Hashtag Authenticity

Dear Best Friend:

Social media has made it easy to walk through my online existence believing that I am completely vulnerable and “authentic”, with no new news to share with you.

apple applications apps cell phone

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One time, when I visited a friend who I hadn’t seen in a while, she looked at me and said, “I know what’s going on with you because I look at your Facebook all the time”, and then she turned to my husband and said, “But I don’t know what you’ve been up to. Tell me.”

This made me sad. One, because my friend assumed my entire life and experience would be reflected accurately in my Facebook feed, and two, because she paid more attention to my husband than to me, but was my “friend”. At a time in our friendship when we hardly saw one another, she made it known that all that needed to be shared could actually be done so via the Internet. It made me wonder why we were getting together in person at all.

But doesn’t this happen in our brains sometimes? Perhaps less rude and obvious, but don’t we also do this—decide not to ask someone what’s really (like, really) been happening because we’ve seen their posts on social media? Or maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe someone asks us what we’ve been up to, and we go, “Don’t they follow my blog? Didn’t they see my Instagram stories? They should know that I recently got a new job. They should know that I’ve been struggling with anxiety. I posted it all over the Internet for everyone to see…”

me too printed paper wall decor

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When I was in high school, I made my best friend because we shared a secret with one another. This grew our friendship deeper than most, I would say. The ability to share a secret with someone who feels safe, especially if that secret is also a shared struggle, is pretty successful at bonding two individuals together.

This was just as the social media boom was starting to form. Kids my age had things called MySpace pages and wrote in Live Journals or on Xanga accounts. They used AIM messenger. Some of us were invited by a way cooler college student to join Facebook a few years later. This was the start of it all—before smartphones and apps and hash tags, and way before emojis.

But despite the new lure to divulge myself from behind the protective barrier of a screen, I never shared my secret struggle with an eating disorder online. I only spoke about it in whispers to a select few, one of whom became my best friend for the time being.

Now, I can look up #eatingdisorder, or #recoveringbulimic, or #formeranorexic, and I get hit with a bunch of people sharing their vulnerable struggles on social media via posts, pictures, and articles. It’s the #MeToo generation, and there is so much good that comes from this.

But I also wonder if it’s made true, distinct, and deep friendships harder to come by.

Oh, I know kids are getting less socialized in the real person-to-person way that is necessary because of smartphones. But I am really just talking about the practice of sharing (or over-sharing?) via social media.

But isn’t this helpful? Isn’t this normalizing what used to be wrongly taboo? Isn’t this helping people feel less alone?

Absolutely.

I just think is a less valuable alternative to sharing a secret with a safe person, and thereby making a fast and long friendship that will impact far past the rush of getting 94 “likes”.

apps device digital earphones

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Mind you, this is coming from a blogger. This is coming from someone who gets kinda personal via Instagram posts. This is also coming from someone who also “secretly” despises the concept of “building a platform” or “attracting a following”. Social media both enthralls me and disgusts me.

“Psychology shows that friendships are built through many factors—common interests, proximity, shared struggle, etc. But there is one thing that grows a friendship deeper than just about anything else: the sharing of secrets. There’s a bond that’s formed, almost instantly, when we share appropriately with people in our life who have invited us to do so.” –Allison Fallon

Up until this point, best friend, this hasn’t really sounded much like a letter. And that’s because it’s not. It’s a blog post. A personal letter to you, my best friend, wouldn’t be posted on the inter-webs for just anyone to see.

Some things just need to be kept just between us.

But I have to shake my head a little at myself when I don’t honestly answer and in-person “how are you?”, but then divulge my struggle with postpartum depression via Facebook.

And so, best friend, I want to say this to you: from here on out, I will not dodge that question with an easy answer, no matter how hurried I might be or how confused I might feel about how I really am doing. I will answer as honestly as possible. And I promise I won’t let you find out my innermost secrets and struggles via the Internet.

And you can do the same for me.

Deal?

Deal.

Much Love,

-Claire

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My kid would never…

toddler wearing green hooded jacket pointing right index finger

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I feel like this is an obligatory post. Like, every person who has children has come to this conclusion and so why in the world would anyone need to read about it? But if I’ve found anything to be true, it’s that we read about what we know deep down to be true anyways because it reassures us and realigns us with the truth—the truth about this life, and the truth about ourselves.

So here it is: I used to judge people by how their kids acted.

If a child refused to eat their vegetables, I would think to myself, “my kids will eat whatever I put in front of them.”

If a child threw a tantrum about having to leave the park, I would silently assure myself that when I became a parent, my child would know exactly what was expected of them when it was time to leave anyplace. They would NEVER behave in such a way.

If a child pushed another kid, was unwilling to share, hit their parent, said a cuss word, or was flat-out disobedient, I would judge the parents hardcore. I would absolutely know that my kids would NEVER do those things because I would be a better parent than whoever this child’s unfortunate mom and dad were.

Parents of children older than mine, I humbly ask for your forgiveness.

Today, my daughter, who is a pretty awesome little girl if you ask me, was having a meltdown at 7am because, for whatever reason, 5am is the new start to her day (and my day too), and she gets pretty darn exhausted rather quickly. She would not eat her broccoli at lunch, and she cried giant crocodile tears at the library because she wanted to continue to play with the plastic ice cream cones, which she would NOT share with the other kids. And that was just today. Last night she pushed her cousin off of the four-wheeler bike because she wanted a turn and also refused to give her little brother a goodnight kiss…

Yes, to my utter dismay, my 2-year-old is not perfect. And contrary to what I previously thought, I am not in much control of what she does or doesn’t do.

This is not to say that I do not or will not take responsibility for things that my kids do. This is simply to say that I now understand that there are just some times that kids do things that do not reflect what their parents have taught them or how they were raised.

But here is what I’ve learned:

I’ve learned that when I judge other people, my brain cannot distinguish these judgments as separate from my own self-talk. This is backed up by brain science, actually. When we even think negative, judgmental thoughts about others, our brain registers them as evaluations about our own selves.

All these times I have looked at kids with that side and rolling eye, and have labeled their parents as “bad” or “unworthy” or “lazy” or “unfit”, I have really been evaluating the type of person and parent that I am or will be.

Yes, I might get that little rush of superiority and ego boost, but very much like the crash after a sugar or caffeine high, it’s not long before I’m wallowing in a judgment hangover that can only be cured with… more judgment.

