversary of Corey’s death(which I shared again here for the piece I wrote about the 10th anniversary earlier this year.) I quickly realized that my words could help people. They could reach people. They might even be able to save people.  Then I thought they might be saving me.

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The 2016 Collection: Happiness 

Happiness 

“Between all these goals, plans and dreams for the future I refuse to forget the invaluable moments that are happening right now.”

“Sometimes you just wanna set the cruise control button. But no one ever won a race on cruise control.”

“Ask yourself what matters MOST to you and if you give that the MOST attention, not just in theory but in practice.”

“Nature reminds me to be a human being not a human doing.”

“It doesn’t matter how happy you are, what job you have , how much money you have in the bank- we all get overwhelmed by the stress and curveballs that life throws our way. Just because I consider myself to be a positive person, does not mean that I am immune from these feelings or situations. What it does mean is that I know how to fix these feelings… quickly.”

“If you love yourself fiercely and unconditionally you will treat yourself with the same kindness and respect you would treat anybody else. Focus on how you respond to what is happening in your life NOW instead of what could go wrong in the future. The future will NEVER be exactly how we imagine it. How boring would that be?”

“Too many people remain silent because they are afraid to seem weak, negative or crazy but truthfully staying silent is what makes you feel trapped in the negativity.”

“Don’t be afraid of depth. Don’t be shy about what you feel. Don’t be shy about not knowing what your passion is. Go with what feels right and constantly seek more of it. Don’t accept the status quo of being half alive, half involved, half motivated or half jaded. The most important thing I have found is to feel heavy, feel fully, feel deeply and find others who feel like you do.”

“Regardless of what uncontrollables are happening in your life, even things that affect almost everything about your future, you still have a responsibility to yourself to find peace, control what you can control, and just keep swimming.”

The 2016 Collection: Travel

Travel

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“My biggest takeaway from all of my adventures living abroad in two radically different countries and returning back home to America in between, has been that the world is an absolutely captivating and magical place, if you allow it to be. Being open minded is the key to happiness, success, relationships and quite honestly, life.  I truly believe that for the most part people are their own worst enemies and let their fears hold them back from the life they deserve.”

“Traveling has forced me to be okay with not being in control(which if you know me was a VERY hard lesson for me to learn.) Traveling has forced me to see how taking risks is worth the reward. Traveling has forced me to savor the moments as they pass because you may only have a few nights with these new friends who you feel like you’ve known a lifetime. Traveling has made me realize that you don’t need a lot of money to travel you need a lot of GUTS. You need a lot of resilience. You need the willingness to get out of your OWN way and take some risks.”

“You have to be open minded in your approach to your traveling or you could circle the whole globe and not change a thing.”

“You are someone who decides that the desire to see the world is stronger than any other guiding factor.”

“Every traveler holds those stories in their memory, some to share and some to keep, but no two people will see the same world twice.”

“You can see a big and beautiful world or you can see a world full of pain and darkness. That is totally up to you.”

“Good and evil have existed since the beginning of time and will continue to exist. Traveling has reminded me to be open to the magic that this universe has to offer. Not just when you feel like it. Not just for a week or a stage in life. Be open to what the world has to offer you and see the magic in everyday life. Don’t ever stop seeing life as an adventure and that mindset will manifest your reality.  Leaving home does not mean that I never look back, I look back all the time. But my eyes have changed, my mind has expanded, my heart has opened.  I take life as it comes and I take people for what they are. I control myself (this is without a pitcher of sangria in my blood) because I know that’s the only thing I can control. I EMBRACE uncertainty because instead of holding myself back or being afraid of it, I am learning to celebrate the fact that I have no clue what’s next. None of us do. The more authentically you open your mind and your heart to the world around you the more the world around you opens. Allow the world to be the magical and captivating place that it is. Get out of your own way. I’m not saying everyone should quit their job to travel the world but DAMN, I am glad that I did.”

“The travel bug isn’t a creature you want to take lightly.”

“Traveling pushes me to my limits and pushed me out of my comfort zone to allow me the room to blossom into who I want to be. Or at least put me on the road to who I want to be. Traveling gave me the reason to start sharing my writing and the confidence to believe I had something to say.”

