My Awesomely Random Life (and Everything in Between)

My Hope For You Is This

It’s hard to fathom that another year has come and gone. And while usually this is a time when I take a moment to self-reflect on the past year, and share all the things that I look forward to in 2021 (which to be honest, I still definitely did because I’m a creature of habit like that and because there is so very much that I am looking forward to in 2021), I wanted to do something a little different.

I wanted to put the focus on you.

Yes, you. The person reading this.

Because sometimes we all need to be reminded of just how beautiful this life really is, to be reminded to take advantage of the big moments, the little moments, the everything in between. To be reminded that despite the challenges and heartaches and rough patches you may have hit over the course of this year (and oof y’all, there was a whole heckin’ lot of those), you made it through.

And you will continue to do so because you are a badass. And are strong, and courageous and bold and damn you’re doing the thang. And I am so fucking proud of you.

In 2021, my hope for you is this:

I hope you see things that take your breath away, things that make you feel like you have never felt before. I hope you travel to the places you have always wanted to explore — and that it is finally safe to do so again. I hope you catch the sunset at the perfect time on a random Tuesday drive and have your whole chest expand with gratitude. I hope the night sky is always beautiful wherever you rest your head.

I hope you drink good coffee and stay out late with someone who enlivens you. I hope your bones are tired and your hair is messy and your heart is full of nostalgia. I hope someone who makes your whole damn face light up kisses you the way you have always wanted to be kissed, that they hold your hand and take care of you when you’re sick and bring you flowers just because.

I hope you fall so deeply in love with your life that your happiness is undeniable whenever someone looks at you. I hope your days are filled with people who inspire you, and that you always let them know just how rare they are, just how much you appreciate them. I hope they do the same for you. I hope you connect with your moments, the ones that make you feel like you’re doing something right, the ones that happen quietly in the middle of a conversation when everything stops and you truly realize just how lucky you are to be alive.

I hope that you take a chance, that you make a leap. I hope that you do something just for you. I hope you continue to take a stand for issues that mean something, that matter. I hope you allow yourself to take a breath, to pause, to relax and relish in the right heres and right nows. Because if there’s anything we learned this past year, it is to appreciate those seconds of solitude and stillness.

I hope you are reminded every single day why you’re special. I hope you are reminded that you make people feel heard, that you make people feel understood and accepted. I hope you believe that — that you have purpose, that you’re a good person who deserves beautiful things and rich moments in life, that you mean something to someone. Because you do. My goodness, you do.

But most of all, I hope you look back on 2020 and feel a sense of gratitude, strength and pride. Of encouragement, love and fortitude.

2020 was a year.

But we made it through. Together.

So here’s to the lessons we learned, the moments of pure bravery we displayed, and the prophetic change we were all a part of and witness to.

Here’s to the many loaves of sourdough bread we baked, the Zoom call meetings we took and make-shift home offices built.

Here’s to the virtual hugs, the cardboard cutout fans, and the number of times we Googled “How to…”

Here’s to the extra time we got to spend with the human beans we love most, the endless amount of support that was abound, and the kindness that was bestowed upon our neighbors during times of hardship.

Here’s to the smiles that still shown brightly through cloth-covered faces, and the love and hope that proved to be the two things that couldn’t be shaken, even in the most difficult of times.

Here’s to the end of quite possibly the best — and worst — year of our lives.

And to the beginning of a beautiful new one.

Here’s to you.

Happiest 2021, friends.

xoxo

Wendi Jo

Trust Me When I Say…

…that even if your plans have changed, even if your timeline is different, even if this year has not unfolded the way you thought it would — you are not falling behind, but instead, are right where you need to be.

The course of our lives is not contingent upon things happening precisely as we think they should. In fact, it’s often the unexpected that opens us up to opportunities that weren’t crossing our radars, ideas about life, and love, and the world itself, that we hadn’t stopped to consider. If you know that it’s time to slow down, to simplify, to take it easier, to savor your days, to adjust your course — you are absolutely right.

You are not straying from the path, you are finally finding it.

You are learning that real growth is not always just constant forward motion. Growth is also staying still. Growth is deep rest. Growth is stopping to reconsider where you’re headed before you arrive there. Growth is letting yourself settle, it’s letting yourself blossom, it’s letting yourself see how much good is already in your life before you hunger for more.

