Softness. It is a word I have not thought about extensively. Growing up I saw my mom as the quieter type, my dad often rolled right over her, I am not sure he listened to her. In college I eventually found my voice, and then I resolved to make sure my voice stayed strong. I never wanted to be walked all over. However, recently I have been thinking about taking a step away from that strong voice. Not that I will lose the strength, but that I will be more aware of the volume, and the frequency.
I often think that thoughts and ideas come to us when we are ready to hear them. I am gradually (while reading other books) getting near the end of Kristin Armstrong’s “Work in Progress,” which I wrote about in the blog post: “The grace that grounded me.” I came across this quote on softness. It was an aha moment for me.
“Softness is sweeter and more direct route to resolution, every time. Please note that by softness I do not mean wimpiness. Softness is not some puny form of compliance. It is speaking your truth without malice or apology. It is staking a claim without fanfare or unnecessary noise. It gets the job done with elegance.” page 50-51
How many times have you been on the phone with your insurance company, or bank and are so incredibly frustrated that you get nasty? I am definitely one to raise my hand here. Chris is such a great example to me of what I would call a quiet strength. He is not rude or wimpy, but he is gentle and kind with those that he interacts with in these situations. I lose my patience easily and get frustrated. Take just yesterday, I had to call my insurance company back. I had spoken to them on March 31, and their fix to my claim was supposed to take 5-7 days, and then they were going to call me back. It has been 21 days and still no resolution. The response I received when I called is that my claim is getting reprocessed and it will take another 5-10 days for one aspect and then another 10 days for a different part. Seriously? So I think it should be resolved by the middle of May. As annoyed as I was I chose softness. I was kind and not frustrated with the customer service representative. Although I did tell her I did not have much confidence in hearing from them since I did not receive any communication in the first 5-7 days like I was originally told.
Why am I sharing this with you? I took the route of softness. I did not get nasty with them. I have a short amount of patience with companies that say they will do one thing and do not follow through with their promise. Additionally I have a small amount of patience for individuals that say they will do one thing and then do not do it. And, at the end of the day, it is not the fault of the customer service representative that I spoke with that her company has such extensive processing times. Why ruin her day?
I know there are other areas of my life where I could be softer. Firm, yes. Strong, yes. Yet, still bring softness to the situation. So often frustration gets in the way and our words are lost amidst anger and impatience. What if we lead with a softer side? I am going to try to focus more on flexing my softer side.
At work last week, a few of us were discussing books, and I mentioned that at this moment my favorite book of 2014 is: “Mile Markers” by Kristin Armstrong. A colleague said oh, yes that is Lance Armstrong’s ex-wife. Of course I thought, duh. How did I not put two and two together? You would think her few mentions of her husband, Lance, in Mile Markers and her mention of Austin would have clued me in, but I was so enamored with her book that the connection never crossed my mind. By the end of our conversation one of my colleagues offered to bring in her copy of another Kristin Armstrong book: “Work in Progress: An Unfinished Woman’s Guide to Grace.”
Two nights ago I decided to crack it open, after some much-needed inspiration, and holy shit was I blown away. This is the first paragraph of the Introduction:
“You may have met, or know, a woman like this: She brightens a room, can literally alter the energy before she opens her mouth. Her presence alone is uplifting, her warmth is genuine radiance, and her eye contact feels like a gift. Her compassion and confidence are unshakable. She knows herself well enough to be able to get to know you. She has not pretense about herself, has no need to hide because she lives in truth. She has no need to exalt or deprecate others or herself, and this allows others the freedom to be authentic in her company.
She is the kind of woman who makes you check your posture, inside and out. She makes you want to think before you speak, not because you feel judged or compelled to impress her, but simply because she makes you want to be better. Her integrity draws others into the light. Her laughter is contagious. Her hugs feel so good you wonder how you can get another one without appearing needy. When she is happy, you want to celebrate with her. When she is struggling, you want to stand by her side. Come to think of it, anything with her would be fine.
Who is this woman? To me, she is a woman of grace.” page 1-2
Wow. If I could ever live up to that. I read that, and immediately had a woman in mind. Someone in my life that has always been an inspiration to me. While we have not been in touch as often these past few years, she has always been a role model to me. I can remember one time in college when I was struggling particularly with feeling like an orphan (my dad was around but not really existent in my life, my mom had passed on 5 years before). I remember I had hung out with her and her family (husband and precious little baby girl), and as I left she put her hand under my chin and looked into my eyes and said: “We love you.” Then she looked at me more intensely and said it again. I froze, and then started to cry. It was just what I needed to hear, but so hard to accept. She made me want to be better. She brightened the room, was so authentic and real, and exuded confidence, radiance, and her eye contact brought me to tears (in such a good way). She was the grace that grounded me.
“Gratitude is like fiber.” I love this line. It fills me up. Ha. No pun intended. It is a great visual reminder on days when things might feel murky. I have not had one of those days lately, but I know when they hit. You often wonder, “why me?” How did I get into this slump, or why do I have to go through this situation? No matter what lies before you, “Gratitude is like fiber” is the reminder you need. Right? If you are feeling off, or grumpy, or frustrated, look within and think about how much you are filled with gratitude, and if you are lacking in the fiber department, start bulking up. Add the lentils, black beans, brown rice of gratitude into your thoughts.
