Is it Possible to Live a Pressure-free Life?

Real talk – I love St. Pete Beach. I really, honestly, truly do but with that being said… is this what I expected? Sometimes it is but most of the time, not at all.

I’ve been here for nearly 2 months already (wowza) and, with the exception of having the ocean across the street, it hasn’t felt much different than life did in Michigan. And you know what? I felt personally responsible and guilty for that.

I was talking to a friend of mine one night and confessed that I haven’t been living this free-spirited and carefree life that I expected to live and it was because of the choices I’ve been making. I hated hearing the words come out of my mouth but as we sat there Skyping, I said it –  Some nights, I choose Netflix over the ocean. I choose to make dinner rather than making friends at the local tiki bar. I’m sitting at my desk more than I’m sitting in the sand.

And, because this was such a wildly “publicized” move, I felt pressure to make the most of it – not just for me, but for my friends and family who bid me adieu and well, you guys.

I’m so lucky to have this opportunity so I put pressure on myself to live it to the fullest, whatever that means.

I felt like people were counting on me to go here, live this fantastic life, and report back on how things can be so much better when you just follow your heart. And don’t get me wrong, I feel like I am living a fantastic life and I am living it because I’m following my heart – and I love writing about it – but sometimes, with these perks and my love for blogging, pressure follows. Truthfully, I felt odd that my life wasn’t drastically different, without putting in much work, just because I moved to a warmer climate.

How silly.

It took me a few weeks of feeling pressure about feeling pressure to realize I shouldn’t have to feel pressure – follow me?

Some days, isn’t it enough to make it a point to visit the beach on the weekends? Other days, isn’t it enough to end the day with a show to binge and a nice glass of red wine?

Short answer – Yes.
Long answer – Yaaaaaaas.

Life is about living each day to the fullest – YOUR definition of the fullest, nobody else’s. It’s not my responsibility to feel guilty that I wasn’t living up to some expectation that nobody was putting on me but myself. I was putting pressure on myself, and feeling bad about life, for literally no good reason. None. Zilch.

This idea got me thinking about other friends: the ones who feel the pressure to put in an extra 2 hours per night at the office, not because they need to but because they feel like they probably should. The ones who are settling in relationships because they see their friends getting hitched and figure they probably should do that soon too. The ones who are buying a house (which is an insanely big commitment) because they should probably invest in something at this stage in life.

What about when we were younger and felt pressure to fit in with the “cool” kids in high school? The pressure to join the right sports, play the right instrument, and choose the right college?

Is it possible to live a pressure-free life? 

Honestly, I don’t think it is – I think that there’s always going to be some level of pressure we feel and whether that’s from ourselves or others, that’s to be determined.

If you’re putting it on yourself – quit it.
If others are putting it on you – figure out if the pressure is valid and if it’s not, get rid of the negativity. Tell them to quit it and that you’re doing just fine without their input on how you’re living your life.

Do me a favor and right now think, “Am I unhappy?” and if so, identify what it is that’s making you unhappy. Is something actually, reaalllllyyy wrong or are you just feeling a sense of pressure that you’re putting on yourself?

We need to stop bringing unnecessary stress and pressure into our lives because when we allow these things to come in, typically we react in a negative way – we get upset, we take it out on our loved ones, we choose work over friends, etc. We try to fight it rather than figuring out where the pressure is coming from.

When we can take a step back and uncover whether or not we can remove it before we explode, we save ourselves a lot of trouble annnnnd also we lessen the risk of hurting the relationships around us that we cherish so much. I don’t know about you but my friends typically hate it when I snap at them for no good reason 😉

There’s a great quote I saw yesterday:

“There isn’t a way things should be. There’s just what happens, and what we do.”

—Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

I think there are a few ways to take this quote and tomorrow, I may take it differently than I do right now but right now, I feel as though this is a wonderful reminder that life happens. It’s up to us to stop, think, and act accordingly – remove the unnecessary pressure and add the logical thinking mixed with good vibes.

Live is good and it’s bad all on its own. Let’s not make it worse.

