The listening space

As a writer, I almost always have a running dialogue in my head. I piece together scenes in my own life. I write on this blog. I hit publish. Here, and on social media, I share my stories. I give my stories a way out, so I'm not holding them all inside.

But this weekend, I said very little. Hello. Goodbye. Thank you for coming. Handshakes. Hugs. I listened, a lot.  

That's because the Listen To Your Mother season is in high gear. Listen To Your Mother provides an opportunity for women and men to read their true stories about motherhood live on stage. Thirty-nine cities across the country will host their own unique LTYM shows this spring. I'm the Director and Producer of the Charleston show, which will be held on May 3, 2015 at 2:00 p.m. at Charleston Music Hall.

The Charleston production team (here we are!) just wrapped up auditions. For three days, we heard stories from three dozen people. Now, we're in the midst of choosing the cast. 

I walked away from the auditions each day feeling heavy. Not the kind of heavy you feel when something is a burden. It was a different kind of heavy. The kind that comes from holding space for others. 

When the auditions were complete, I felt the collective weight of those stories, and I'm carrying them with me this week. There's so much more to this process than choosing which stories will be shared together on stage. 

The listening is important. Hearing and feeling and understanding those stories is important. 

I walked away thinking about all of those people, and every single one of us. I thought about how we all walk around with big, huge, heavy stories tucked inside. We encounter so many people each day. Strangers and people we think we know. 

Do we really understand where people are coming from? It's something to think about. (Tweet that)

So many of us are seeking peace, redemption, answers to questions that don't have answers. We want one more chance. We want to share what we've learned. We wonder, Did I matter to you? And we want people to know, You mattered to me. 

So many of us are carrying around the weight of the past and present and future. We're all just doing our best to sort it out. (Tweet that)

We can't say to every person we encounter, "Hey. Tell me your story. I've got all day." But we can hold space. We can give people the benefit of the doubt. Give them space and grace as they work out the stories of their lives. 

It's something to think about.

 

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Embrace "the blend". Rock your relationships. Join me tomorrow night.

My bookshelf in my home office is packed with non-fiction books. Mostly memoirs and titles related to personal development. And here on my blog, I've danced between these two styles of writing: memoir (personal stories) and self-help (life lessons and interviews).

Back In 2008, I took a bunch of classes and became a certified life coach. When I launched this blog around that same time, I wore my life coach hat. My earliest posts were related to work-life balance, clearing your space, ditching imperfection, taking leaps of faith and discovering activities and work we're passionate about. 

Not long after that, I felt a strong desire to share more personal writing. So, I shed my life coach title, declared myself a memoir writer, and the blog you're reading today was born.

It's interesting because until recently, I always felt like it had to be either/or. For most of my adult life, I've wrestled with what feels like competing values. The desire for a career that I loved OR a well-loved home. My desire to raise a family OR my desire for independenceNow, many years later, I see and fully accept that my style is a blend. And to my either/or thinking I say, "What's wrong with being a hybrid?"

Do you wrestle with competing values? If so, maybe the solution is to mix it up. Be okay with your desire for both. So what if it gets a little messy? 

That's the first point of my post today. The second point is to celebrate "the blend" in my own life. Now, in addition to blogging here, I'm also a featured contributor for Best Kept Self, a lifestyle site committed to personal and professional growth and development. 

My first post for Best Kept Self offers insights and tips for anyone who wants to have better relationships. So, I hope you'll pop over there to read it and share with anyone who might like it. 

Also, I'm hosting a free webinar tomorrow night.

Tomorrow night, Wednesday, February 25 at 8pm, I'm hosting a webinar for Best Kept Self about how we can find home in our relationships. It's free and you can sign up here. No worries if you can't attend the webinar live. If you sign up in advance, you'll also get access to the recording when it's done. 

If you’re like me, when you have an issue or a conflict in a personal or professional relationship, it affects everything else. It’s all I can think about. Unlike some people (like my husband, for example) I don’t compartmentalize very well.  

When my relationships are in a good place, I’m happier all around.  So what’s the key to creating and maintaining solid, lasting relationships? The ones that build you up, challenge you (in a good way), make you a better person, and enhance the overall quality of your life? 

In this webinar we’ll talk candidly about a critical turning point in my own life and what it taught me about relationships. I'll also share the key component to healthy relationships, understanding the difference between good selfish and bad selfish, when it’s time to do a relationship audit, what to do in difficult relationships that you can’t avoid, how to communicate your truth clearly and with respect, and how to create quality time for the people who matter most.