One moment I’m all like, “Wow, her son just completely disrespected her. I would never let my kid get away with that. She must not be very consistent. I’m a way more intentional mother…”

And then the next moment, my little one does the unthinkable and throws a tantrum that has everyone at the Target check out line staring at us, thinking Lord-knows-what, and all I can do is keep the judging cycle going by getting defensive…

“Well those people have it easy. They all can afford a babysitter so they can go shopping by themselves, or their kids are older and less needy, or they probably have had way more sleep because they don’t have a newborn at home… how dare they judge me! Don’t they know they I am doing the best I can? What type of person judges a mom based on what their two-year-old does? Nothing is wrong with me… it’s them…”

 Except I don’t recall that I’ve just done the exact. same. thing. If—big ifthey are even judging me at all in the first place! They might, in all reality, be thinking something sweet like, “oh poor thing, I bet she’s exhausted and her little one is too. I sure hope she can find some time to rest and won’t beat herself up too much about how her kid is acting right now.” And wouldn’t that be sweet, and way more helpful, understanding, and honestly accurate too?

It’s then that I am reminded of the responses I want to have. And the fact that the actual cure for the judgment hangover isn’t more judgment at all. It’s compassion. It’s love. It’s a raised hand saying “me too girl; I get it”.

If my brain cannot distinguish between a commentary on someone else and a commentary on myself, then I want to rewrite my judgment commentary entirely and break this cruel, defensive cycle.

Because if judging other people makes me feel all the stress and shame I am doling out on them in my mind, then it’s working the opposite way I want it to. Deep down, my inner “mean girl” is hoping that judging people will make me feel better about my own self. This is why behind most every “mean girl” is actually an anxious, nervous, insecure little person—hurt people hurt people, right?—and my own inner “mean girl” is the same.

I don’t want to be judged for what I do on very little sleep, or for how I feel on my worst of worst days, so why would I want to be judged for what the little human I birthed, who has entirely no shame at all, does on a non-regular basis? I don’t.

So I’ve got to stop judging my fellow mamas and papas who also don’t deserve it. We are, in fact, in this together, if we want to be. And I do.

Also, I recognize that most of my judgments come from an entire lack of knowledge and experience. Case and point: I rarely judge a mama with a kid younger than me, and I find that most of these “my kid would NEVER”’s have popped into my brain far before I had even conceived a child.

But this entire revelation, which I think many of us with little humans running around our homes have also come to, has made me wonder how much of the way I judge people for other things is the same.

If I judge a person for being out of shape, does it also make me think poorly about my own body?

If I judge a person for their lack of preparation, does it also make me harsh with myself when I miss a deadline?

If I judge a person for how they choose to spend their free Saturday, does it make me also judge myself when I am not a productive or restful or… (insert whatever “should” is on my latest list at the moment)?

And I think it does. I think my judgments of others keep me trapped in judgments of myself. I judge because I think judgments protect me, but in truth, they make me put up the perfectionist façade and pretend like I’ve got it all together when I really don’t. They make me defensive and angry, and thinking the worst about others and about myself. In short, judgments are not helping me or doing anyone else any favors.

So this one is for my fellow mommies and daddies, but also for anyone at all who has ever judged anyone…(Think you don’t judge anyone, just listen to a few minutes of a radio station that plays music you dislike—we ALL can be judgmental at times.)

Let’s stop this judgmental cycle. Let’s choose to assume the best of one another. Let’s stop pretending we’ve got it all together when we really don’t. Let’s put an end to this negativity that keeps us all trapped. Let’s realize that thinking or saying “bad” about someone else does not make us “good” or better. Let’s be kind, understanding, and gracious to one another, if for no other reason than because it helps us be kind, understanding, and gracious to our own selves. I’m assuming you could also use a little extra grace around here, and so could the closest two-year-old’s mommy near you.

“Today I release the judgments I’ve used to protect myself. I am safe.”

Dear Younger Claire,

Dear  Younger Claire,

11266245_589879207820363_1672999799066846212_nDo not write that note to Julian in 8th grade. Just don’t—it’s not a good idea. Trust me on this one.

Also, just flippin’ call your parents if you’re going to miss curfew. Don’t test your limits just because you think they are unfair. Your parents are trying to keep you safe. They love you; they honestly do not want to ruin your life. I promise.

You are nowhere near fat. Stop worrying about it.

Okay, yes. I know it is not that simple. So just know that disease, this disorder, is what truly brings you to Jesus. Sharing about it catches the attention of your future husband, and battling it in every human way possible brings you to your knees so that God can take over… Don’t loose heart. You will not be sick forever. God works even this into something good.

Just because someone likes you does not mean that you have to like them back. A lot of guys like you Claire, whether you are aware of it/believe it or not. If you had the confidence to know this, you wouldn’t get yourself into a relationship you should never have been in. Just say “thanks, but no thanks” and move on. You don’t have to be with someone in order to be worthwhile.

When your friend sells you his awesome bike for a ridiculously cheap price, make sure you bring it inside every. single. night. Don’t leave it out in the rain, be sure to give it regular tune-ups, don’t leave it someplace without chain-locking it to something immoveable. Seriously girl. Flippin’ take care of the stuff you have. Especially the nice stuff.

Train better for your second marathon. And take your best friend’s iPhone when yours dies. You’re going to need some pump-up music those last 6 miles.

The “in” crowd is myth because it doesn’t last. Just know this. Just know that you don’t have to be anyone else to be amazing and loveable and beautiful and talented. Just be you. I know it takes a while to figure out who that is, but go with your gut—it does not lie to you, you crazy-awesome Enneagram Type 1 (you’ll understand later). So be nice to your fellow nerds, no matter how awkward they are —yes you are a nerd; in fact we all are, in some way, shape, or form. You all are way cooler than anyone else who is “popular” in middle school, high school, or even college.

It’s good that you’re going to counseling, but do know that there are bad therapists that exist in this world, so take your time in finding the one what is going to help you the most. Also, remember that it gets harder before it gets easier. Do not give up on yourself. You are making progress, no matter what it feels like. You will be working on yourself for an entire lifetime, and that’s how it’s supposed to be.

Most of what you will need to keep doing again and again is forgive your parents. Forgive. Your. Parents. Seriously. They did the best they could. They currently are doing the best they can. And really, they are pretty awesome people, who love you and your family as best. they. can. Get it? So please give them a break. You will want your kids to do the same for you.

In college, when you are laying in bed agonizing about whether you should do a teaching internship or go out for a part in a professional theatre production and also whether or not your boyfriend at the time really does want to marry you…you are going to hear this voice that tells you to quit it because your life is not going to look anything like what you could ever imagine in that moment. Believe that voice. It is the voice of God and He’s got a crazy-awesome journey planned for you.

The first time you and a boyfriend break up needs to be the last time. As in, do not go back. It is okay to not want to be with someone. Give yourself permission to want something else and know you deserve better. Even if you break his heart. Even if it breaks your heart. Do not go back and forth on these things. Be clear and honest and decisive. Again, your gut does not lie to you Claire.

