Learning to Say No

Every August, I sign up to participate in VEDA (Vlog Every Day in August) as part of a wonderful community of YouTube friends. I never find the time to finish more than ten videos, but I sign up and do my best every year because I enjoy the opportunity to share in a crazy, creative adventure with people I adore. Plus, I get to hoodwink my brother into helping me catch up on any topics/prompts I missed from the previous year, and those catch-up videos are the silliest and the best.

But by the third day, I realized that I just couldn't participate in VEDA on any level this year. My days are filled with work, my afternoons are reserved for my grandparents, and the few hours I have to myself in the evening are increasingly valuable to me. I'd like to think that I could live without Netflix, books, and naps for a month, but it turns out that I need those things in my life to keep me from losing my cool when seven different people try to drive the wrong way through the grocery store parking lot at the same time. (I'm pretty sure only six other people live in my town, so I'm not even sure how this is possible. BUT IT HAPPENS EVERY WEEK.)

Still, it took me a day or two of being consumed by shame before I was finally able to send a message to the group organizers and let them know that I'd be withdrawing from the project. And that is insane. I should not feel ashamed that my life doesn't have room for everything all at once.

I knew that was crazy, and I knew I had a book that would help me navigate all the gross feelings I was struggling with. So I picked up Brené Brown's Daring Greatly and started angry-reading. FIX MY PROBLEMS FASTER, BOOK.

Turns out™: setting boundaries is an important part of being a loving, vulnerable, wholehearted person who is "shame-resilient," as Brené puts it.

We have to believe we are enough in order to say, "Enough!" For women, setting boundaries is difficult because the shame gremlins are quick to weigh in: "Careful saying no. You'll really disappoint these folks. Don't let them down. Be a good girl. Make everyone happy." For men, the gremlins whisper, "Man up. A real guy could take this on and then some. Is the little mama's boy just too tired?"

So I'm working on my boundaries. Again. And while the yarnheads in the grocery store parking lot might not ever appreciate it, I sure do.

Hello from the Other Side

I live in rural Tennessee now. The scenery is beautiful, the people are almost too friendly, the pizza is terrible, and I'm pretty sure I made this exact same observation on Twitter shortly after moving here. Oops, yes.

Being on my own (and in a new state) has been wonderful and scary. I have been given one of those rare opportunities to reinvent myself, but because I started out liking who I am, I'm really just finding the courage to test my limits. Sometimes, I push myself to break bad habits (eating too much sugar, being five minutes late to everything) or to start new ones (exercising, journaling). I say yes to things I never would have tried before—hiking a half-marathon, playing piano with a renowned oboist, asking for help when I need it. I also hide in my house and eat Lucky Charms in bed when I lose the battle with anxiety and fear.

I have found a lot of inner strength this year, but I have also re-discovered the joy of community and the support that comes with that. When things are going well, I have people in my life to celebrate with me. When times are tough, I have people in my life to prop me up with love and encouragement, gifts, hugs, and so much homemade food. I would not have survived this year without my parents, brother, grandparents, extended family, boyfriend, friends, coworkers, and even my new church.

There are still many days and many nights when this adventure seems like too much for me, and I have too much pride to ask for help or to admit defeat. But I am learning. I practice self-compassion and vulnerability (and read about it often) because I like taking off the mask of perfection. I like that my life is a hot mess this year. I like that I have a small army of people who are always on my side. I like that there is room for failure and room to improve.

"It's a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy." —Lucille Ball

Some Day When Spring Is Here

Over the weekend, I leased a new car—a white Kia Soul—with help from my wonderful parents. We have always named our cars in this family, but I was struggling to come up with a clever name for this one, in part because a white soul just seems doomed to be racist or privileged or something awful. (Hashtag all cars matter.)

Yesterday, though, my dad made a joke about lining up insurance for "Snow White," and I'll be damned if it isn't the perfect name.

I've often been called Snow White because I have extremely pale skin. Snow White was the first Disney movie I ever watched, shown at the local library when I was very young. And as the story goes, Snow White had to flee one awful situation only to find herself betrayed a second time, which is tragically close to my own story right now.

I'm driving the car to Tennessee on Friday, escaping to live in a small home in the woods. Maybe I'll decorate my patio with seven garden gnomes for extra protection as I wait for my prince to find me.