You are allowed to take days to grieve, to do nothing. You are allowed to press your plans back until they make more sense. You do not exist on a single schedule, your fate is not to arrive at each set point at precisely the second you think you should. That’s not what you’re here for. That’s not what this whole thing is about.

You cannot miss the exit.

There are no wrong turns.

Life is a living, breathing thing — because it’s an extension of you.

It’s the ways in which you explore the corners and contours of your soul, the way you find pieces of yourself through love, through trial and error, through reaching, through supporting and learning and caring and doing good. Every part of our lives exists to teach us something. We are not only making progress when we are clearly, discernibly growing. We are also making progress when we take time to simply be.

The irony is that it’s often the plans that go wrong that teach us more, and show us more, than the ones that go right.

Those words even signify our perceptions of how we are meant to be in the world, that we cannot possibly do anything but what was pre-determined, otherwise we’re failing, and off-course.

The truth that I am asking you to consider is that even if all you did was wake up and keep breathing today, you did what you are supposed to do. Even if all you could manage was to take care of your most essential tasks, you have done more than many can. If you’re able to reach for something just beyond yourself, you should applaud yourself and feel profoundly grateful for your courage, your strength, and your grit.

You should not feel ashamed that you aren’t able to wake up and do that every single day.

Because you and I? We are human beings just trying to sort through the realities and imperfections of being on this planet, with all of these people, trying to coexist and make sense of it all and come out on the other end a little more okay than we were before.

Our lives are not defined by how clearly and seamlessly we reach each goal, but what we are able to savor from each day.

Who were we, and how did we show up, in the simplest moments, in the easiest ways? We are far more defined by the way we make others feel than the way we think they feel about us. We are far more impacted by learning to see what we have as enough as opposed to thinking we’re only okay once we have more. We are far better for taking time to rest, to regenerate, and seeing this not as a stagnation, but a beautiful, and essential, part of being who we are.

May this be the year that you learn slowing down is nothing to be ashamed of.

May this be the year that you realize your life isn’t on any schedule but your own — and you can amend that.

May this be the year you realize you are not only as good as your latest accomplishment was great.

You are not falling behind, you never have been.

The journey has only ever been about learning to find a semblance of peace each day, and it’s often in the quiet, in the unexpected, and in the simplest things that we are given the greatest opportunity to do just that.

The Upside Down

A good 99.98% of my days are warm and flaxen.

Even when it’s rainy, even when it’s nighttime, there’s still a brightness. The atmosphere is golden-hued, like the world and everything in it is backlit by the sun. There is a constant thrum of expectancy. Something good is going to happen, even if I don’t know what it is. I’m always looking forward to the next exciting thing—a dinner, a vacation, a new book, a warm cup of coffee. Even when things aren’t so good, even when there are little annoyances, even when my day is a complete dumpster fire, there’s still the sense that everything is okay. I’m hopeful. I’m grateful. I’m happy. There’s always tomorrow after all, and even if something is worrying me, I can still objectively take a step back and look at my life and declare that it is good. 

Really, really, really good.

I’m so accustomed to seeing the world this way that it’s not even something I notice on a regular day. I think most of us are like this, you know? When life is generally good and things are relatively easy, it just flows. We’re along for the ride, and we’re so focused on the map and our destination that we don’t acknowledge the vehicle driving us there. We don’t hear the hum of the road under us or feel the wind from the cracked window. Kind of like our breath—we only notice it when we take the time and energy to focus on it or when it’s taken away from us.

I feel the need to emphasize that even on my best day, there is always an undercurrent of anxiety. I think that people who don’t struggle with mental health issues are under the impression that when things are good, our symptoms are totally absent. As much as I wish that were true, it just isn’t. Anxiety is my constant companion. Most of the time, because of coping skills and the incredible support system of people who I love standing by my side, it’s completely manageable. I’m able to function and enjoy life, but it’s always there.

Still, even with that annoying companion, most days have that subtle glow. Most days are good and light and warm.

Until they aren’t.

I had my very first anxiety attack a few months ago. I remember sitting at my desk, my heart beating out of my chest, my inability to do something as simple as take a breath, the feeling of not being in control of my own body. It was one of the most surreal and paralyzing moments I’ve felt in a long time.