When you meet the man who you are pretty certain is your soul mate and he says he doesn’t really want a relationship right now, or at least nothing labeled, just laugh and say, “okay sure”. Your daughter will have his musical talent; your son will have his gorgeous smile.

And finally: do not cut your own hair. Do. Not. Cut. Your. Own. Hair. But seriously, not even if it’s just a trim, or you think you can get it so that your pixie cut will look good growing out. No. Do not do it. In fact, after the first one, just don’t do the pixie cut thing again. Okay? Okay.

Love always,

~ A little bit wiser Claire

3 Things to Let Go of this Fall

3 things to let go of

These trees are about to show us how lovey it is to let the dead things go.” -Anonymous

I felt the cool wind rustling my wispy bangs and wondered why it was I always seemed to cut off my hair when any big life changes occurred.

It was September, and instead of preparing to go back to work as a high school teacher, I was sitting outside of a tiny cabin at a Catholic Hermitage retreat center. It was my last night there, and my last chance to contemplate this new step I was taking, or was it an old step that I simply wasn’t taking? I wasn’t sure what direction I was headed, only where I no longer was.

Looking up at the sky, I saw more stars than I normally could from my home in Chicago. A million tiny white sprinkles in a blue orb framed by the dark shadows of trees shedding their leaves. Out here, away from the smog of the city, the stars were clearer. I wanted more than the stars to be clearer. Silently I prayed that these swirling questions in my life would be answered. That things really would become clearer.

It was then that I noticed the trees. These giants above me, stretching towards the clear sky, their branches shaking in the wind while their roots stood firm. And their leaves were swirling all around me, making the stars even clearer as they did so. They didn’t hold on, grasping for what once was but never could be again. They knew it in their bones; now was the season to let the dead things go.

Stars peeked out behind where those leaves had once been, and precious light shown through what once was. I also had to let the dead things go. Not just of who I was or what my career used to be, but of all the unfulfilled hopes and expectations that I had for my life. It was no use holding onto them. They were blocking the light. They were blocking clarity…

It’s been almost four years since I quit my job and let go of all the expectation I had for my life as an inner city teacher. I now have a new life and things are much clearer, at least when it comes to most things. But I am finding that now is still the season to let go.

This fall, here are 3 things I want to let go of–let go, and never look back–let go, and let the light shine down brighter–let go, and know that I can practice minimalism, even in my own needs…

1- The Need to Look Good

We’ve all done it– slipped on the ice in the parking lot and immediately looked around to see if anyone noticed, all the while silently praying that no one did. We have this desire to always look composed and like we’ve got it all together. As a woman, I have often felt the pressure to look a certain way and maintain a certain image so as to “look good”.

But what if I let that all go? What if I didn’t need to look good every moment of the day? Would the shame of tired and eyes and messy hair at the 3:30pm trip to the grocery store go away? Would I feel freed up to wear what’s comfortable rather than what’s cute? Would I stop comparing my lack of makeup skills to that of my friend at MOPS? Would I stop obsessing over my skin and eyelashes and weird postpartum hair loss/regrowth?

And what about the need to look good, as in to look composed, smart, funny, and morally “good”? If I let that go, would I feel less embarrassed when I misspell a word in a text message (yes, even despite autocorrect)? Would I be unafraid to ask a question about a word I don’t know in my Bible study class? Would I cease to feel insecure when I’m out with my husband at a party where all of his actor friends are discussing the shows and films they’ve worked on? Would I stop feeling like a failure when I hurt someone’s feelings by accident and simply seek forgiveness and genuinely try to make it right?

The need to look good can never be met.

The beauty of youth fades, bodies change, and lack of sleep or time to shower while caring for a newborn… well, it happens. I don’t always have to look good.

Instagram isn’t real life. I make mistakes. I am not always hilarious nor do I always understand the jokes of those who actually are hilarious. What I consider a successful day in my life isn’t what everyone else may consider success at all. My house will get messy. I’ll forget to put my daughter’s sippy-cup or wipes or her bib in the diaper bag and then I won’t look like a “good mom”. Yes, I will sometimes look silly and dumb. Sometimes I actually am silly and dumb. But that’s okay.

I want to let go of the need to look good so I can focus on what is already good in my life. Trying to be perceived a certain way is never fulfilling or fun. I want to let it go.

2- The Need to Feel Good

I began my journey towards minimalism in part because I realized that comfort had become an idol in certain areas of my life. I wanted to feel good rather than do the hard things. Sometimes I wouldn’t even do the very things I actually wanted to, because they would require some sacrifice or suffering. Can you relate?

No one enjoys suffering, and it is human nature to avoid it. But sacrifice is necessary to achieve our goals and make progress in our own character, families, relationships, careers, and lives at large.

The need to feel good is actually extremely temporary. It’s the need to own modern conveniences and comforts that make us feel like we’re worthwhile, even though “stuff” can never define who we are. It’s the need to relieve stress with retail therapy, which only lasts as long as it takes to remove the price tag. It’s the need to be comfortable and have an “easy” lifestyle that is actually wasteful and irresponsible in the long run. It’s the need to play it “safe” and not go the extra mile for someone, even if that someone is our own selves.

Mandy Arioto of MOPS International recently said this: “We resist the suffering we need to do to get what we want, but then we stuffer just the same.” This is exactly what happens when the need to feel good outweighs our deepest desires, hopes, goals, and convictions. We cannot accomplish much of anything if we refuse to feel uncomfortable, vulnerable, and press into the hard feelings of life.

And this is why I’m letting go of the need to feel good. It’s overrated.

3- The Need to Be Right

If Facebook has taught me anything, it is that the human brain is trained to seek out information that we agree with–that makes us right. The articles that I and my friends, family, and acquaintances all post on social media are rarely objective. The news we tend to watch is probably the same. It all has a slant to it which we are already inclined to agree with.

I want to let go of the need to be right. I want to approach people and places and news articles and conversations with curiosity, not assumption. I want to be open to other people’s opinions and when I disagree, because sometimes I genuinely will, I want to be okay with that person thinking I’m wrong. I want to let go of the need to defend my case, to explain myself, to feebly attempt to control the way I am perceived by other people.

Being an Enneagram Type One, this is especially challenging for me. Type Ones are always seeking out what is good and right and true in the world, which is positively noble. But we also have an insatiable desire to be right and also, to be perceived by everyone else as right.

Being in relationship is messy. People misunderstand one another. Apologies are necessary. Some conflicts cannot be reconciled. Agreeing to disagree rarely comes peacefully or easily. But being in relationship with people who think differently than I do is more important than being right and needing to express all of the reasons why I am.

This will be humbling, but if my “One Word” for the year has taught me anything, it’s that I cannot hope to keep stumbling towards wholeness without letting go of some things. 

