21. same old same new?

How many times do you utter the words, “You know…same old same old. Nothing new with me,” when someone asks you how you are doing or what has been going on in your life.

I do this every time I’m asked after I’ve quickly taken a mentally inventory. Yep, same teaching job, still chronically single, doing CrossFit, spending my time with the same friends and family.

On the surface, it feels as if nothing’s changed. I think sometimes I convince myself that my life is no different.

But today, as my family and I were moving my stuff exactly a year later to my new place I’m living, I realized that my life now differs greatly than the one I led just one short year ago.

So often we celebrate the big things in life, especially with the popularity of social media. Snapshots of big life events and achievements are filtered, posted, and perfectly worded for the whole world to see. We feel proud of every new job, fitness-related personal record, change in relationship status, and large party we attend.

But what about those small victories? The internal battles, the obstacles we overcome on a daily basis that shape us into who we are this very moment.

As I continue to sit here and reflect upon the past year in my brand new room with my belongings everywhere, I’m overtaken by emotion. The stark contrast between who I am today and who I was a year ago is astounding.

I’ve loved, I’ve lost, I experienced the deepest form of heartbreak, I’ve been jaded and cynical, I’ve healed, the important pieces of me have been put back together, I’ve rediscovered my love for Crossfit, my passion for teaching has finally been renewed and restored, new friends have become best friends, my anxiety is somewhat under control, Fearlessly Frosted was created (I didn’t even know I could bake cupcakes!), i’m stronger both physically and mentally, i’ve added another year of recovery from anorexia (5 years!), and I’m back to having my natural color hair.

I’m beginning to realize it’s a lot harder to celebrate the events in life that are impossible to be photographed. How do you capture in a social media post that you bravely conquered the most challenging year of your life and came out alive and well?

I think the answer is…you don’t. These huge victories and internal battles won need to be inventoried regularly. Self-reflection is essential.

So next time someone asks, “How’s it going? What’s new?” My answer will not be “Same old, same old.”

I’m still Rachel. I’m still a 3rd grade teacher. I still do Crossfit. But I’ve overcome a variety of different challenges that have proved I’m strong. I’m tenacious. I’m resilient.

My life may look the same. But it’s different. And you know, I’m liking where I’m going. For that, I will celebrate.

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20. mirrors

Lately, I’ve been struggling with comparing myself to others.

You know, the kind of comparison where you determine your value, self-worth, and success in life solely based on what someone else is doing, where they live, how much money they have, or how they look.

Completely illogical and irrational to read, but dangerously easy to do.

Man, the comparison slope is a slippery one, I tell ya. I will embarrassingly admit that I’ve started to believe that I’m not where I should be in life, that I’m a mess, that I’m going nowhere.

After two different conversations in which I voiced my concerns about my life with people who I love and trust dearly, I was challenged to stop choosing people as mirrors.

Mirrors. As women, I feel like we have a love/hate relationships with these darn pieces of glass anyway.

When you are doubtful of how something looks, you look in a mirror. Sometimes it gives you a startlingly accurate reflection of what you are trying to see. On other occasions, what you see is actually a bit skewed from reality. The majority of the time, we are not pleased with what is being reflected back.

I have come to realize that the more uncertainty I feel, the more obstacles I’m faced with, the more I use people as mirrors to gauge where I’m at in life in an attempt to make myself feel better.

Instead of looking at MY successes, taking inventory of what I have accomplished, and celebrating how far I’ve come, I use someone else’s life as a benchmark.

How’s that working for me? About as well as trying to do my makeup while looking through one of those full length fun house mirrors. Not at all. The majority of what I should be looking at it is diminished while the small amount of challenges and defeat I’ve faced are amplified, enlarged, and steal the show.

As the new year approaches, I’m going to challenge myself to stop using people as mirrors. Instead of focusing on where others are, I’m going to celebrate where I’m at, what I’ve accomplished, the experiences I’ve had, and all that I’ve learned.

Because really, what better mirror to use for your life than yourself?