The Universe Gives You What You Need When You Need It

Moving to Florida was a big sign from the universe for me. When I arrived, I felt things fall into place – well, everything but consistent blogging of course – and I found myself surrounded by old friends who believed in the pull of the universe as well.

A few weeks ago I reconnected with a friend of mine that I met when I lived in Nashville who now lives in Florida. We went out, had a few too many vodka tonics, and got into a big discussion around the idea that the universe gives you what you need, when you need it. She told me that she felt as though our friendship and who I am as a person, in this moment – years after we originally met in Nashville, gave her what she needed in her own life. A dash of spontaneity, a dose of courage, and a lot of laughter.

Now, I’ve often felt that the universe gives out signs if we only look for them but it’s something i very rarely talk about. So, sitting a thousand miles away from my “comfort zone” talking with someone I haven’t met in years about this topic at a tiki bar on the beach, felt like a sign. Especially since I felt that the universe was telling me to go to Florida and then I ended up talking about this topic with someone who feels the same exact way, reiterating the idea that I’m not crazy 😉

And, guess what – at this point in this blog post, my first version had me launching into a story about how this idea of getting a sign/reminder when I need it most came to life for me today. But, I decided against it because honestly, I don’t want my stories to be the takeaway here.

You know what I think the real takeaway is? It’s this – have you ever thought to yourself or heard yourself say “The time wasn’t right” or “The time was right“?

What do you think told you that?

Me? Well, I believe it’s the universe/the man above/fate/your gut/whoever/whatever giving you a sign to stop and think a little harder about the situation.

You know how I think about life? I’ve started thinking about it like it’s a Magic Eye image. You put your face really really close to it and focus really really hard on what’s directly in front of you. When you’ve got that focus locked down, you can begin to move further away, slowly and carefully, until something else comes into focus.

It’s not what you expected. It’s not what you thought.
It’s a different look at what is right in front of you. 

If you open your eyes and let yourself roam a bit, the signs and signals that are in front of you will amaze you.

Take your eyes off of that roadmap and that ONE path in front of you and begin to look side to side. See the slightly overgrown paths that venture off of where you’re supposed to be. If you move your eyes from the roadmap, I’m sure you’ll see them – they’ve always been there if you just looked for them.

For me, I felt a tug towards this new life and when I got here, I found myself surrounded by what I needed – people who also believed in signs, the sunsets that reminded me that life is more beautiful than I imagined if I just get out of my apartment, and moments that remind me that I need to stop and work towards becoming the person I want to be, not necessarily the person I currently am.

Believe me, I’m not trying to make this some big ‘fate/religion/whatever’ post. I want you to take from it what you need it to give you but for me, I’m a big believer in the pull of the universe and fate – you just have to look for the right signs.

Going back to what I said before, take your eyes up from the roadmap in front of you. Focus on yourself, your intuition, your gut, your signs, the universe, whatever, and explore that.

Let yourself believe that you may be taken in a direction that you didn’t expect but the universe is trying to nudge you in. Remember – life is like a Magic Eye. Take that second look at a situation you think you see clearly.

If this post resonated with you, I highly recommend checking out my favorite book that also focuses on this idea – The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho (Nope, not sponsored… just a lover of this gem and I’ve actually given every copy I’ve ever purchased away. It’s that good). And, if you do decide to read it, let me know what you think. Seriously.

Storms in Paradise

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I haven’t forgotten about you… quite the contrary really. Every single day of being in Florida (and even before I arrived at my bungalow), I’ve thought to myself, “I need to blog. Isn’t that a big part of why I’m here? To get back to basics and write and drink fruity drinks?”

But, I haven’t felt like I could.

Everything I started I felt/said in my head to get those creative juices flowing/started writing felt like an eye roll.

Hell, I was rolling my eyes at what I was thinking and I’m living it.

“I’m loving it but it’s hot! You wouldn’t believe how big my hair is!”
” No, I refuse to let people bring me drinks. I need to see the bartender make it.”
(shout out to sorority life and teaching us alcohol safety)
“Seriously, don’t walk home from the bar alone after dark. #MomMode”
“Yes, I still look good tan and in a bathing suit.”