So let’s start with these three.

10 Things I No Longer Buy

10 things i no longer buy

My personal practice of minimalism is definitely about simplifying life, but it’s also about creating less waste and spending less money. It’s not always easy to say “no” to these things, particularly if I’m feeling down and there’s a super cute outfit on the clearance rack at the consignment store I frequent. But in these moments when materialism tempts, I remind myself that more stuff will not make me happy, and that the less I spend my time and money on, the more I have to focus on what’s truly important in life.

I’ll get right to it–here are some things I’ve managed to eliminate from my shopping list:

1- Clothes I don’t need or absolutely love

This has gotten tricky in the past few years with two pregnancies and nursing, but I think I finally have a basic wardrobe that can cater to all seasons of life (literal weather seasons, and also seasons of carrying children and not). I keep about 30 hangers in my closet and three drawers for socks, underwear, and workout attire. I rotate my clothing when the weather changes as well as if I need to accommodate a baby bump (like right now). I have a rule that I will NOT add more hangers to my closet, nor add anything to my drawers without first getting rid of something. Every now and then a tee shirt is donated or something gets an unrepairable hole or stain (welcome to mom-life), but for the most part, I have all the clothes I need.

Some tips:

-Know your style and stick with it. Chances are you’ve experimented a lot with different clothing styles and now is the time to choose what looks and feels best on you.

  • Have a limit. It might be 30 hangers or 50, but don’t allow your closet to intimidate you. You also shouldn’t have to search high and low for an outfit– there shouldn’t be so many clothes that you can’t easily find something or that you can forget about an entire collection of blouses.
  • Have a purpose. Before going through your wardrobe, call your local Salvation Army or Not-For-Profit Thrift Store and tell them you have a donation of clothing. When going through your closet and dresser, keep that “good cause” in mind and ask yourself who really needs that item more.

2- Purses

I’ll be honest, this one has been tough for me, to figure out. I’ve tried smaller satchels, I’ve tried larger shoulder bags, I’ve done the backpack purse, and I’ve tried to stuff all my essentials in a cross body. Finally, I’ve settled on a few bags that I use on the regular: A small shoulder bag– my everyday purse that can still fit my water bottle; a tiny cross body– when I’m out on a date with the hubby or making a quick trip; a large shoulder bag– when I need to carry all kinds of stuff with me (think traveling, carrying a laptop, or a trip to the library or farmer’s market).

This might seem like a not-so-minimalist list of bags.  But I’ve found that I need a few options depending upon what I find myself doing at any given time.

Even with these 3 bags, I’ve worked to make them as versatile and high quality as possible so that I won’t need to purchase a new one in the near future. They are all neutral colors and can go with any outfit or season. They are all well made and have stood the test of time. I also like the look and feel of all of them, which is pretty important if you ask me.

Some tips:

  • Again, know your style. This may take some time, but figure out the look and feel you like rather than what’s trendy or what you’re feeling in the moment.
  • Choose a size that’s realistic yet manageable, or, like me, choose a few sizes for very specific occasions. If you choose multiple sizes, make sure each purse can be used in any season and for any occasion. Avoid neon or super bright colors unless that fits with who you are and what you usually wear.
  • For if you have multiple purses: Rather than leaving all your stuff inside of your purse, take everything out between trips. You can have one spot for all of it, or you can place everything back where it belongs in your home. This will help you keep your bags less cluttered and will allow you to switch your purses easily if that’s something you feel you need to do.

3- Paper Napkins

This one is simple. I have invested in cloth napkins and I swear I’m never going back to paper. Paper napkins are wasteful and I also find that they don’t work as well as cloth to actually clean surfaces (surfaces like my daughter’s yogurt-covered face, for instance). When we are done using them, they just get thrown in the laundry. I love never having to purchase paper napkins at the store!

Tip:

  • Choose colors and textures that will go with your home decor, or keep it simple and use a solid dark color. I recommend a darker color as opposed to white if you have children or if you like to eat BBQ ribs 😉

4- Plastic Water Bottles

This one is also pretty easy folks. I use a stainless steel water bottle that I refill constantly. I actually don’t even use the cups and glasses we have too often because I’m always drinking out of my water bottle. We’ve invested in a nice water pitcher with a filter so our water is clean and safe for drinking, and this makes it so I never have to purchase bottled water.

Some tips:

  • I understand that some people are really into flavored water and soda. We sometimes will purchase soda, but it’s not something we have on hand all the time. Consider infusing your water or making your own simple syrup to sweeten your drinks and make your own “mock tails” of sorts. The hubby and I make a really great lemon cucumber spritzer and it’s a real treat we look forward to. If it becomes a rarity, it becomes something special!
  • Give yourself incentive to use a water bottle by investing in a really beautiful one that you like to carry around. There are some gorgeous glass bottles with space for infusing fruit or mint or lemon inside to give your water that extra kick too!

5- Cotton Balls or Cotton Rounds

Instead, I use organic bamboo round pads that are absorbent and washable. I can use them to take off nail polish, remove makeup, or to apply toner as part of my skincare routine.

Tip: 

  • Nursing moms, you can also use these as washable nursing pads!

6- Lotion

Instead, I exclusively use coconut oil. I find that it’s cheaper and works better, and I enjoy the smell. Many lotions have tons of ingredients (a key one being alcohol) that can actually dry out your skin, which is the opposite of what lotion is meant to do, right? So save yourself $12.99 and a trip to Bath & Body Works–just hit up your local grocery store and get some coconut oil.

Some Tips: 

  • Cold-pressed, extra virgin coconut oil is best, and will cost you anywhere from $3-7 for a jar, depending on where you purchase it. Be aware that it will solidify in the colder months. I use a small spoon to get it out, then rub it between my hands before applying.
  • Coconut oil is also a wonderful oil to cook with and is an ingredient in many DIY products that you can make right in your home (see below!).

7- Face Wash

Don’t worry people; I still wash my face! But I am wary of all the ingredients that most commercial face washes have listed on their ever-so-hard-to-recycle plastic tube. In order to be more thrifty, sustainable, and simplistic in my skincare regimen, I’ve been making my own face wash for about a year now.

Some Tips:

  • Last month I posted a Facebook Live video of me making the face wash I use on a daily basis with only 3 ingredients. You can also add essential oils like tea tree oil, lavender, or frankincense, depending on your skin type.
  • If you’re not a DIY-er, I still encourage you to be conscious of what is actually in the face wash you use. Also, keep in mind that many of the containers that commercial face washes come in are very hard to recycle. Try natural products that are packaged in glass containers. Neal’s Yard has some great options (not a sponsor; just sharing to be helpful).