Here’s to celebration not comparison.
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19. smiling & failure

The past two weeks of my “Crossfit Rebirth” have been painful. My pride has been thrown aside and my body has felt as if I was repeatedly hit with a hammer. This morning’s workout was no exception.

I’m not going to sit here and write about how I PR’d, what weights I used, or [insert cliche CrossFit post here]. In fact, I’m going to do quite the opposite.

It was one of those “smeared makeup, sweat dripping down my face, chalk all over my spandex, ripped hands, why did my muscles fail me” type of workouts. I’m quite certain that I looked absolutely ridiculous as I stood there staring at the clock.

I tripped up on double unders, failed miserably on a handful of muscle ups for the first time in a long time, and did hand release pushups at a snails pace. Don’t EVEN get me started on the wall balls.

I did something though, throughout the ENTIRE workout, that I haven’t done in a very long time.

I smiled.

I didn’t just turn up the corners of my face after someone said something funny. I ACTUALLY smiled. The grin present on my face reflected what exactly what I was feeling emotionally.

Happiness. Triumph. Excitement. Motivation. Bliss. Exhilaration.

Despite my screaming body and struggles, I was (and still am!) incredibly happy to have a chance to rediscover my passion while constantly striving to be a stronger person both emotionally and physically. I’m lucky to have the chance to do all this with motivating coaches pushing me to be better and friends who remember who I am even when I forget.

As I continued on throughout the day with a smile on my face, I realized so much.

My worthiness is completely separate from outside factors. I am NOT the amount of weight I lift, the relationship I was in, or the mistakes I’ve made. I am worthy just because I am.

Life doesn’t have to be all figured out at this moment. Life just needs to be enjoyed, not endured.

Despite the challenges and obstacles that have been put in my path, I am where I need to be. I am perfectly okay.

So here’s to smiling and laughing through everything. To rediscovering my passion and myself. To being grateful for each experience and all the wonderful people who did not take NO for an answer.

Here’s to working on hand release pushups and muscle ups.

Here’s to being me again. Imperfectly whole, fearlessly happy.

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17. dropping the pieces

You know that phrase, “picking up the pieces”? The one where you are supposed to pick them all up and move forward? Well, I pretty much hate it.

Right now, I feel like I’m constantly picking up the pieces only to drop them again. Each time I gather them all up, something knocks them out of my hands.

Others are being so generous and helpful, trying to pick them up for me. Most are explaining EXACTLY how I’m supposed to pick them up, where I’m supposed to put them, and how to move forward.

For some reason, I just can’t seem to keep them all in my hands, tucked away in a pretty basket, despite everyone’s and my own best effort.

But maybe it’s not about picking them all up. Maybe it’s about leaving those jagged pieces, the old pieces, the ones that cause pain and suffering. Leaving the pieces that are memories of false happiness, lies. The pieces that are of an ugly picture painted pretty.

Maybe I’m supposed to leave those pieces on the ground, close the door, and walk away from them. Remember that they existed but leave them lying there because they just don’t serve me anymore.

The painful pieces need to be left in the dust, not carried in my arms into the future.

Here’s to picking up the pieces that encourage me to grow, learn, love, heal, and forgive. Here’s to putting them in that pretty box, wearing a genuine smile on my face, and walking forwards.

Here’s to finding the puzzle of my future. The place where the pieces I pick up and carry with me fit seamlessly together to create an imperfectly beautiful picture.

16. cheers

Self-reflection and I have become VERY good friends as of late. In fact, I think I’d even go so far as to say that I could probably win the”self-reflector of the year” award if there was such a thing.

I’ve learned far more than I ever thought possible, felt more intensely than I knew I could, and proved my resilience despite my sadness.

This past weekend was challenging. No. This past weekend was heart-wrenching, rip the bandaid off, raw. My suspicions were confirmed, my fear turned into reality, and my eyes were opened to a “truth” that cut deep. Everything that I thought was proving to be a lie. Every strand of trust given was thrown in my face.

