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.