I hope you'll join me tomorrow night! It's easy to sign up!

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We have right now. And forward is the only direction.

It's happened to me twice, and both times I was at Target. First in the diaper aisle, as I scanned the rows for a pack of pull-ups with the best price and best cartoon character on the front.

The second time was in the parking lot, when I spotted a young mom collapsing a stroller and tossing it in the trunk in one fluid motion. It's a skill. I gave her a silent nod of respect. 

Each time, I felt it. A pang of loss. The "new mom" season in my life is fading away. 

My first baby and my third baby had birthdays this week. Nine and three. Still young. Still children. But not babies. 

We didn't have any grand celebrations this year. We kept it low-key and simple. And I think we all liked that for a change. But packed into the middle of the birthday week was Valentines Day, and that leads me to a separate but related story.

We had to make valentines for three classrooms, and while Cate's were relatively low maintenance, the boys' valentines required cutting out a template and folding the pattern into a box that looked like a treasure chest (it's a Minecraft thing). The person who created the template warned on her website that making the boxes would take some time. So, being the good students that we are, we made them the night before. The boys helped as much as they could, but my husband and I ended up staying up for hours to finish them. (Shawn wins the prize, because he stayed up later than I did.)  

Shawn kept it all in perspective. We often take turns being positive, and it was his turn. At one point he said, "This is what memories are made of. One day we'll say to the boys, 'Remember that time we stayed up all night making your valentines?'"

I groaned and snapped a picture, knowing he was right. 

I kept looking at the job ahead and trying not to cry. We continued to cut and fold. There was no joy in this project. No love. I was bone tired. Why were we even doing this? 

We were doing it because the boys were excited about them, and at one point, I thought it would be fun. We were doing it because when we searched online for printable valentines (something I thought would be so easy) I said, "Pick the one you like." We were doing it because I totally underestimated how much time it would take.

Now, I felt like we were wasting our time. Depleting our energy over something pointless. Stupid valentines.

But the following morning, the boys were so happy to see their flimsy treasure boxes. They were all smiles when they headed out the door for school. When I picked them up that afternoon, they were chatty and happy as they dug through their treat bags filled with loot.

When we got home Dillon handed me a card that he'd made at school that day. It said, "Mom, thank you for the treasure boxes, and for well... everything." 

So, in addition to feeling like a jerk, I recognized that my husband and I had done something my sons will remember. The assembly line production may not have been necessary, but it wasn't pointless. 

I decided to share the valentine story because I've noticed that Dillon seems a little melancholy about turning nine. He's very aware that he's moving out of the season of young childhood and into something new. He's having a tough time seeing beyond where he is, and he's wondering how becoming older can be better than being a little kid.

He watches his younger sister, recognizes how positively adorable she is, and remembers being that little, too. Quite often he says, "I want her to stay this size forever." 

On the night of his birthday, we sat together on the couch. He was watching a show on the iPad while I watched "Fixer Upper" on the DVR. He glanced at the number 9 balloon tied to the end of the stairs and said, "So. I'm nine. I'll never be eight again." Then he said, "I don't want to grow up."

Those days of slinging a folded up stroller into the back of my car are behind me. But this transition is not just happening to me. It's happening to all of us. We'll each experience it and feel it in our own ways, but it's not a solo event.

I tried to think about what to say, something that felt true and honest, and hopeful. I told him that I understood. I told him that I remember being nine and feeling sad about the transition to double digits. "And, when I turned twenty, I felt sad about not being a teenager anymore." 

I thought for a moment and then I said, "Being a kid is pretty great. I love to watch you and Blake and Cate, running around and playing. I liked being nine. But I like the age I am now, too. It really does keep getting better." 

Then, I paused for a moment, asking myself if I truly believed that. It keeps getting better. And I realized that I do. "The most important thing we can do is try to enjoy each day the best that we can," I said. 

I think about the night I was so frustrated by those stupid valentines. I try not to feel bad about it. I was tired. It's true, I don't enjoy every day. Some days, my fatigue takes over and my attitude sucks. But each day is a chance to learn and grow and be better and experience more joy tomorrow.

I have to remember what I told my son. The most important thing we can do is try to enjoy each day the best we can. 