I’ve had a few more since, the last time being when I was in Florida last week. The weight of everything going on in the world right now, paired with the news that my grandfather had tested positive for COVID and a very stressful work week was just too much for me to handle. And despite having an incredible time in a beautiful place with the person I love so much, my anxiety still popped in to say hey girl heyyyyyy.

I was in the shower after a run and fainted. I woke up on the ground scared. Confused. Embarrassed. How could I let it come to this? Why do I let the stressors of life get to me like they do?

I’m an empath to the kajillionth degree. I feel things and I feel things hard. When I can’t fix a problem, or when others are hurting, I take that pain on myself. And it often gets to be too much.

My boyfriend said something the next day that really resonated with me, and maybe it will for you as well.

“You can and should only focus on the things you can control. There is so much happening right now; it would be impossible for you or anyone to try and take it all on at once. Breathe. Take it one day at a time. And look after you.”

When my anxiety turns to panic, when my mental health becomes something I have to actively focus on, the very fabric of my world changes. I don’t just mean metaphorically. The world around me literally looks different. The atmosphere seems thick and heavy. I move through the world differently. Slower. I’m disoriented and disconnected. Everything is just… wrong. I’ve left Hawkins, and I’m in the Upside Down. (Have you seen Stranger Things? If you haven’t, quit reading this right now, turn on Netflix, and get your life right. I’ll wait.)

In the show, the characters go to the Upside Down, a kind of parallel dimension where the monsters live. Everything is dark and tinged with blue. The air is full of poison and floating matter. It’s unnatural and unsafe. It’s just not right. 

This is exactly how my world looks when I’m in a “season of anxiety,” as I’ve begun calling it. I feel like I’m trapped in the Upside Down. All I want are those warm and flaxen days back. I get upset with myself for not appreciating them when they were here. Will they ever come again? Am I going to live in the Upside Down forever?

But then.

Always, always, always.

A ray of sunlight pokes through. The dark blue world around me starts giving way to splotches of gold. Slowly at first, but then it spreads like paint on a canvas. The toxins slowly clear the air. My fingers and toes start to thaw, and for the first time since I can remember, I take a long, cleansing breath.

I call my time in The Upside Down a “season of anxiety” because it always passes. It’s always just a season. A shitty season, but a season nonetheless. Sometimes it lasts an hour, sometimes it lasts for days, but it’s always temporary.

Against all odds, I always make it out. I always get back to that place where I can take a step back, look at my life, and declare it is good. Really, really, really good.

If you’re feeling a bit lost, scared or unsure, please know that you’re not alone. The world is a heavy place right now, and we’re all just trying to get by as best we can.

But also try and look for those golden-hued moments. They’re there, I promise.

xoxo

Just Breathe

Hi, friends. How are you? Are you doing okay?

I realize that’s kind of a silly question, more rhetorical than anything given *gestures vaguely* our current circumstances. Whew. This year has been one heckuva decade. It’s weird to have one common, global talking point, no? This virus — systemic racism, the tumultuous state of our democracy and of course, the actual COVID virus. It’s leaving nowhere unexplored and no one untouched.

Last week, I met up with a friend and we caught up on life while taking a stroll around the park. As we walked, my face half-covered with a kitty cat face mask, sweat slowly dripping down my forehead, she looked over at me, and exclaimed: “Goodness, I cannot wait for this crazy year to be over!” I looked at her, not fully comprehending her statement in the moment, and simply nodded back. Later that week, wrapped up in a never-ending group chat, I happened to read a similar statement from another friend of mine: “2021 please hurry!” This time, I felt my interest spark: are there people out there simply waiting for 2021 to come along to make things better? If so, why?

I will be the first to admit, 2020 has definitely not been the best year of my life. I couldn’t have predicted losing a job I had started not a mere four months after I began. I never saw myself experiencing my first (and subsequent second and third) debilitating anxiety attacks. I didn’t envision the heartbreak, sadness and fear that would fill my heart, and the hearts of the world at large when Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Jacob Blake’s (to name just a few) lives were tragically taken, or the aftermath that would follow. And of course, I could have never imagined the advance of a full-blown pandemic that would completely alter the course of our lives forever, causing everything we had known to change.

But despite the heaviness, the challenges and the pain that this year has brought thus far, there were also moments of beauty, growth and peace that I have experienced throughout this, as my friend put “crazy year.”