Okay, well, that last one I threw in because I am tan and hey, confidence. Work it.

But seriously, life has been good. How could it not?

I felt like I was living in paradise and everyone who will listen to me has heard, “It feels like I’m on vacation! Yeah, give me another vodka soda!

So, what did it take to finally break down? Well, a bad day.

Today, I had a bad day. Nothing life changing. Nothing heart breaking. Nothing terrible. But it wasn’t great and it reminded me that sometimes, there are storms in paradise.

It’s funny – it took a tough day to remind me that I’m not living in some dream world. Yes, the location has changed but surprise – it’s still life. I can still have days where nothing goes right – the cat barfs all over my floor, I drop a whole pack of brand new hair ties into the toilet, work is work.

So, why did that shake me down?

Because it was a reminder that just because I’m surrounded by new foliage, I’m still alive. I’m still going to have to tackle obstacles. Not everything will go my way. I just have to take a long, deep breath, and handle it.

You know what I did today? After work, I put on my flip flops and walked over to the local tiki bar across the street and ordered the fruitiest, most caloric drink on the menu. I ordered a big pizza. And I thought about what I could do differently tomorrow. I felt the breeze on my face and I stopped stressing, over analyzing, and testing my twitchy eye to start twitching.

After that, I walked to the beach and plopped right down. For one split second, I thought to myself, “Shoot. I don’t have a towel…” then rolled my eyes and sat right into the sand in my wide leg linen pants and I watched the waves hit the shore.

My phone had 20% battery left so I put it away and I just watched the sun set behind the clouds. I watched families walk the beach and I watched couples hold hands and find the best spot to catch the last few minutes of sunlight.

I just stopped, I took a breath, and I forced myself to let the stress of the day leave my mind.

And if you know me, you know that’s hard. I tend to dwell, I tend to get frustrated, and I tend to get anxious. Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely did that during the day but I made the conscious decision to stop and to not continue holding onto unnecessary stress in that way.

Isn’t that why I was here? To relax?

I decided in that moment that I wasn’t going to let myself forget that this 6-month move wasn’t a vacation.

I decided to find a shell (or a piece of shell) that represented how I felt in that moment and I put it in my purse. Next time I take time for myself to sit, butt first, in the sand and watch the sunset without my phone, I’ll do the exact same thing. I’ll pick a shell, put it in my purse, and take it home with me.

I want to begin collecting these shells (and pieces of shells) in a jar as a reminder that this is how I measured my time here.

It’s not always about the big, pretty shells. It’s not always about the cracked ones, the broken ones, and the ones that just aren’t as big as the others. It’s a mix – you take the good with the bad.

It’s life and life isn’t always perfect, every day or every shell.

Ridding Myself of the Roadmap

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When I was younger I used to pride myself on being carefree, well… at least within reason. I was never one to turn down a dare, I went away to college without thinking twice, and hell, after that I up and moved to Tennessee without knowing anything more than where I had to take the U-Haul.

However, when the universe stepped in forced Nashville to abruptly kick me out, I felt like that was my wake up call to start acting and living more like an “adult.”

Since the move back to Michigan about 5 years ago, I can honestly say that I’ve tried to live in a way that I felt an adult should live. I landed and slaved away at what I believed was my dream job, I’ve had *cough cough* numerous memberships to numerous gyms, and I’ve saved an amount of money that I am proud of. No longer do I have to put $7 in my gas tank to last me until the next payday nor do I have to just buy the on-sale canned goods.

I even went as far as trying to build the life that I felt I should have that 30 – finding someone to settle down with and buying a home. And you know what, I’m proud of these things and I’m not ashamed for wanting to be fit, happy, healthy, in love and financially secure but… the more I focused on these milestones, the more I felt as though I was losing me.

For the last 5 years, I was following a plan that I couldn’t dare let myself stray from, even when my heart tried to tell me to quit. I felt as though I had it all figured out. It didn’t matter that I was unhappy deep down or that maybe this life roadmap wasn’t my map. 

But these last six months have given me the most important shakeup of my life.

Life succeeded to shake me up to the point where I didn’t care about my bank account, finding a realtor, or forcing relationships that were never meant to be.