It's my job to teach my children this thing that I believe, even as I struggle to live it. No matter our age, we have right now. And forward is the only direction.

 

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You were born to do beautiful things.

Six years ago, I flew across the country to attend a writing workshop in California. I was pregnant with my second child, and I hadn't yet declared myself a writer, at least not publicly. When I heard about the workshop, I knew I had to go. 

Nicole Lusiani. Photo by Caitlin O'Reilly.

Nicole Lusiani. Photo by Caitlin O'Reilly.

That's how I met Nicole Lusiani, a high school teacher in the same season of life as me. Husband, kids and a strong call to write. We sat cross-legged and connected over our shared stories, the ones that burned inside of us, and we became instant friends. That day we realized: Other women need to hear our stories. Because our stories are their stories.

Nicole's story began the day she realized she was going through the motions. Not really living her life, just tolerating it, and hiding behind the mask of I'm fine.

"I was entrenched in some hard family times, some hard marital times, that were really challenging," she says. "I'd been in that place for a long time, but you just get into this slog of life, children and marriage and jobs, and you don't realize that you're under water until something brings it to light."

For Nicole, that something was a patch of wildflowers growing on a path near her house.

"They're like weeds," she says. "Really tall and lanky, and they grow out of nothing. I was like, God, what's it like to grow out of basically nothing and really reach towards the sun and be who we were meant to be?" 

That moment was a turning point for Nicole. It sent her on a journey to learn to live her life in a brand new way—beautiful, imperfect and brave—like a wildflower.

Years later, Nicole used what she learned through that process, matched with her expertise as a teacher, to create a 6-week online course called Wildflowers. Enrollment is open now and the class starts February 14. 

Whether it's a big action (like a job change) or a small one (like joining a new exercise class), the Wildflowers e-course will help you get past your resistance and dare greatly, so you can do the things your heart knows you were meant to do.

I took the class last fall, and I'm a girl on fire right now. 

Now, I'd like to introduce you to my friend, Nicole. You'll be immediately drawn in by her vulnerability, honesty and wisdom. I hope our conversation inspires you to grow and stand tall like a Wildflower. 

Wildflowers is a 6-week online course that begins this Saturday, February 14.

The course is self-paced, but each week, you'll receive a new lesson and video from Nicole. The weekly lessons will help you:

Hear the call: as Elizabeth Gilbert says, "If you want to follow your call, you have to pick up the damn phone." 

Take responsibility for your choices - and understand that not making a choice is also a choice). 

Set your intention - a clear intention helps you make those choices

Be willing to be afraid - No fun. But necessary.

Reach tall towards the sun - permission to be a badass

Remember: Wildflowers Don't Grow In Rows - the most beautiful things are not perfect. Nicole says, "I can invite someone into my home and if I haven't swept the floors, it's okay." 

The "Wildflowers" e-course is $69 but Nicole is offering friends (that's you) a 15% discount.  

Does Nicole's story resonate with you? Talk to us in the comment section below. 

Visit Nicole at NicoleLusiani.com

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A simple but powerful way to transform your to-do list (video)

Copyright Galyna Andrushko

Copyright Galyna Andrushko

Last week, my new friend Solange Swafford invited me into her home to talk about a topic we're both quite passionate about: how living from place of being and can transform what we do and how we do it

It's an idea I embrace but also wrestle with. Because, there's SO MUCH to do. And, if we spend all of our time focused on being, how are we supposed to get anything done? 

Solange, a Licensed Independent Social Worker, says she has a classic type A personality. Until about a year ago she was crushing her to-do list. Then, she told me something that really surprised me:

"I was checking the to-dos off the list. I had a great job that I always wanted. I had reached my workout and physical activity goals. I had accomplished a lot of the things I set out to do, but I still had that pit in my stomach, that something is missing. I still felt rushed and anxious and stressed." 

Wow. 

Solange says a simple shift transformed her life in the best of ways. By the look on my face, you can see how much I loved what she had to say.

(and towards the end, that sound in the background is an airplane. :) )

One of my favorite takeaways from our conversation: We talk about clean eating but what about clean thinking? What do we do on autopilot that's junk food for our mind, our soul? (Click to tweet)

Solange provides counseling services through Charleston's Center for Women. You may contact her directly at solange.brollier@comcast.net. She's excited to chat with anyone who's on the "be" journey. 

Some additional resources:

This quote

This video

This book (affiliate link)

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