For one, I fell in love. And it’s been the truest, deepest, most sincere and beautiful love I’ve ever experienced. In the midst of one of the most uncertain and stressful and scary times of my life, he has been my one constant, my light, my biggest supporter and cheerleader. And I am forever grateful for that.

I made time for family, for friends, for consciously making an effort to stay connected and letting the people who matter most in my life know how very much they mean to me. I began writing again, reading, having slow mornings and lazy afternoons. I found peace when I was exploring the great outdoors, and I felt like for once, I could breathe.

Long-standing issues of racial inequality, systemic racism and police brutality were once again brought to the forefront of out minds, but instead of mourning and taking a stand for but just a moment, we got loud, we got angry, we got inspired and educated and united, and we turned this moment into a movement. A movement that will continue until we see the social justice and equality and equity that we have been fighting for for so long.

This year has forced us all to take pause, to reflect, to focus on the things that truly matter.

If you are reading this article, I urge you to stop waiting for 2021. It will come, and the virus in all of its forms will still exist. But with any hope, we will be better prepared to take on its challenges, bringing with us a new found sense of strength, hope and the thought that the power to make this life a better one, for all of us, lies in our hands.

But for now, take a moment to breathe.

Reflect on all that has gone well.

Acknowledge the moments of peace and solace you experienced this year.

Live, and be grateful for this moment.

For in the end, that is all we truly have.

Why We Need to Talk About It

I don’t really know how things work up there⁣⁣. One thing is for certain though,⁣⁣ from here on out..⁣⁣.my worst days,⁣⁣ are your very best now.⁣⁣
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Seven years gone too soon,⁣⁣
but one day closer always.
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It was a few days after my 26th birthday. My oldest cousin Nick — the sweetest, kindest, most outgoing and lively human bean you ever did meet — took his own life. I’ll never forget that phone call from my mom when she told me the news: one minute I was sitting at my desk, and the next my life was forever changed.

Grief changes you at your core, but suicide is a whole different realm.

There were so many questions left unanswered. And guilt, just this overwhelming sense of guilt, a feeling that I could’ve done or said something – I should’ve done or said something – to prevent this from happening. A reaction that is often had and felt when someone you love takes their life on their own accord. From the outside looking in, he seemed to be okay. We’d talked frequently on the phone, filling each other in on our jobs, our lives, the Colorado Avalanche. But there was a deeper pain that was living inside of him that he did not talk about. A pain that was just too hard to bear.

I found out later that Nick had been dealing with severe depression for quite a while, turning to alcohol to numb and quiet his thoughts and heartache.

There are many complex reasons and factors that go into a suicide attempt, but possibly the most simple way to explain it is that the individual’s perception of their pain outweighs any hope they may have for the future.

This was the case for my cousin.

Yes, it does get better and there is support out there – but that doesn’t necessarily mean the person in question feels that way. The reality they may be living in might be quite different from the way you perceive their life from the outside.

It’s easy, for instance, to look at a successful, seemingly outgoing and happy person and think that they are doing okay. But we honestly have no idea what people go through – whether they’re suffering from depression, acute loneliness, anxiety, or another mental health issue that may be affecting their day-to-day functioning. Until you’ve been in a suicidal person’s shoes, it can be difficult to discern how excruciating their pain might feel.

Addiction can be a silent killer as well, and is another leading cause of suicide. Not only does substance abuse increase the likelihood that someone will attempt suicide, it may even be used as part of the attempt. When people are under the influence of drugs and alcohol, their inhibitions can be lowered, their impulses can run the show and any existing mental health conditions can also be exacerbated.

After Nick’s death, I was inconsolable. Not only because I missed him — I did and still do, terribly — but also because he had so much to live for. We all did. We were so young. Youth is often wasted on the young, as they say.

He hardly had that chance to waste it though, before it was wasted on him.

It felt unfair. It was unfair. Loss always is, especially in this way.

September is National Suicide Awareness Month, and with the passing of my cousin, and so many others I know who have lost loved ones to this heartbreakingly tragic thing, we are reminded that these issues do not discriminate and that mental health is something that needs to be prioritized.

Unfortunately, there is still a great amount of emotional invalidation, stigma, misinformation, harmful stereotyping and shame surrounding the topic of suicide.

That’s why it’s so important to continue the conversation.

It’s important to talk about why suicide attempts and ideation occur.

It’s important to destigmatize the suffering of those who may be shouldering their pain in silence.

