Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Can You Do Hard Things?

When I started working as a doula, 9 years ago, I had a whole duffel bag of goodies I took with me to labors. As I grew in security, ability and confidence, I found I needed less and less. Two weeks ago, I attended a birth and took in nothing with me but a piece of paper and a cup of coffee. All I really needed were my hands and my voice. It helps that I have clients who are educated and confident about their birth choices. But even the most confident, educated, determined women face a moment or two of doubt during labor.

In my work as a doula, I regularly try to convince women that they are capable of hard things. I'm not just talking about unmedicated birth. I believe that if we are serious about women making choices, then it must apply to all aspects of pregnancy and labor. (For that matter, it applies to where and how women choose to work, for those women who have the luxury of choice in the matter). From when and how conceived to where and how delivered. But this is not about how you decide to give birth.

Sometimes, a hard thing is asking the doctor a question that might sound stupid. For others, it's coming to grips with a loss of modesty during labor. For some, it's overcoming a negative birth experience. Some women have to face birth without a partner or an unexpected, unfortunate birth outcome. Most of the time, though, the hard thing is finding that place in themselves to conquer the one hard part of labor that knocks them off the confidence horse.

It's that little voice that says, "I can't." It's just the barest hint of a voice, but it seems like the echo of planets crashing against one another as it bounces through a brain. I've written about the voice of fear before, but I don't mean that one. I mean the voice of discouragement that tries to take your educated choices and slam them to the ground. Sometimes we can swat it away like a fly. Sometimes that fly grows into a swarm.

When my clients say, "I can't" (and they almost all say something like that at one point), here is what I say: "You can do it. I know that because you ARE doing it. And you will continue to do it."

When I hear that voice in my own head, telling me I can't do something, all it does is flick a switch of action. I say right back to it: "Oh, yeah? Watch me."

You can do hard things.

Thinking through the list of amazing women I know, here is a mere sampling of the hard things they have done, just in the past few months:
survived an ugly divorce, raised children alone with very little resources, ended unhealthy relationships, kicked the crap out of cancer, let go of children in an effort to help them, run marathons, confronted depression, put loved ones in nursing care, worked more than two jobs simultaneously, quit jobs to start businesses, started running, Lived with an unemployed spouse, tried IVF, with varied success, been in chemo, or been through chemo with children, watched family members die.

Can you do hard things? Heck yeah. You ARE doing them—right now. What is the hard thing you face? How do you handle the voice of discouragement? What does the voice of reason sound like to you?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

TMI* (*for a good reason)

Recently I joked with a newly menstruating 12 year old girl that she could now be married off and start popping out babies. She was appalled. I thought I was hilarious.

Until I found out through many amazing women in my web of amazing women about The Girl Effect.

It started yesterday with a tweet from @tarasophia who was pulling together (and rather well) a blogging extravaganza about The Girl Effect. Then, my friend @kt_writes tweeted that she thought I might be interested. Thanks to both of them, because while we can joke about marrying off our barely pubescent daughters, that is a very real, very stark reality for millions of girls around the world.

According to the website, over 50 million girls live in poverty. When a girl lives in poverty she is likely to be married at 12, and a mother by 14. FOURTEEN. While this was considered normal in the Dark Ages, the times are achangin'. Those teenage mothers turn to prostitution to support their babies. This makes them susceptible to AIDS and we all know how that goes. See the cycle there? Pretty icky.

I have girls. I am a girl. I know girls. This simultaneously breaks my heart and fills me with indignation. The problem isn't theirs alone, and the solution isn't either. The cool thing about The Girl Effect is that its aim is to harness the power of each of these girls; the website calls them solutions.

Can you be a solution, too? Why, yes. Yes, you can. First, head over to the website. Then, tell everyone you know. Blog about it and post it all over the place. Then, think about how you can make a real contribution. I'm not just talking about dollars, although dollars are always nice. There are plenty of efforts you can participate in to help a girl become a solution. That solution becomes a strong, thoughtful, educated woman, who raises thoughtful, educated girls to be women.

I can't wait for my own daughters (and my son) to get home from school so I can show them the video. I want them to help us decide how we will, as a family, be a part of solving this problem. What will you do?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bows for Babes with Pictures

I've had requests for holiday bows and instead of filling your inbox with photos, I thought this slide show would help. See my contact info for email address. See one you like? These are all $4 with free shipping. I'm ready to send today. Just let me know.

Don't see your favorite color? Just let me know and we'll make one just for you.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

How you Thinking?

Ever feel like you don't belong?

I have.

The day before the Tulsa Run I had to pick up my race packet. I drove to OU Tulsa and entered the "Fitness Fair." The name alone gave me a mild panic attack: "will they let me in? I'm not wearing my fitness clothes, I don't have a cute ponytail or blonde highlights. Someone will know I'm an impostor. But, I have to get that packet if I want my official time." I really want my official time. (Pretty good, by the way.)