8- Toothpaste

So… this is only partly true. I did purchase some natural toothpaste in the last month, but after using it a few times, I decided to go back to making my own. Similar to my face wash, I also started making my own toothpaste a few months ago, and I don’t think I’ll go back to purchasing it on the regular ever again. I like making my own because I can control the taste of it, I know exactly what is in it, and I can use my own silicone tubes, so I never have to worry about being wasteful.

Some Tips:

  • If you are interested, the toothpaste recipe I used is this one. But instead of peppermint flavor, I actually just used peppermint oil, and I also added a few other drops of essential oils that I found to promote health and kill bacteria.
  • If you do use the above recipe, please be advised that it gets hard in cold temperatures and very runny in warmer temperatures.
  • Again, if you’re not into DIY, that’s totally cool. I’m just sharing because this is something I’ve found to be helpful in my pursuit in sustainable minimalism.

9- Menstrual Pads or Tampons

Instead, I use a silicone menstrual cup and cloth menstrual pads. There are so many great brands of menstrual cups out there; I personally use the Diva Cup, but there are other great options out there.

Some Tips:

  • Read this post for the best menstrual cups if you’re thinking about this option.
  • Some cloth menstrual pads may seem expensive, but if you think about the amount of money you’re saving in the long run, it’s worth is. Besides, Amazon has some unbeatable prices in the area. Here is a great option to get you started if you’d like to go the cloth pad route.

10- Parchment Paper or Foil

It’s only been in the past two years that I’ve started to roast veggies and make some killer sheet pan suppers. I honestly don’t know what took me so long to discover how easy it could be to just chop, season, and stick it in the oven. Once I started, I found that I was going through parchment paper like most people go through paper towels. This made me search for a more sustainable option that would save me time and money at the grocery store.

Enter the silicone baking mat. These are what I use now, and I love them! They are pretty easy to clean, and I never have to worry with foil or parchment paper again.

Tip:

Here’s a great option if you’re interested in trying these out!

 

And there you have it: 10 items I no longer buy. What about you? How have you used your pursuit of a minimalist lifestyle to save money and become more sustainable? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments below!

This is Our Call: On Writing, Social Media, Shame, and Mommy-Blogging

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I am a blogger. I am a mother. But I don’t really consider myself a so-called “mommy-blogger”.

My writing includes my experience as a mother, but does not revolve around it.

Also, I’m not about to tell you how to mother your kids.

Do I have opinions? Yes, and I almost always think I’m right–who doesn’t? But that’s not what my writing is about.

My writing is about my personal journey towards minimalism. My hope is that my writing serves and encourages you as you simplify life and invest in the stuff that truly matters (like mothering your kiddos the way you feel called to, for instance).

Sometimes my motherhood and my minimalism collide– in fact, they often do. And sometimes I’ll write about how what I’m doing as a mommy is helping me become more free and more focused on my current calling rather than what’s “comfortable”. But my hope and prayer is that this blog can be a place for all kinds of men and women at different walks in life– not just moms who use a specific kind of feeding/diapering/sleeping method that I personally subscribe to (or am just trying out–let’s be real).

Another huge reason why I’m not a “mommy-blogger” is because I am not comfortable with making my kids too much a part of my online presence. Their stories and their images are precious and private to me, and so I am very choosy about how I share them with the world. I also feel it is part of respecting my children’s self-agency and personal privacy to keep them off of social media at large until they can choose to share what they wish with whom they wish.

That’s my preference. I totally understand it’s not for everyone. I also totally get if my preference frustrates some people (as I know it may). And I very graciously tell those people that my choice isn’t an evaluation of their choice, and also: “tough– this is my call”.

I think all of us mommies, bloggers or not, could afford say this to some people in our lives: “tough–this is my call”.

I began this post by stating that I don’t consider myself a “mommy-blogger”, but I should clarify that this is not meant to shame any bloggers or mommies that do. This label has gotten a bag rap in recent years, not because bloggers are out there shaming other moms, but because we as moms experience a ton of shame already.

I think people in general experience a ton of shame, but moms especially. We are constantly and frantically trying to figure out what we are doing as care-takers of our children amidst the crashing tidal waves of their growth and development. We are drowning, even if our Instagram accounts look like we’re all smiles and Starbucks and cute mom-buns.

The Internet and social media can make motherhood seem even harder. Because we are constantly comparing our lives to other people’s, and also, overwhelmed with more information and opinions than we could even sift through, we tend to doubt ourselves and constantly wonder if we are “doing this right”. It makes us crazy–even crazier than we already feel trying to raise tiny humans.

While I don’t consider myself a mommy-blogger, I do understand why there are so many out there.

Being a mom is all-consuming and sometimes can feel utterly isolating, even in the sea of information and “connections” online. Your mind is constantly reeling about whether to use a pacifier, or how to get your 4-month-old past this awful sleep regression, or if choosing to co-sleep is an amazing way to bond with your baby or if it’s the lead cause of SIDS. And that’s just the “newborn” phase.

I can see why many moms turn to writing and seeking an online community to share and learn and reach out. And while social media and the Internet at large can sometimes make things harder, it also can be a lifeline in other instances.

We must remember that not all “mommy-sharing” is or is meant to be “mommy-shaming”. In fact, I think most moms are coming from a place of trying to be helpful by simply sharing their experience.

But it can be easy to forget that other people’s choices aren’t evaluations of our own choices.

What we as mommies (and as people in general, really) have to continually remind ourselves is that the way we choose to live our life is our call.

Just because one mom writes a post about cloth diapering doesn’t mean you should feel bad about buying Huggies.

Just because one mom balances a full-time job and raising her 5 kids doesn’t mean you are any less for being a stay-at-home mom of 1.

Just because one mom documents in her natural birth experience on Instagram doesn’t mean your C-section was any less natural.

Just because one mom posts articles about the necessity of vaccines for all kids doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t dare voice any questions about what the CDC recommends.

Just because one mom proudly breastfeeds until her daughter is 3 doesn’t mean you should feel shame about weaning at 12 months.

And just because you disagree with these mommies doesn’t mean that they are wrong or bad or should be ashamed.

This is their call too.

 

Minimalism vs. Convenience

minimalism vs convenience

Minimalism can help you make your life easier because practicing minimalism, in whatever capacity, helps to simplify your life. But there is a distinct difference between making your life easier with modern conveniences and actually simplifying your daily routine, schedule, space and finances.

The difference between making things easy and making things simple is usually just less stuff. This is often the difference between convenience and a practice of minimalism.

More stuff can sometimes make things seem convenient, but it actually complicates and clutters your life.

We could spend days coming up with examples of this in different capacities, but I wanted to share with you 5 ways I have found that minimalism trumps convenience in my own life.