It’s important to be mindful of how we treat those who choose to share their struggles, that not everyone may be as open in coming forward or reaching out for help.

It’s important to be there for the ones we love, to show kindness and grace, and to try and not put blame on those who have taken their own lives, but instead honor and remember them in every possible way we can.

There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t miss Nick, or think about him: what he would be doing now, if he’d be happy, if our lives would be different.

I can only hope that he found peace and he is finally…free.

I love you, dooder.

For more information about suicide prevention and actionable items you can take to spread awareness, you can visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

For the Love of a Dog

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I fell in love with those ears, those paws, that heart from the moment that my sister Lindsay (the best doggo mom in the entire world) brought her sweet Izzie girl home from the dog rescue nine years ago.

From the first time that I snuggled her up into my arms, her floppy ears and too-large-for-her-teeny-tiny-puppy body wiggling with complete and unadulterated joy, my world had shrunk, and I had no say in the shrinking. I was always going to have to say goodbye to her. You see, it’s an inevitable heartbreak that you take on when you welcome any four-legged best friend into your family, into your life. That it took so long to come was a blessing.

And still, and still, it felt like too soon. Like she had more paws to give, with enough force to knock me sideways if I wasn’t ready for it. Like she had more empty water bottles to find on walks and carry around with her. Like she had more sunshine to soak in, where she would sprawl on my sister’s porch in the summer afternoons. Like she had more squirrels to chase, more slippers to carry around the house, more commands to completely and utterly disobey.

Like I had more ear scratches to give her. Like I should have told her, one more time, and one more time again, what a good girl she was. How much I loved her. How lucky we were that she had come into our lives.

Izzie was my favorite furry little niece, my go-to girl for hikes and hugs and couch snuggles. And as her cool Aunt Wendi, I was obligated to give her all the treats, take her on all the walks and give her all of the snuggles. She was perpetually happy, and full of light, and always knew when her humans needed a little extra love on those especially hard days. I have so many incredible memories of this sweet girl, memories I will forever hold close, but there is one that will always hold a special place in my heart. Whenever I would come over to visit, Izzie would get so excited, she’d do a little butt wiggle and pee. Usually all over my shoes or legs. It happened every time I saw her for the first time. And she only did it for me.

That’s love.

I’m going to miss her little butt wiggle, and her overly excited piddles. So much.

Because what they don’t tell you about losing a dog, is that if you give your heart to them, it will be broken.

You will get it back with holes in it, holes in the shape of pawprints, pawprints that can’t be matched by any other dog. Her specific pawprint, carved into my heart.

If you give your heart to a dog, it will be filled to the brim. She will ask for nothing from you but love (and treats.) Nothing but belly rubs (and treats.) Nothing but snuggles and walks and pee greetings (and treats, and treats, and treats.) She will love you even after you spend all day saying the wrong thing and doing the wrong thing and letting everyone down. You will never let her down. She will forgive you over and over again, without you needing to ask. And she will make you laugh on days you didn’t think it possible.

If you give your heart to a dog, it will be so full that even when it breaks, you will be left with more than you had when you started. 

I gave my heart to the most amazing doggo named Izzie 9 years ago, and I cannot describe how full she left it. Even now that it’s broken. Even now that each beat comes with an echo of hurt, a shadow of missing. It holds a pawprint belonging to a dog with the biggest of paws, to match the biggest of ears, to match the biggest of hearts.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Until we meet again, Izzie girl. You were and will forever be so, so loved. And touched so many people’s lives, my included.

Hold down the fort in heaven for me, baby girl.

Choose Gratitude

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I remember when I was in second grade my teacher asked us to write what we wanted to be when we grew up on a note card. At the time, I was bursting with dreams—an astronaut, a singer, a writer, an English teacher just like her. Of all the items on the list, though, there was one overarching theme. When I grew up, most of all, I wanted to be happy.

And so I wrote that on the piece of paper—‘happy,’ a promise to my future self. That scribbled word was a goal, a mindset I would work towards, regardless of the obstacles along the way.

Years later, and more or less ‘grown up,’ I think about that note card often. I think about how it has followed me through the turbulence of my teenage years, the chaos of college, and into adulthood, where honestly, being happy seems like the most important conscious choice I can make.

