Get back up.

The past week has been re-learning about rejection and resilience. If you follow me on Instagram, you've had a seat in the front row. It felt at the same time important and insignificant, new and old. I suppose that's how lessons begin to feel when they keep popping up in your life. This re-learning felt important enough to share with you, so I'm taking a bit of a meander from our summer series to share this with you. 

Halfway through 2018, I've sent out 11 pitches. This includes pitches to be a guest on a podcast, to host a workshop, to submit my personal essays or a guest blog, to speak in front of an audience. Out of these, I've had success with five, so a little less than 50%. This is the first time I'm looking at these numbers and that's better odds than I realized. But still six rejections, six no's, six opportunities for me to question what I'm doing, to doubt myself, to wonder who the hell I think I am trying to make it as a writer and business owner.

Last week I decided to work on an essay that had previously been rejected from a print publication. I felt so much resistance simply opening up the document to take a look and see how it could be improved. I distracted myself with email, coffee, calendar, weather and Facebook before I forced myself to sit in the chair and read the darn thing. Maybe it wasn't as spectacular as I recalled but it still rung true. Oh, and also, I had written it in2016. Two years ago and this great piece of my heart was idly sitting here on my laptop. 

It was the date that fueled me - I made a promise to myself to send out another pitch within two days. Then, I closed my laptop and spent the summer day with my kids. 

The next time I checked my email guess what I found? Another rejection. This time for a speaking engagement. I realized I had been holding my breath to some degree waiting for this response. It was a no, but at least I could breathe. Maybe it was the conversation I had with myself the day before - I was able to feel the no for a quick minute and then move on. Gotta get that next pitch out, I told myself. It's all part of the process. 

There are a lot of stories of rejection out there. Harry Potter got rejected 12 times for goodness sake. Sometimes those stories bolster me, other times not. I'm finding that the process, living through it, is my best teacher of rejection and resilience. The more I put myself out there, the more I get rejected. The more I get rejected, the more resilience I build. I can write this to you. I can teach this to you. In order for you to learn it and re-learn it, you may need to go through it yourself. 

Friday morning, the morning of my 39th birthday, I submitted another pitch. I don't know what the outcome will be, but I do know that simply trying again has a power all it's own.

If you have told yourself it's time to try something new but fear has been holding you back, I hope you find some encouragement here. If you need a little more, hit reply and I'll gladly cheerlead for you. 

Summer series: Chronic Illness

The Bellevue Literary Review is a literary magazine published by the Department of Medicine at NYU School of Medicine. The essays and poems examine how illness affects the human condition. These are super high quality pieces of writing that I think you would enjoy. One day I hope my work will be published on those pages.

I was looking for a piece to share with you that examined chronic illness and the one that struck me the most was from the point of view of the son of a man with multiple sclerosis (MS). This isn't lost on me - as the child of a mom with a chronic illness of her own, it's no surprise I landed upon this piece. The author examines his own adjustment to MS, which seems to color his entire existence. This is in contrast to his father's seeming nonchalance about his condition. Isn't this fascinating? That two people in the same family can live through the same experience and have a completely different response and outlook. This line jumped out at me:

I became, in short, his emotional shadow, feeling all those things it would have been understandable for him to feel, if he had been a different kind of person.

I often ask myself why things stick to me and weigh me down. Why I carry bricks of concern in my backpack while others shed their backpack altogether. I think that's why I enjoyed this piece so much.  I felt a connection to these words that sometimes seems hard to find in my world. 

I hope you enjoy it too. What about it resonates with you? Reply and let me know. I recorded an audio file of me reading the piece since it is on the longer side. 

Read "Cripple's Kid" by David Milofsky

Listen to "Cripple's Kid" by David Milofsky

You can't know if you don't ask.

Recently, on a ball field in my town, I was chatting with one of the dads. I hadn't seen his wife for while, which didn't seem unusual. Two working parents, two young kids, your typical busy family. I said to this man something so callous, like: "Where's your wife been hiding, I haven't seen her in forever?"

His response made my stomach churn. She hadn't been feeling well and they were having a hard time figuring out what was going on, despite involving numerous health care providers.

This possibility hadn't even crossed my mind. 

So often we are stuck in our own worlds to the degree that we don't even take notice of what's happening in the world around us. And I'm not talking about the bigger world and feeling bad about not being involved in social justice or the myriad of other causes we might choose to dedicate energy to. I'm talking about the people in our community, in our circles, on our streets. The ones we see without really seeing. 

We do need to take care of ourselves before we can serve others. And yet, people around us, people we see each week, are suffering and we don't even know it. There were many opportunities to ask about this mom, to notice that I hadn't seen her at all in weeks, before I did. 