1- French press over Keurig

My morning routine always involves coffee. The first thing I do when I wake up is turn on the stove to heat the kettle, which I always fill with enough water the night before. I used to have a Keurig, which was given to me by my grandparents, who upgraded to a larger one, and I totally thought this would be simpler and more “minimal”. Wrong.

While it was super easy to load the pod in and pour a mug of water into the machine, owning a Keurig meant that I had to also buy those little coffee and drink pods, or at least own a reusable one. Then, if I used the individual pods, I had to find a place to store them. I also found that I used way more coffee pods in a day than seemed necessary, since it only made one cup at a time. Also, the amount of waste that created, or work it created to keep cleaning out the reusable one, was tedious and obnoxious. What I thought would make my morning more convenient actually cluttered my time and space with more stuff–stuff to own and stuff to do.

I quickly went back to my French press. It sits on my piano (yes, we have a piano in our kitchen), and it doesn’t need to be plugged in. I usually fill it will coffee the night before so all I have to do in the morning is pour the hot water in, and sometimes I’ll empty it into an insulated carafe to keep it warm for when my husband wakes up. It makes enough coffee for both of us in the mornings, and it creates zero waste, since we don’t use filters and compost the grounds.

Simple. Easy. Efficient. But oddly, few would call a French press a “modern convenience”.

2- Cloth diapers over disposable

So, I am well aware that not everyone who reads this will identify with this one, as not all of you have kiddos, but since this is my personal practice of minimalism, I have to share this way that minimalism beats out convenience in my life. I started cloth diapers when my daughter was 3 months (the first three months I was just trying to figure out my life and try to get some sleep). By then, I felt like I could handle throwing in a new laundry routine into my schedule.

While using disposable diapers is definitely much easier than washing cloth ones, I still think that choosing cloth simplifies my life. I don’t have to buy disposable diapers. Ever. I also don’t have to worry about the size changes either, since I own cloth diapers that adjust to smaller and larger sizes with handy little snaps. I have less waste as well, since we just flush the “stinkies” (as my daughter calls them) down the toilet with the diaper sprayer, and throw the cloth diaper and insert in the diaper pail to be washed.

My laundry routine for diapers is simple, and by now I’m used to it. While washing diapers would hardly be considered “convenient”, I believe it ultimately simplifies my life and helps me embrace minimalism as well as sustainability.

3- Limiting “Monthly Subscriptions”

A few years ago it became very popular to start subscribing to monthly subscription boxes that mailed you all kinds of things you might need or want. These seem to be becoming increasingly popular, and I totally understand why. It’s so easy to sign up, and then all you have to do it wait for the packages to arrive. No going to the store, no searching the aisles, no waiting in check out lines. Many of these subscriptions also make great gifts!

Some of the subscriptions our family has been a part of have included: Dollar Shave Club, Stitch Fix (get $25 off your first fix), Madison Reed hair color (get $15 off your first order), Amazon Subscribe and Save, Imperfect Produce (get $10 off your first box), FabAthletics, Ipsy, as well as other non-physical subscriptions like Hulu, ESPN plus, Prime Music, Spotify, and Netflix. (Not all at the same time, mind you!)

After evaluating the quality of the items I was purchasing via these monthly subscriptions, as well as the drainage they placed on our bank account, I decided to limit our monthly or bi-monthly subscriptions so that we get quality “stuff” for better prices.

While it’s convenient to get perfectly styled and fitted clothes delivered to my door, I would rather go out in search for the items I really need, even if it takes me longer and is therefore less convenient.

However, I have found it to be worthwhile to have certain cleaning products and non perishable foods that we use consistently delivered to my door each month.

This one is pretty self-explanatory: the less monthly subscriptions I get, the less stuff I own. That always helps on a minimalist’s journey. So even thought it’s “easy” or “convenient” to have things delivered right to me, it’s not always going to simplify life.

4- Secondhand Clothes Only

This one probably exists more so because I’m interested in being sustainable than interested in minimalism. Just read my 10 Hanger Project posts and you will understand the lengths I’ve been to in order to curb my addiction to clothes.

It’s far easier to head to Target or Kohl’s or Anthropologie and purchase new clothing in the style and color pallet I like than it is to hunt for possible gems in my size at thrift stores, consignment shops, or even search online via eBay, ThredUP (get $10 off your purchase), or Posh Mark. However, I personally am tempted to buy less if I decide to only shop for clothing secondhand. If I want something bad enough, I’ll take the time to hunt it down, and I’ll spend less money on it since it’s slightly used.

This simplifies my wardrobe, budget, and time, since I only own a few items of clothing to choose from when get dressed each morning.

While it may be “convenient” to order a dress from Land’s End, or new yoga pants from Lululemon, it’s way more likely that I will end up owning more than I need this way, which doesn’t help me in my practice of minimalism. Buying exclusively secondhand also helps me create less waste in general, and allows me to support local businesses–added bonuses if you ask me.

5- Giving up the gym membership

I used to work at a gym. Actually, I’ve worked at three different gyms in the past few years. I love fitness and working out. So why would I give up a gym membership?

Well, this certainly will not be the case for many people, but for me, owning a gym membership was complicating my life unnecessarily. During this particular season of my life, I don’t have hours to spend at the gym. I have a small child who would need a babysitter, which I would have to arrange for, and I would also have to plan out my schedule around gym hours, or fitness classes, or open lap swim– something that’s hard to do when my life revolves around nap time, dinner prep, and a one-year-old’s intricate bedtime routine. Also, up until just a few months ago, my husband and I shared only one car, which also made it hard to plan for trips to the gym.

On top of the scheduling issues, a gym membership costs money, and so does finding a babysitter.

I have found that giving up the gym membership helped to simplify my budget and schedule tremendously. I still workout almost everyday, but I do so at home or out with my little one.

My workouts are usually pretty simple–running with a jogger stroller at the park, doing an Insanity Max 30 video during nap time, or practicing my favorite yoga poses before my family wakes up on Sunday mornings.

While it used to be convenient to head to a gym that had literally every piece of workout equipment I could want, or to drop into a yoga class on a Saturday morning, my time and budget is limited these days, and so too have my workout options become.

Rather than see this as an annoyance or something that complicates life, I am grateful for the reminder that all I really need to stay healthy is the desire to do so. I can easily stay fit by moving my body and using my own body weight. No special equipment, studio, or even attire is required. Simple and minimal.

Easy vs. Simple

I am all about making life simple and easy with less clutter and more time and space for the stuff that really truly matters. However, it can be very easy to confuse convenience with minimalism in the pursuit to be “more free”.