“When I lived in Syracuse last year for a short time, I might have taken for granted a nice dinner with Mom, an afternoon with my niece and nephew or getting ready with one of my best friends, but now, these moments feel like memories as they are happening. I cherish them with the sense of fragility and preciousness they deserve. Because I can’t see everyone I love as often as I want, I am able to invest fully in those moments and give my full self.”

“Wherever you are, and however you celebrate, remember to make this holiday season about love, celebration and admiration for life and the many blessings you have been given. It’s not wrong to miss what you’ve left behind, but don’t let it stop you from experiencing what is right in front of you.”

 

“Home will always be home for me. But the greatest feat of all, is feeling at home within yourself. I can be alone on the other side of the world but I am confident enough in who I am and where I’m going to feel at home.”

But you’re always happy..

 

There is something that happens when you begin to share your journey on a large scale with an audience whether it be through a blog, social media, Youtube, or any other online platforms. When we open up and become vulnerable with our past hardships and struggles and how we overcame them, we have a chance to sugar coat the story with hindsight, distance and almost a narrator’s perspective. Even when we share the pain, it tends to sound beautiful and meaningful.  Part of being a powerful voice and sharing your life to inspire others is the fine line of how to be open with present struggles and difficult times in your life without encroaching on your own clarity, experience or privacy.

Social media, for even the most vulnerable and open people, is meant to be a highlight reel. We get to choose what we share and what we don’t. “But you’re always happy.” False. I show you my optimistic positive self because that is who I aim to be but that does not mean I’m happy 24/7. It is extremely unattractive for people to complain and vent negatively on their social media. It is sad to see people’s private lives and matters thrown all over media outlets or Facebook and Instagram. Luckily, with the gift of creativity and inspiration, we slowly learn what pulls on our heart to share and what we know is too fragile or too personal.

I try to be an open book. It’s how I am in person and basically the only way I know how to be. I can’t lie- I feel as if I have been cheating on my writing. Ever since I have started using Facebook Live consistently to speak about topics weighing on my mind and answering questions from clients, friends or my social media circle- I’ve found it hard to write my weekly headspace. No matter who you are, how inspired you feel, how many podcasts and self-help books you are reading- we all run out of material. I read a great blog post from a friend of mine reminding me of this right when I needed to hear it. So, I feel compelled to write this.

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More is possible

In April, I promised to appear weekly with a “headspace” blog post which certainly has turned into an incredible outlet for getting out my weekly thoughts, experiences and reflections. If you are a writer, you understand the often grueling process that goes into our craft and I desired a space to express myself without fretting over my sentence structure or my word choice. Of course, I pay attention to these things but for my weekly writing the actual use of my blog as a “headspace” or a “brain dump” was much more important than the mechanics of the piece. After discovering that one of my favorite authors Elizabeth Gilbert has her own podcast (called Magic Lessons, PLEASE LISTEN) I am feeling more inspired than ever to continue my journey as a writer and push my creativity to higher levels. Coincidentally, I also got an offer to be a contributing writer to an up and coming website that is seeking to be one of the biggest blogging websites on the world wide web. I am so honored and excited because the offer to write for them is completely aligned with my aim for myself as a writer. They encouraged me to write about whatever inspires me the most and see this as an opportunity to connect to a whole new community of writers and readers. Coincidence? I think not. That my friends is the power of the universe.

After binge listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast (trust me a podcast binge is so much more fulfilling and stimulating than a Netflix one) I felt an intense pull at my heart strings to pursue and cherish the gift and the passion I have for my writing. The stories inside of me are not something that I feel as if I can survive without telling. That may sound extremely dramatic to those of you who do not have specific creative calling(that you are aware of) but to me it is plain and simple. Like the feeling of hunger, excitement, joy, or sleepiness. The feeling to create is plain and simple for me and it is relentless. The more I listen to it, the freer I feel. You can expect to see more from me in the coming months as I pursue my new venture as a contributing writer. I am honored and downright ecstatic based on the continual support I get from those around me. My mother, will always be my most faithful reader and artful critic. But I notice and appreciate every bit of feedback you give me. The truth is, I would and will write despite the fact that anyone reads or enjoys it. But the fact that you read and enjoy it channels my inner “flow” of spirit. The more genuine I am to my most inner thoughts and feelings the more my audience responds favorably. To me, that is simply a testament of this incredible gift. One of my favorite quotes, that I have included on the homepage of my blog, “Great writers remind us that more is possible”- Kiddler & Todd. Simply put, I can not think of a better mantra for what I am to aiming to bring to my readers. More is possible, in so many facets and nuances of life, writing, troubles, and happiness. More is infinitely available but impressively elusive. Let’s go find it together. 