We make the assumption that everyone else has everything figured out while we are still trying to get the laundry that was done five days ago back into the drawers. But it's simply not true. I don't care if that person drives one of those huge, extravagant SUVs or shows up for every school event with vegan cupcakes. Every single one of us is suffering in some way and sometimes people are going through difficult times right under our noses. If we don't ask how people are doing, we can't know. If we don't know, we can't help. 

This conversation on the baseball field reminded me of all this. When I'm suffering all I want is for someone to reach out and say: I see you, keep going, I have faith in you.

Let's do that for others too.

Summer Series: Separation and Divorce #2

I love sharing research that examines how writing your story can be beneficial to your health (or not). This week I'm sharing an article that looks at how writing affects your physical health. 

Journal Article: Bourassa et al. Impact of Narrative Expressive Writing on Heart Rate, Heart Rate Variability, and Blood Pressure After Marital Separation. Psychosom Med. 2017 Jul/Aug;79(6):697-705.

Participants: A group of 109 recently separated adults

Design: People were placed in one of the three groups below. They also underwent a bunch of cardiovascular (heart) tests during the months they were involved in the study. Three groups:

1. Traditional Expressive Writing: write about the emotions surrounding the separation
2. Narrative Expressive Writing: write your story about the separation
3. Control group: write about how you spend your time

Finding: People in the Narrative Expressive Writing group had lower heart rate and higher heart rate variability than people in the two other groups. Both of these are good things for your overall health. Blood pressure was not different among the groups. 

Takeaway: Writing your story after separation might help improve your physical health. 

Commentary: The study I shared last week found that writing your story could be bad for your emotional well-being in some cases. Well, some of those same people were found to have improvements in their physical health after writing their story. It's a little confusing. Should I write because I want to be healthy in my body or should I stay away from writing because it might be unhealthy for my mind? My take: If you are someone who is deep in a well of trying to find meaning from your separation, it might behoove you to hold off on writing. Otherwise, try it and see how it feels for you.
 

Don't have time to write? Create a writing ritual.

While I have always kept a journal, I decided in 2014 that I wanted to develop my writing style and eventually share my work. I also decided that in order to do so I needed to create a writing ritual that encouraged me to write. Every Friday morning I would go to a local coffee shop and set up my laptop. I had one hour. It took me weeks to write a single essay.

It was worth every minute. My heart would get heavy as the end of my hour was nearing. I would squeeze in a couple of last sentences and then drag my feet out to the parking lot to get home to help Curt with the kids. Writing filled a need in me. I felt deeply connected to this practice.

It wasn't until early 2016 that I launched Orchid Story as a blog and that was months before Orchid Story became a business. See what I'm trying to spell out for you here? It's ok to take things slow. It's ok if you start writing and don't share your work for years, if ever. It's ok if you can only squeeze in 15 minutes twice a week. 

What is most critical in my experience is that you create a ritual for yourself around writing. Rituals help us connect our outer lives to our inner lives. Rituals allow us to be intentional with our time and to create experiences that make us feel good and connected to who we are at our core. Rituals allow me to take ownership of my time, when it might otherwise pass by in a blur. 

If you have been wanting to write, but just can't figure out how to fit it into your days, my writing ritual worksheet is for you. If you have been wanting to write, but couldn't figure out how to start, my worksheet will help. It's a one pager, mostly questions with checkboxes to inspire you to start your writing practice. Why not decide that this is the summer that you will finally put pen to paper and get started?

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My Title

I posed the question: In the story of your life, what is the title of the chapter on Mom? Here is mine.

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For most of my life, my mom was my best friend, closest confidante and strongest advocate. After dementia entered our lives eight years ago, this relationship began to shift. Slowly at first. Almost imperceptible changes. Strange handwriting began showing up on the kids' birthday cards. She stopped driving at night. Once a phenomenal cook and home entertainer, she stopped taking down her favorite recipe books and spending days in the kitchen. 

You know how you can't remember when your three year old was an infant? And then when she's six you can't remember three? Dementia is like that too. It's hard to remember what my mom was like before something strange and unknown took hold of her brain. 

My therapist gave me a tool that's really helped. She asked me to find mementos of the "before" days to remind me of who she was as a person and a mom. I dug out an old card she sent to me in college. It was full of sweet love and support. Full confidence in me. The familiar and cozy feeling of being taken care of flooded me. That comfort that someone believes in you no matter how many stumbles. 

This was the place I brought myself back to in order to come up with this title of my life story chapter on my mom. Distilled, this is what she taught me. She had no family near the town where we lived. Instead, she built her family with friends. She cooked for them, she took care of their kids, she spent time with them, regularly. And when things got hard, she didn't hesitate. Two of her best friends were diagnosed with cancer and died in their forties, when I was in high school. My mom didn't wonder what to say or how to take care of them. She marched herself into their homes to check on her girlfriends and to see what help their kids needed.

She taught me that showing up as yourself is love.