You can call me a Pollyanna all you want, but I think Kristin Armstrong has it right. Yes, I am still talking about her and her book: Mile Markers. This is my third blog post on this book, and there may be more. This is definitely my favorite book of 2014. Here is the full quote:
“I realized the power I had over my own thoughts. I could have a good or bad day simply by being more conscientious about choosing my mood. Gratitude is like fiber. Fill up on that and it takes up so much room that other things (like negative thinking, resentment, or pity) are crowded out. We are satiated. By focusing on what is, we forget to think about what is not. Even by being thankful for not having things that we don’t want, we are replete.” page 273
Just as we need to be more conscientious about selecting the food that fuels us (think fruits and vegetables, and not sugar and white flour) we can be just as selective about the thoughts we bring into our mind and how those thoughts impact our mood. I guarantee you that we all have more in our life than we can ever imagine, and if we just take time to think about all that good, we have less crevices in our thoughts to think about the bad.
I am sure I have mentioned this before in a blog, but I remember at probably one of the lowest times in my life as a kid: my dad was out of the picture, my mom in ICU, my sister and I living on our own, my sister sent me a Turkey Gram at school. Turkey Grams around Thanksgiving were purchased and brought to your classroom (almost like getting flowers or candy) and it felt special to be singled out with one. My Turkey Gram said: “It cannot get worse, it can only get better than we can ever imagine.” Whether my sister knew it or not, that was the fiber I needed to fill me and not give space to the life we were living.
How can you be your own fiber to fill you up with good, and what can you do to be the fiber in someone’s day?
I love when people are wholeheartedly themselves. They say what is on their mind, and sometimes do not have a filter. I very much say what is on my mind, and while I do know when to have a filter in most situations, I am still blunt and say what I think. Last September I wrote a blog about being “Unapologetically herself.” It is my modus operandi. Why should we be anything other than who we are? Why should we hide our true selves?
Last week I wrote about the book: “Mile Markers.” After traveling and a full week, I can tell you I am now two-thirds done with this book, and have a zillion dog-eared pages. An idea jumped off the page at me when I was reading last night. It is from writer-comedian Katie Goodman that the author has framed on her desk:
“There will invariably be people who do not accept you. And in that case you must be your own badass self, without apology.”
I think I want to steal the idea and add it to the other thoughts and inspirations that sit above my desk. I am less worried about whether individuals will accept me and more interested in making sure I am being me. Life is short, YOLO (you only live once), so why should we not live each day as our badass selves? How and when did we start to apologize for ourselves? I try to think back to when I started apologizing for myself, and it is a blur. My dad raised us that children should be seen and not heard. Why, oh why dad was that important to you? It makes me want to bring together all my friends that have just had babies and say, please, oh please raise your children each day knowing their worth, and encourage them to live their lives to the fullest as their individual badass self.
Forget the nay sayers, the poo poo-ers, and those that discourage you in life. Let go of those that shut or knock you down, belittle you, or potentially throw you under the bus (as the saying goes). Lead your own life, if you do you will be strong and unflappable. I am not going to apologize for glorious me, and you should not either.
Gosh when I find a damn good book, I just want to tell everyone about it. I know some of you might not care about running, but open your ears… this book is worth reading. I had a week-long slump from my normal runs. Life got crazy, I felt slow, and it has made me a little cranky that my runs have been the thing to drop out of my life. For those of you that have been reading this blog for a while, you know that my run is my sanity. My closer friends and co-workers that know me, know that something is extremely off if I have not run in a week.
I will not go into the “why” of my crazy world, and the run, because at the moment that is not the point at all of this blog post. Today I tell you, read: “Mile Markers: The 26.2 Most Important Reasons Why Women Run” by Kristin Armstrong. She is a contributing editor for Runner’s World, and the woman RUNS. Do not worry if you are not a runner, her story will inspire you. Mile Markers is a compilation of her many blog posts for Runner’s World. They flow and connect and you feel like you are waking up with her, lacing on your shoes and going for a very long run (as her variety tends to be of the longer distance). You learn how she processes her life, how she stays up-to-date with her running partners, how she struggles and triumphs, and how running helps her to elevate others. This specific quote made me feel like she was talking to me:
“I can be pretty serious about taking myself seriously. I accept responsibility with somber reverence, stuffing the weight of the world into my pack and shrugging my shoulders into the straps. What can I say? When I care about something, I don’t want to blow it. Whether it’s raising my kids, meeting a work deadline, paying a bill on time, training for a race, or being there for a family member or friend, I am a girl who gets up in the morning with the intention of being better than I was the day before. But it’s not easy to keep all the balls in the air, to juggle this master schedule called Aspects of My Life. I drop balls. They go thudding and bouncing and rolling away, and I skid and scramble to collect them and start over again, breathless. There are three things in my life that have saved me from myself, from turning into the most regimented, boring git-‘er-done kind of gal. They are my children, my friends, and running. Why? Because they remind me to play.” page 41
I am that woman who has that same intention of being better than I was the day before. I can usually hold the straps of that backpack and make things happen. Where do I fail and what saves me in the end? Chris. Friends/Family. Running. Playing. Dabbling in art. Laughter. They have all saved me from myself. Absolutely.
I am not even a third of the way through this book, and I had to write a post about it. I cannot put it down. Two nights ago, as I was reading while running (yes, crazy treadmill-running, book-reading me), I got so inspired. I wanted to text a co-worker and get her on board to start running with me once a week. I wanted to wrangle all my past running folks and get out there with them! Maybe it was the spark of sunshine and 65 degree weather yesterday, or maybe it is Daylight Savings Time, or maybe Armstrong can inspire you to get a move on it. More to come on this book!