Being happy, I’ve realized is not something you can pinpoint, grab between your fingertips, or keep. It’s more abstract than we give it credit for. We search as if we’re able to discover it, obtain it, hold it in our palms—but sometimes it’s so beautifully fleeting.

And sometimes happiness is not really a ‘thing’ at all, but a decision.

Deciding to live with a spirit of gratitude. Choosing to be thankful, to see the bright side, to love and smile and have hope, regardless of what’s in the way. Accepting that you cannot change everything, but you can adapt your attitude. And letting yourself heal.

Happiness comes from finding peace with where you are. Not because it’s exactly where you wanted to be. Not because you have everything you could ever need. Not because you are wealthy, or in love, or doing better than the person next to you.

Happiness comes for no reason at all, other than because you decide you want it there.

You decide to create it, to make it, to build it out of the circumstances around you. You decide to open the door to it, to let it in, and then to foster its growth in your life, no matter what good or bad moments you face.

You decide that you want to live positively—bringing in good energy and people and moments and exhaling all that is out of your control. You decide that when terrible things happen to you, when you’re broken, when you lose people you love, when you’re left, when you’re exhausted or defeated or angry, that instead of letting the circumstances of this life control you, you want to react with a smile on your face. You choose to say, ‘I can’t change what has happened, but I can change my reaction, my next breath, next step, and where I go next.’

And you walk forward, focusing not on what you’ve lost or has been taken from you, but the knowledge you’ve gained, the love you’ve created, the strength you’ve found, the hope you’ve given yourself, and the wealth of things, people, memories, and moments you have to be thankful for.

So choose to be thankful in the challenges. Choose to see the bright side, the healing, the places you will go and people you will meet next.

Choose to let go of what you cannot fix or control, what you are not in charge of, what is out of your reach. Choose to accept the circumstances of this life, even when they’re imperfect or awful, and instead of wrapping yourself up in negativity, exhale and release.

Release what is not meant for you. Release what has abandoned you. Release what has attempted to destroy you, hold you captive, bring you down. Release the pain you’ve been holding in your chest. Release the anxiety, the anger, the fear.

Release and make a conscious choice—today and every day—to seek happiness and live with a grateful heart.

Because there you will heal, you will begin again, you will grow.

A Small Bit of Wonderful

 

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The smiles will be lost to memory long before the laughter stops echoing in our heads, and the hazy feelings will linger in varying degrees. The hangovers will be forgotten as soon as we say, “Never again,” so intently in the moment, so disingenuously in reality. We will immortalize these memories one pixelated, filtered photo at a time. We’ll text and call and post and tweet that we’ll do it again, do it soon, do it together.

I was 11 the first time I ever said goodbye to anyone. My grandmother was ill for a long time, and we knew it was coming, but that didn’t make it easier. We grieved, we coped, and we honored her memory. She’d lived a long and incredible life, and inspired everyone she knew, me especially.

Years later I said goodbye to another person I loved, though it felt different, harder in a way. With the anniversary of my cousin’s passing just a few days ago, it’s reminded me of how truly precious and fleeting this wonderful and crazy and unpredictable life thang is. It was a few days after my 24th birthday. Nick, who had been dealing with severe depression, took his own life. There were so many questions left unanswered, and guilt, a feeling that I could’ve done or said something to prevent this from happening. I was inconsolable. Not only because I missed him — I did and still do, terribly — but also because he had so much to live for. We all did. We were so young. Youth is often wasted on the young, as they say.

He hardly had that chance to waste it though, before it was wasted on him. It felt unfair. It was unfair. Loss always is.

No matter how much we try to evade it, loss is inevitable.

It hurts every time, and we can’t outrun the hurt. We’re not supposed to. And that will be okay. We will grieve and mourn. We will honor and remember them. They are indelible, not just on our minds, but in our hearts too. We will learn how to live anyway, not quite for them, but not without them either because still, we will keep little pieces of them with us always.

Because living in the here and now is less about living fast and risking the consequences, but more about living deliberately — making our lives worth living, and living them the way we would have with the people who maybe didn’t have the chance we still do. So we laugh more and stay up later and travel further and run faster and take bigger risks and love harder. We search for that one mark only we can make in someone else’s memory, in someone’s life, in the great expanse of knowledge and in the world. And we don’t stop until we find it, and even then, we keep going. We keep living.

Though we may one day be gone, our memories won’t be.