For me, “more free” doesn’t include the modern convenience of a coffee maker or Keurig, even if I do have to boil my own water for coffee. I does include a pretty intricate laundry routine for my baby’s diapers, even if that might seem like the opposite of simple. It doesn’t include a ton of monthly deliveries, even though not having to shop at stores sounds way more convenient. It does include hunting down necessary clothing at consignment stores as opposed to simply finding my size and color at a retailer. It doesn’t include an easy-to-swipe gym card or fitness classes already scheduled in my day.

These “rejects” might be what make your practice of minimalism easier to embrace. That’s okay. I share my experiences simply to inspire others to evaluate those “conveniences” in life that might actually be complications.

Because minimalism and convenience is not the same thing.

What are your 5 ways minimalism (or simplicity of any kind) trumps convenience in your life? Tell me please, I’d love to know!

(Please note: this post contains referral links but was not written for the purpose of using them. They are there incase you are interested; feel free to ignore them completely.)

Never A Failure

Never a Failure (1)

I began my career as a high school English teacher with an unapologetically idealistic attitude about the difference I could make in my student’s lives and in Chicago’s far South Side community as a whole. After all, when you’re young and energetic and still on an academic high from all of what you’ve learned as a recent college graduate, there is literally no passion you cannot chase successfully.

I think I envisioned myself as one of those young, inexperienced, yet unexpectedly inspiring and successful teachers you always see in the movies. I knew it wouldn’t be easy to achieve, but I also had no idea how hard it would be.

After three years of teaching in Chicago Public Schools and living in the Roseland community, that passion I had clung to so dearly dwindled from a raging fire to barely a smoking ember. What I believed to be God’s calling for my life now felt far away – lost, even.

I was tired; I was bogged down with paperwork; I had too many classes; I had over-crowded classrooms; I had a steep cultural learning curve that I was barely getting over the hump with, and on top of that, being a recent hire made my job security slim to none. Some students consistently skipped my class; I struggled immensely with getting certain kids to listen, or to even pick up a pencil; many of the tests I gave came back with dismal results; I was constantly sleep-deprived and over-stressed, and I got sick more times in a single year than I had in the past four combined – in short, I felt like a complete failure.

So, when I left the teaching profession at age 25, I felt disillusioned and disheartened about passion as a whole. I thought that if I couldn’t live out my perfect dreams of being an inner city educator, then how could I hope to live them out in any other area of my life?

But mostly, I was just afraid – afraid that because I had quit, that meant I would forever be labeled a quitter – afraid that because I had given up on a past hope, then all hope was lost for me – afraid that because I hadn’t achieved this dream, I would never achieve anything of value.

But more than anything, I was afraid that all of this meant I was a failure.

Two years later, when I found out I was pregnant, those fears resurfaced. I was afraid to have any expectation of motherhood at all, or of my child, for that matter. I didn’t want my passions to be killed yet again.

And I didn’t want to fail.

But how could I hold a new life inside of my own body and not have wild and courageous dreams for her? How could I not hope for so much in this tiny person’s future? How could I not cling to the promises that God had made to this little baby, and also to me?

 After quitting teaching, and especially after becoming a mother, I was pitched into a new season of life where my motivation was very different than it was when I was fresh out of college. But I’ve come to realize that isn’t bad.

We would never say that the little girl who dreamed of being a ballerina at age 5 failed because she ended up becoming a doctor at age 27.

In the same way, God showed me that I wasn’t a failure simply because my dreams in college changed into different dreams even just a few years later.

My passion for teaching impoverished urban kids has grown into a passion for raising my own kids to befriend them and advocate for their rights and for their futures. My passion for living in the Roseland community of Chicago has grown into a passion for pushing myself to see things from other’s perspectives, and learning to love all people where they are, not where I think they should be.

It would take more pages than I can count to recall all of what my former students have taught me, and all of what I am still learning from my Chicago neighbors and South Side friends. But I know that God has used these experiences to mature me and help me see that his perfect plan for me is never just one thing.

My daughter is toddling around now, and a new life is growing inside of my belly, along with new passions and new hopes. I know not all of those fleeting and idealistic dreams will come to fruition in this lifetime, but some of them will, at least to some extent. The rest can wait for heaven.

Passion, in the form of tentative hope, peeks forth from already-fertilized soil. Dreams have grown and died and been stripped away to make room for a new and freshly pruned crop. It’s the way things grow, and it’s the way we grow. And I know now that it is never a failure.

Originally posted on The MOPS Blog

Learning to Say “No” Without an Explanation

No is a complete sentence

I had this section in my Bullet Journal that I absolutely love. It’s about three and a half pages of graph paper with Washi-tape sectioned off squares and rectangles—it’s my quote page. In the tiniest of squares is one of my favorite quotes that I keep having to go back to time and time again, especially during seasons when I get caught up in the people-pleasing hamster wheel.  The quote reads:

“No.’ is a complete sentence.”

I’m not sure who first said this, but many have taken this concept to heart, and I am one of them.

For a long time I struggled with feeling like I always had to explain myself.

Many times these explanations came off as lame excuses. “I’m so sorry I’m late to lecture; I my roommate locked me out of my dorm this morning when I got back from my run.” 

Many times these explanations actually included very helpful information. “I won’t be able to make it to your baby shower because my father-in-law’s funeral is that same day. I wish I could be in two places at once.”

But sometimes these explanations were unnecessary and were born out of a desire to tell people what they wanted to hear when I couldn’t give them what they really wanted. 

If they wanted time, money, or really anything else from me, but, for whatever reason, I could not give it to them, I felt like I needed to explain why. If my choices went against what someone else would have chosen for their life, I felt like I needed to justify my decision. If I even got a whiff of disapproval from pretty much anyone, I felt like I needed to go into all the details so that maybe–just maybe– they would understand and not be disappointed in me.

All in all, these tugs to explain myself were coming from a place of not believing in who I was or what I was doing with my life. I needed validation from others to feel like I was worthwhile or that my decisions were “good” ones.

But I have come to realize that “no” truly is a complete sentence. And while sometimes further words are needed for the sake of sensitivity and comprehension, the idea behind this quote, for me, is that I am allowed to do what’s best for myself and my family and my life without needing everyone else to approve or even understand.

We all desperately want a fulfilling life. Yet the more we fill it with things—items, busyness, worry, unnecessary commitments, debt, pressure, stress, people-pleasing–the more cluttered and unfocused and empty it becomes. We have to say “no” to these things.

Explaining myself was one of those things that was emptying me. It left me feeling like I could never please the people in my life. It left me feeling unsure about my choice to say “no”. It left me comparing myself to other people’s schedules and commitments and lives in general. I wasn’t confident in my choices. I wasn’t sure of myself. I didn’t stand my ground in what was best for me or what I knew I needed to do, despite what anyone else wanted.

There are times when we need to sacrifice and say “yes” when we don’t want to. There are times when saying “yes” is joyfully easy.