I quickly began to internalize what happened, assigning my self-worth as a woman to a person’s inability to express any sort of empathy.

Then, while “Pinteresting”, I saw this.

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The truth in the words of this quote far surpass anything I was telling myself the past few days.

Brutally honest for some reading this, comfortably reassuring for others. This is something to be printed out, framed, and hung to see each and every day.

Cue self-reflection. Am I living my life in such a way that I can be proud of? Are my actions accurately reflecting the words I speak to myself and others? Do I treat those that are in my life with respect, love, and kindness?

Yes. Yes to all those questions. Does this mean I live perfectly? No. In fact it means quite the opposite. Do I make mistakes, say the wrong thing, become over emotional, and have anxiety over silly situations? Yes. But I am living authentically, in a way that is CONSISTENT with what I “preach.”

I look back to the past several months. What I thought to be a shining example of unwavering faith, a life lived with emphasis on acceptance, gentleness, kindness, and compassion has become so far from the truth it’s not even funny. The willingness to use sacred information/insecurities as a weapon is some serious stuff. The lack of empathy is shocking. It is directly the opposite of the words that were preached, the ideas presented. The promises that were made.

Do you know what emotion I now feel? I shake my head in disbelief as I get ready to type this. The emotion I now overwhelmingly feel is the same as last week.

GRATITUDE.

I am absolutely, whole-heartedly GRATEFUL that I am me. The way I live my life is 100% consistent with the words I say. Sometimes my actions are messy, my feelings are a roller coaster…but who I am and who I say I am are the EXACT SAME THING.

A quote from the book Daring Greatly comes to mind:

“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness, and affection. Love is NOT something we give and get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated when it exists within each one of them–we can only love others as much as we love ourselves. Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed, and rare.”

So here’s to the willingness to live without a mask. To speak words of love with pure honesty. To have my actions & words seamlessly entwine in the tapestry of my life. To heal, learn, and love again.

Here’s to forgiving the one that hurt me deeply by quickly speaking the SAME words of love & kindness to another woman. Here’s to being grateful for all that has happened.

Here’s to being the most authentic version of me and to daring greatly.

15. radical gratitude

In the past month, I have been stretched beyond my limits emotionally. My strength has been tested in every way possible. Each day proves to be challenging.

But I’m still here. I’m still fighting. I’m still finding ways to smile. Most importantly, I’m reflecting. I’m learning.

Recently, a bit of anger has been tossed into my profound sadness. Angry that someone could actually do what was done. Infuriated that a person could have no regard for someone else’s feelings. Disgusted at the fact that someone could continue living their life as if nothing major had happened.

If you know me, you know that I do not like being angry. Negativity is not something I handle well. I’m overly optimistic, positive, and genuine. Naturally, I decided to see what I could take from this negative emotion.

Today, I had some much needed “me time” and used it to reflect and look inwards. I decide to use my anger to my advantage and practice something I call “radical gratitude.”

I took each layer of anger and thought about what I could learn from it. Why I’m grateful for it’s presence and how I could apply it positively in my life. Here’s what I’ve come to be grateful for:

I’m grateful that I have the capacity to give someone genuine true love. The kind of authentic love that withstands hardship, struggle, and challenge.

I’m grateful for the ability to form real relationships with others. Not only romantic relationships, but friendships and family.

I’m grateful that I have people who TRULY know and love me. They know all there is about me (not just a facade I present to them) and cherish me for who I am.

I’m grateful for the honesty of the people closest to me. I LOVE that they would have the courage to and be the first to tell me if I’ve treated someone with disrespect. Because they care for me, they would NEVER let me disregard someone else’s emotions without confronting me about fixing it. Although it would be hard to hear, I’m glad they would do that for me.

I’m grateful that I am self reflective. I understand that I am an ever changing, always growing human being. Sometimes my best self is not always shown, but I know I can learn from every situation and become better. I will always continue to learn, reflect, and grow.

I’m grateful that I am accepting of others. I would never try to shape, change, or mold someone into who I thought they should be. I will always challenge and inspire people to become their best self, but understand and love everyone for who they are.