How we made other people laugh and think and feel won’t be, either. The things we did and said and made and contributed will be our legacy, and whether it’s conscious or not, we aim to leave good ones. Legendary ones, even, in our own small ways.

So laugh louder and hug fiercely and brave the late nights that turn into early morning hours as best you can. Make more, do more, stop worrying about the possible negative outcomes. The ends will outweigh the means as long as you keep pursuing both simultaneously. Love someone so much your heart is fit to burst, and love as many people as you can this way. Love everyone this way, if you can help it. Everyone deserves that kind of radical love, and being free with your love doesn’t make it any less special.

Make a tiny masterpiece out of caring for others. Start with a small bit of wonderful.

You’ll eventually realize that was always the only thing you needed, the only thing that mattered. 

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When I was younger, I remember my mom and dad telling me over and over again to enjoy the little moments, the here and nows, because life has this funny way of going into hyperdrive with every passing year. I never really got it back then; but as I look back on the last few weeks, months and years, their words ring truer than ever.

Life moves damn fast.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about that lately; the things I’ve done, experiences I’ve had, adventures taken and the incredible people I’ve met along the way. I’ve also realized that there is so much that I have yet to do and see and accomplish. And all of that comes by sticking a giant middle finger up to fear and taking big risks. Someone wise recently told me that life begins outside of your comfort zone and they couldn’t have been more on point with that. It was a reminder, and the kick in the ass I needed to get back to doing just that.

Here are 20 little things I’ve learned that life is way too short for:

1. Not petting just all of the doggos.

2. For loose ends, for feelings that were never acted upon and gestures that were never taken.

3. Not asking for a raise because you’re afraid of being denied. At the very least, you’ll learn what you need to work on so that you get one the next time around. Or it will give you confirmation to take your talent and drive and skills where you will be given that opportunity to grow.

4. Not applying for that job because you’re afraid you’re not qualified enough. Speaking from personal experience, you’re probably not giving yourself enough credit. You are a fucking rockstar. And you’ll never know what could happen unless you try. So try! Reach out. If nothing else, they’ll know who you are and remember you. That first impression is priceless.

5. Not introducing yourself to people you admire because you think they’re above you. They’re not, and they were once where you are now. They remember that.

6. Wearing heels when you want to wear flats.

7. Wearing flats when you want to wear sneakers.

8. Living for the weekend. There are seven days of the week, seven opportunities to see that show and go to that dive bar and stay up until the wee hours with your favorite humans sitting on the kitchen floor, laughing until it hurts.

9. Letting the actions of other people dictate your own happiness. FOMO is a very real, 21st century phenomenon. Just because it’s real doesn’t mean it’s not bullshit. Live your life offline. Photo-worthy opportunities will arise naturally because of that.

10. Not telling people how you feel, whether if it’s that you love them, or that you have a great idea, or that you feel used or alone or scared or happy. Express yourself, at every chance you can. The people who care about those feelings are the ones to keep around.

11. Worrying about those five pounds. Kids, trust me when I say that nobody but you knows they exist.

12. Not standing up for yourself.

13. And your work.

14. And what you believe in.

15. And what you deserve.

16. Holding onto a grudge. There is great power in forgiveness, in others and yourself. You never know what’s going on with someone behind closed doors. Practice kindness and show compassion. The world could use more of that.

17. Beating yourself up for a mistake. Apologize once, and then work to make it better, but also remember to forgive yourself for being — of all things you might have the audacity to be — human.

18. Not watching cheesy movies or listening to catchy pop songs because you think you should have better taste than that. Netflix is full of fluffy rom-coms that do nothing but provide joy. Thinking you’re above a little lowest common denominator happiness just means you’re denying yourself potential happiness. It doesn’t make you any more high brow than anyone else.

19. Filling your life with so much unnecessary stuff just because it was cool or hip or you wanted it in that moment. You can’t take your mounds of stuff with you. Stuff doesn’t mean anything in the long run. You can’t put a price on the memories you make and the experiences you have. Sometimes practicing impulse control is only getting us ready and excited for the stuff that’s really worth it.

20. Not eating dessert. Like I said, you can’t take it with you, and that includes whatever jiggle you earned from eating that really delicious cookie. Or donut. Or cookie-flavored donut. Life will be sweeter for it.

Life moves damn fast.