If I thought the name of the fair was bad, inside was waiting a veritable gauntlet of gorgeous: someone cloned Denise Austin, dressed the many of her all up in running gear and made a human tunnel for me to run through. I did not belong here. My mouth went dry. My throat closed up. I looked about anxiously, trying to pretend like I was totally supposed to be here and I know what I'm doing, okay? I found the letter where my packet would be and, because my name has many letters that are unpronounced, the helpful fitness guy couldn't find my name. It took him forever. I started to sweat. "Oh, crap. They can't find it. I didn't register right. They know I can't finish the race so they pulled my name. Someone alerted them. Would it be bad if I started crying, right here, right now?" By now, I was so upset I almost didn't want to get in line for my t-shirt.

But I wanted that t-shirt, because, I told myself, if by some act of God I was able to cross the finish line, I planned to wear that t-shirt to every single public event I could get myself invited to. I did get my t-shirt (in a size smaller, thankyouverymuch), I booked it out there to find a glass of water and the privacy of my car.

That's when the "I-don't-belong-heres" kicked into overdrive. I started thinking about the race the next day. If there were Denise Austins all over the "Fitness Fair," what in the world would I find at the starting line? I swallowed hard and tried to calm my racing heart.

And here's what I did. I told myself the facts. I trained for this race. I trained well and hard. I ran that distance and farther and did not die from it. I knew a good pace. I knew how I would find it. And I told myself the biggest truth: I can do this. I needed just a bit more, though, so I talked to my runner friends, who repeated faithfully back to me what I'd already told myself. I called my husband who repeated faithfully, lovingly back to me what I'd already told myself. I looked at the cloud of witnesses: I'm not crazy. People I love and people I trust and people who know things think I can do this. Time to face the truth. I can do this. I will do this. I did do this.

It creeps up on us like a ghost, whispers its ugly lies in our ears and we swallow the whole thing in one gulp, choking it down like bad medicine when it's really poison. "You don't belong here," it hisses. "You might be running, but you're not a real runner." Quietly, the sound winds into our heads and we think, "I'm kind of sucking it up here today. I can't do it. I should stop.It says all the things the wicked witch would tell you.

But guess what? The wicked witch was undone with a bucket of water. Just a little bit of H2O and she melted away. Know what else? The wicked witch is fiction! Doesn't exist. Never did, never will. I've come to think of those lies the same way, because really, that's what they are. Lies are fictions that keep us from trying the challenges we want to face, from stepping up to something new, from embracing the uniqueness we each have.

I shook my head. I refused to listen to the voice that said "But, honey," so sweetly and earestly, "honey, it's nine miles. That's craziness." I spoke back to that lie and told it to bug off. Because yes, nine miles is far, it ain't no big thang. "But," I said, "I've run that distance before and farther. I can do it again.You think I can't run nine miles? Watch me." And I did. I ran the entire race, without music, in a crowd of fat, skinny, ugly, pretty, tall, short, weird, weirder, slightly less weird people who all had to talk themselves into that challenge. Maybe it was easier for some. But we all got our booties out of bed, refused to listen to that lie and ran our race. I changed my thinking. Finishing that race would not be by an act of God (although He did run with me; we had a great time). It would be the result of training.

It's not easy, especially if you're used to obeying the voice, trusting the lie. It can feel as if the world is askew, or even just wrong or arrogant to say, "I can do this one thing, and well." When I first started running, I would say I "run" using air quotes, "I'm not a runner." So people would know I'm not high on my own ability. Some people would say, "I'm impressed" and I would want to shun that, to reject it. Oh, how times have changed. You wanna be impressed with me? You go right ahead, because the truth is, I'm impressed with me. I set my eyes on a challenge and I completed it. I rock.

I no longer choose to believe the lie. In fact, I reject everything that says that I'm not good enough, not smart enough, not thin enough, not whatever enough. I am me. I do what I do. And that is what is required of me. No one is asking me to be anything other than what I am. Any restrictions on me I've either placed there myself, or allowed them to be placed on me.

Know what else? I'm as impressed with myself as I am impressed by the women around me. You all are amazing bunch. You run businesses and homes. You build companies, you build children, you create great art. You run, you walk, you listen, you cheer. You take photos, you write, you climb mountians, you wipe dirty bums and change yet another diaper. You are you and you do what you do. I want you to be as impressed with your self as you are with someone else. Look in that mirror and be your own Jack Handy.

How? At first you may not believe yourself when you say, "Look at me! I'm so awesome." You might even giggle, looking around to see if you were overheard. You may roll your eyes. "This is stupid." Might be stupid, but feels good, doesn't it? There is no rule that says valuing yourself equals arrogance or pride. But, it does equal a lesson for our daughters and sons and a way to live in the world as we were created. Do it. Tell yourself you're awesome. Find one awesome thing about you. Not about what you do, but about you.

Again, I'm not saying talk yourself into running nine miles, or summiting Everest. I'm just saying say no to the lie and believe the truth. You may not know the truth, or you disregarded it for so long you have to dig for it. Then dig for it. You can do hard things. You can do big things, amazing things, astounding things.

When did it become okay for us to demure, to demean, to devalue ourselves? I don't know, but I've decided it's not okay for me and it's not okay for my daughters (or my son). Who's with me?