I’m grateful that I work THROUGH my problems and emotions. I face everything head on, no matter what it looks like or feels like. I never run around things or bounce from one new thing to another. I always work through something, no matter how challenging or uncomfortable.

Practicing radical gratitude today has really helped me to process some of my feelings of anger. Although the road ahead may still be tough, gratitude and the support of others will always bring me through.

Here’s to being grateful, loved, supported, and REAL. Here’s to always showing my true self, loving without limits, and working through challenges. Here’s to being and loving me.

Bob Marley said it best.
Bob Marley said it best.

14. mindset

Last week, one of my students presented me with this book.
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Her dad is a superintendent in a neighboring school district and explained that his staff had read, loved, and learned from this book during the summer. On top of the book was a pink post-it note with the words “Thank you for being you.” The subject matter of the book, the kind note, and the timing of this gift brought tears to my eyes. Little did I know, this small book would have a HUGE impact on my life.

This post is going to sound like a book review at first. In a sense, it is. But bear with me, there is more.

Although unassuming and plain, this book has SO much to offer. The focus is on mindset and how it affects every aspect of your life. The author explains that there are two mindsets people have: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. The explanations of both are simple yet powerful.

The fixed mindset is the belief that your abilities are carved in stone. This mindset creates the urgency to prove yourself over and over.

The growth mindset is the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. There is an emphasis on being able to change and grow through application and experience. It allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.

As soon as I read that statement, I was hooked. Challenging time? I’m right smack dab in the middle of the most painfully challenging time of my life.

A quote that accurately explains the growth mindset is this:
“A person’s true potential is unknown (and unknowable); it’s impossible to forsee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil, or training.”

The author even goes so far as to say that “failure IS a painful experience, but it doesn’t define you. It’s a problem to be faced, dealt with, and learned from.”

As I was reading, I could just feel myself nodding. The pages of my book were filled with exclamation points, highlighted phrases, bracketed sections, and comments written in the margins. During independent reading, I could feel my students staring at my in confusion…wondering why I was excitedly writing in my book when I was supposed to be reading.

Because of the current situation I’m experiencing, the chapter on how your mindset affects and influences your relationships with people really struck a chord. I read and reread, analyzed and collected some of the most valuable quotes and pieces of information from this section. On first glance, it looks like a typical “be better” section of a book. But the more deeper you think about what you are reading, the more you try to apply what is being said to your life…the more valuable it all becomes. The following section is woven together from different pages from the section. It doesn’t come from just one page or heading. It’s woven together from all of the ideas to make complete sense.

Relationships and your Mindset
The belief that success shouldn’t be taxing, uncomfortable, or hard work robs people of exactly what they need to make their relationship thrive. The belief that being in love means never having to do anything difficult is absolutely devastating to a relationship. It takes extremely hard work to communicate correctly and expose/resole conflicting hopes and beliefs. The idea of “they lived happily ever after” is more accurately expressed as “they worked happily ever after.”

Once people in the fixed mindset see flaws in their partners, they become contemtuous of them and dissatisfied with the whole relationship. It’s better and healthier to acknowledge each other’s limitations and build from there.

The belief that partners have the potential for change should NOT be confused with the belief that the partner WILL change. The partner has to watn to change, commit to change, and take concrete actions toward change.

The growth mindset lets you rise above the blame, understand the problem, and try to fix it–TOGETHER.

Every single part of that relationship section was completely eye-opening. It didn’t make what I’m experiencing any easier but allowed me to start to formulate answers from a situation that has made absolutely zero sense.

I’ll leave you with a few powerful ideas from the remainder of the book. These can be applied to any aspect of your life. I’ve made them into quotes and have posted them in my classroom and on my bathroom mirror at my apartment.

“Embrace all things that have felt threatening: challenge, struggle, criticism, and setbacks.”

“Love challenge, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning.”

Here’s to shifting myself from the fixed mindset to the growth mindset and understanding that others may not be willing to do the same.