So take the damn chance. Get on that plane, send that person an ‘I’m sorry’, tell them that you love them, that you’re IN love with them. Drive all night to see someone in the morning. I don’t care if it makes you vulnerable, if it exposes you. Expose yourself. Open the hell up.

Let life fill you with hurt, with happiness; let it weather you, let it teach you. Let it inspire you, let it break you down and build you up. You are here to risk your heart. And create moments and experiences and do things that equate to living a “F*CK YES!” life.

Please don’t ever forget that.

Stronger Together, Apart

 

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Hey, guys.

How’s everyone doing? How we feeling? I know that the past week has been heavy. And confusing. And scary and uncomfortable and there are still a lot of unknowns weighing over our minds and hearts. I actually woke up a few days ago thinking that this was all just a really bad and crazy dream,  a direct result of me eating way too much spicy Kung Pao Chicken right before I went to bed. And then I woke up and realized the really bad and crazy was in fact, very real.

Every since I was a young girl, I’ve loved figuring out the answers to problems.

Jigsaw and crossword puzzles were my jam, and don’t even get me started on my slight obsession with McGyver. To this day you cannot convince me that a toothpick, some gum and a bottle of DW-40 won’t solve any crisis.

As a writer, as a forever learner, doer and out-of-the-box thinker, I’ve gotten really good at looking at an issue, at an obstacle or problem in many different angles, analyzing and coming up with a plan of execution. Or multiple plans. Brainstorming, researching and making an action plan is kind of my MO.

If my best friend is having relationship or family issues, I will sit with him/her and figure out a way to get them past this, no matter how many bottles of PBR/wine we have to sacrifice along the way. If a coworker is struggling to find their footing at work, I will help them come up with a plan to tackle their responsibilities like the boss I know they are. If my mom is still texting in hieroglyphics, I will…..yeah, sorry mom. I think that one’s a lost cause.

I like having answers, I like knowing that anything can be solved. And I hate, hate, hate seeing the ones I love and care about in any sort of pain or discomfort.

I’m a fixer, that’s kinda what I do.

But sometimes life throws you a curve ball of a problem, one that you don’t necessarily have the answer for.

Enter in the coronavirus, or Covid-19 as you’ve probably heard it being called.

It has been incredibly hard for me the last few days, for a lot of different reasons. And I know we’ve all, in some way, shape or form, been affected by what this pandemic has created in our lives. A new normal if you will. We’ve all had to change the dynamic of our lives, making sacrifices and putting a pause on many of the things we love. We’ve all felt some kind of loss.

But for me, the toughest part of this all is this feeling of helplessness. And maybe you can relate. As I sit in my room right now, writing this blog post while practicing safe social distancing, I’ve become very aware of how lucky I am. To have a safe place to stay, to have my health, to have the ability to work from home and purchase the food and supplies I need and to have people in my life who I can depend on, no matter what.

The truth is, there are many, many people out there who aren’t as lucky. And as a fixer, it breaks my heart to think that while these people have already been dealt a hard hand, they now have an even harder one.

The great news is, it doesn’t have to be this way.

While the events of the last month have brought a lot of fear and trepidation to our collective society as a whole, it has also brought out the good, the truly good, in people. Strangers offering to buy groceries for those who can’t afford it or are uncomfortable going out in public right now. Employers granting their employees extended sick and PTO time. Community centers opening their doors to families and young children who need a place to safe place to stay, who need a warm meal. The countless men and women who are on the front lines – in hospitals, emergency care centers, health organizations and community centers – bravely and selflessly putting their lives at risk to make sure the sick and unhealthy are being taken care of. The outpouring of messages spreading hope, solidarity, empathy and love seen on social media, in the news (or the texts, DMs, or phone calls you’ve received from the ones who care about you) have been immeasurable.

I hope you see that, too.

Because it proves that while we may not have the answers right now, there are so many things we can do to help, to be there for one another, to lessen the burden, to make this heavy, and confusing, and scary and uncomfortable time a little less heavy, and confusing, and scary and uncomfortable.

And I hope this continues, too. Long after we’ve moved past this odd mark in our history. Maybe that’s the one thing we can all take away from this experience. Maybe it should be the one thing we should all take away from this experience.

Stronger together, *apart (*at least for right now).

I love you all, and am here. If you ever need to talk, or vent, or simply sit in silence.

We will make it through this.

I promise.

xoxo,

Wendi Jo

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