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Ode to The Slight Edge

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The past month has been nothing short of an eye opening experience. I have pursued two ventures that I honestly can’t say I saw coming; starting my own business in network marketing and becoming an elementary special education teacher in the inner city of Syracuse. Needless to say, I haven’t found the time to reflect through writing as much as I like to or grew accustomed to while living in Thailand. But no time like the present. Being a teacher in Thailand was the best job I ever had. Being a substitute teacher in America, in an extremely low SES inner city community, is far from the best job I ever had. Every day is a challenge, mentally, physically and emotionally. Luckily I am fortunate enough to have walked into an opportunity where I will now take over full time for a teacher who is on medical leave. It is exciting to have some consistency, build solid relationships with my students and get into the swing of normal classroom life. Except I am teaching a grade level and subject area I have no experience with. “Nothing like biting off more than you can chew and chewing anyway.” I am up for the challenge and despite the extreme differences from my teaching in Thailand, I still get to shape young minds and carve young hearts each and every day. That is something that will never get old.

On a positive note, I am feeling extremely inspired by my other professional decisions I have made the past few months. I feel so fortunate to be a part of such a positive group of like-minded individuals and have the opportunity to build my own business with the incredible platform of Beachbody, LLC to back me up. As a part of my training for being a coach I have incorporated personal development into my daily routine. I read The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson (if you haven’t read it I highly recommend you do), which artfully describes the author’s rollercoaster ride from beachbum to millionaire to bankrupt and back again. He gives his key for success; in business, life, happiness,and health  which is the slight edge. “Little things that seem insignificant in the doing, yet when compounded over time yield very big results.”

For me this book and this new business venture came at the perfect crossroads of my life. I read a little each day for the past few weeks and the messages were woven into my brain, just as I have woven them into my writing. I am a very self-aware individual and as a writer and an emotional Gemini, I am always searching to understand myself better. I have realized lately that I always need to be challenged. “The wisest investment you can make is to invest in your own continuous learning and development.” I moved 8 hours away for undergrad, enrolled in a 5 year Master’s program where I did student teaching full time and went to grad school, got extremely involved in my sorority and took many leadership positions, and then decided to move to a third world country and teach. When I came home I knew I needed a new challenge. Something to work toward each and every day. I didn’t realize I was walking into two challenges with both my teaching and my coaching. “There is no treading water in life, no running in place because everything is in motion. If you’re not improving, enriching, building, unfolding- if you’re not adding assets to your personal and professional value every day- then you’re headed down the curve.” Diving straight into uncharted territory has forced me to push myself to become better. I wake up everyday at 5:30 am to work out and go to school all day then I come home and work on my business for a few hours until I go to bed. “The simple things that lead to success are all easy to do. But they’re just as easy not to do.” People always complain that they don’t have enough time, but really we all have enough time to accomplish our goals, it simply is a question of what is a priority in our life. I feel inspired by my reading and by my fellow coaches and teammates who have found such great success in the business. I feel inspired by my own intrinsic drive and my ongoing realization that whatever life hands me, I can and I will handle. My attitude is what determines my happiness and I am in control. “Success doesn’t lead to happiness- it’s the other way around.” It is amazing how quickly you can change your day by smiling at strangers, reaching out to tell others you appreciate them, laughing at confusion or lending a helping hand. “Be happy and the reason will appear.“ Our society has tricked us into the mentality of “I will be happy when…” but if my travels, my heartbreak, my grief and my triumphs have taught me anything; it is we must be happy now. We have to cherish every day. “There is no some day. There’s only today. When tomorrow comes, it will be another today; so will the next day. They all will. There is never anything but today.”

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