There are times when saying “no” is the hardest thing we have to do, and there are times when we say it as a knee-jerk reaction. Most of the time, it’s hard. Even if we really don’t want to do something, often the pressure to say “yes” makes saying “no” difficult. But after we do the hard work of saying “no”, we need to be okay with that choice.  We need to know that we don’t owe anyone an explanation if it comes from a place of pressure and people-pleasing.

We can say “no”.

We can let people think what they want about it.

We can know in our truest selves that we made the right choice.

And then we can have room to say “yes” to something even better.

On Unkindness and Cowardice and How Truth is Essential to Defeat Both

white and pink flowerson a book beside eyeglasses

Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

I am not the kindest person I know.

I am sometimes socially shy to the point of rudeness; there are moments when I value my own comfort over making others feel comfortable; I can be extremely harsh and judgmental, to my own self as well as to everyone else; I often have mean thoughts about other people that pop into my head.

I share this with you all today lest you think this post is coming from a “holier than thou” place. It’s not. I’m a pretty mean person sometimes. I think we all can be.

I recently went to a wedding this past year that was beautiful. The ceremony was heartwarming, the music was fun, the food was tasty, and the decor was gorgeous.

But the people… the people were mean.

No, not the bride and groom… I’m talking about their guests, whom I was one of.

There were countless times at the wedding where the guests made a snide remark about the wedding itself, or even the bride herself, or the way they chose to order the events. Overall, I got a sense of extreme judgment going on, and it was very unkind.

Being a pretty mean person myself, this still baffled me.

Why on earth would you attend a wedding where you didn’t love and support the couple getting married? Why in the world would you expect someone’s wedding to entertain YOU rather than be the bride and groom’s special day? Why, oh why, turn the happiest day of these people’s lives into a haughty evaluation session of their clothes, taste in music, wedding budget, and food choice?

I was astounded at the unkindness I saw from the so-called “guests” at this wedding.

I know that in American middle-class society, there is are norms of what a wedding should be. Sure, there are subcategories of style and location and theme, but there are some expectations about what happens at a wedding these days. I don’t know if I was ever aware of this before I got married myself, and I know that many of these key expectations were not present, or were dramatically altered at my own wedding.

So, self-centeredly, the unkind guests at this wedding, an event which I thought to be pretty standard with societal norms, made me wonder what on earth was said about my own wedding, and my own choices for one of the biggest moments of my life.

Was my choice to walk down the aisle in sunglasses to Hall and Oates’ “You make my dreams come true” scoffed at? Did people roll their eyes when the guests were asked to move chairs from the wedding location a few yards to the reception tables? What about the buffet of Hy-Vee catering– did people turn their noses up at it all? Was the dollar dance seen as cheap? Was our music contemporary and trendy enough? Did people think a dry wedding reception was lame?

I’m so glad that I didn’t think about these things the day of my wedding. I was too focused on becoming Mrs. Florine, and how grateful I was for all the things I wanted my wedding to be. What others wanted my wedding to be didn’t really enter my head. Maybe that was another sign of my self-centeredness, but if you ask me, that’s the way it should be for the bride on her wedding day.

A wedding is about two people getting married. 

It’s not about how fancy or expensive things are or even how smoothly everything goes. And while I think it also should be a fun party for the guests, I really think a wedding should be whatever the heck the bride and groom want it to be, and the guests can deal. It’s not about them. 

But regardless of what you believe a wedding should be like, I have to wonder how being kind plays into the lives of these guests I keep referring to.

As I stated earlier, I am far from the kindest person I know. But this is something I am not content to sit in.

I hate my unkindness. I hate my selfishness. I hate when my reflex is to be mean or judgmental or harsh, even if it’s behind someone’s back. No–especially if it’s behind someone’s back, because that means I don’t even have the spine to tell someone to their face that I think a certain way about them (which usually would imply that the way I think is cruel).

Or there is another option. Perhaps I don’t tell them something to their face because I’m too much of a coward to do so. Even as I write these words, I think there might be fear behind much of this blog post. Fear that stops me from telling these guests to their face that their comments are unkind and rude and downright mean.

Sharing the truth isn’t easy, and often we don’t get rewarded for it. Perhaps this is why we even have the temptation to gossip or talk poorly about someone behind their back: because telling someone something negative to their face is hardly ever appreciated, even if the comment is true or warranted.

The comments that these guests made were not warranted, and most of them weren’t true at all. They were just cruel evaluations and harsh opinions.

But here on this blog, where I evaluate these wedding guests and share my own opinions, harsh or not…. is it really much better?

While I refused to participate or even listen long to the gossip I heard, and while I didn’t make a cruel remark myself, I certainly didn’t call out these people for their unkind behavior.

I’m doing it now… behind the shield of a semi-ambiguous blog post.

And it’s now that I realize that truth has a huge part to play in the remedy of both unkindness and cowardice, two things I think we all struggle with from time to time if not everyday of our lives.

When we are unkind, the truth is we are often just masking an insecurity we are feeling. We do this by putting another person down. It makes us feel elevated ourselves because “at least we’re not like so-and-so”. Or sometimes it’s because we are masking a deep wound that we feel from the other person’s actions, and instead of addressing the hurt, the sadness, or the betrayal, we simply lash out at them and are either unkind to their face, or behind their back. Covering up these truths only makes the wound deeper, and the insecurity’s power over us stronger. It does no one any favors.

When we are cowardly, we hide from the truth that needs to be exposed, either in our lives, or in the lives others. We refuse to look at our own mess in the light and shy away from facing our fears. And we won’t speak up when someone else is being oppressed or abused or even just gossiped about because it means confronting someone else’s unkindness and potentially alienating ourselves, or becoming the brunt of more unkindness. Refusing to act out of cowardice hides the truth and allows others to become victims. It makes us into guilty bystanders instead of advocates for the less powerful. It also does no one any favors.

I am guilty of both unkindness and cowardice.

And so are you.

We all are.

To be kind means to speak the truth in love. This is also what it means to be courageous. 

To the bride and groom: I truly hope your day was everything you dreamed it would be. You both looked beautiful and the whole day was so special. I’m extremely happy for you both.

To the guests at their wedding: I truly hope that your unkind behavior is exposed to you in some way so that you can examine the root of either your insecurity or your hurt. And I truly apologize about not being courageous enough to speak truth to you at the time. While you may have been offended in the moment, I know that it’s my responsibility to be honest and loving and kind, and part of that means saying things that are uncomfortable but true.

This blog post is an attempt at sharing truth, feeble and untimely though it may be. I should have said something simple, kind, and true in the moment, and not allowed my cowardice to stop my mouth in the face of someone else’s unkindness.

I will try to do better next time, as I hope we all will.