I had to be smacked in the face (not literally – whew) before I found that life doesn’t really care about whatever plan you tried to map out years ago. To me, this shakeup has taught me that no matter what rules, or life plans, I try to live by, I can’t escape this idea that life didn’t want me to keep my head down, following some plan that I didn’t truly believe in or really want deep down. 

What it did do was go to the extremes to take me back to the basics of what it truly means to be alive – to put health before fear, to be an emotional support for those who need it most, to build relationships with positive/happy/supportive people, to strive to be better in my career for both professional and personal growth, and to live.

Really, truly live.

I had to learn the hard way that I wasn’t meant to follow this plan I decided I wanted and honestly, I’m not entirely sure any of us are. Because when you focus on milestones in your life you want to hit without enjoying every day that life gives you, are you really living at all?

Are you working at something that you truly enjoy? Are you building relationships with those people who make you a better person? Are you focusing on your own personal growth? Chances are, if you’re focusing on the fact that you should be married by 30, own a home by 32, and have a family by 34, you’re not. You’re always looking ahead rather than taking advantage of the very things that life has put in front of you.

As much as I’ve tried to resist admitting this, I found that this adult roadmap I’ve made up isn’t for me. And at age 30, I finally feel confident in who I am and what I believe in to accept that maybe deep down inside I’m always meant to be a little bit of a free spirit.

I would rather focus on being the version of myself I can be, to look for the silver linings in heart breaking situations, and to be the best friend, daughter, cousin, and marketer that I can be.

And not that I need to leave you with any advice but I will because I know it’s easier to take advice when someone else says it –

Pick your head up and look around you. Stop staring down at this imaginary roadmap, focused only on milestones or the idea that you to have your life figured out. 

Take a deep breath, call your mom, send a friend some snail mail, and read an industry-focused blog. Focus on what makes you happy and do it. Just do it.

I promise that you can’t go wrong if you wake up in the morning and just work towards being the best and happiest version of yourself. That may bring you to a promotion or to finding love, or it may not right away. All I know is that following happiness is much more achievable than settling down in 2 years when you’re not even in a relationship yet.

If you follow these words of advice, you won’t be let down by things that are beyond your control or by a roadmap that you were never meant to follow. Just live a life that makes you happy. 

Embrace the Unknown and Enjoy It

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I’ve found that regardless of age, many people are worried or stressed out about their future. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a 20-something young professional or if you’re a 45 year old mother of 3 because life is stressful. You may worry about whether you’re on the right track professionally, whether you’re making smart financial decisions, or if you’re living up to your full potential.

But you know what? It’s okay not to know what lies ahead of you because of these reasons:

1.) Nobody else knows: Simple yet true. Nobody knows what their future holds so take solace in knowing that you’re definitely not alone. We’re all in this together – Muddling through the confusion and waiting to get to the point in our lives where we find that we’re okay with the unknown.

Secret: The sooner you discover that you can’t control or plan your future, the sooner you’ll be able to embrace what’s to come with open arms…

2.) Life would be boring if we knew: Sometimes the greatest moments in life are those
moments that are completely and totally unexpected. If you knew EXACTLY what your future held, would you still wake up every day with enthusiasm and excitement? I mean, really… You’d know when you’re going to meet important people, when you were going to find a soulmate, when you were going to get a job promotions, etc.

You wouldn’t be excited for the day at all… In fact, you’d probably wake up and think “Alright, today I’m going to meet someone who is going to become my best friend. Better put on some perfume even though it doesn’t matter… We’re destined to be friends regardless of how I smell.” Boooooooringggggggg.

3.) You wouldn’t learn: If you always knew the outcome of situations, you’d probably avoid those that would cause you pain. Now, this doesn’t seem like a bad thing right away but think about it for a second. Some of the greatest lessons I’ve ever learned have come from jobs I shouldn’t have taken, boys I shouldn’t have dated, and friends I shouldn’t have hung out with. If I knew that all of those situations wouldn’t have worked out in the long run, I probably would’ve avoided them.

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

– Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Take a deep breath and smile because you’re doing alright kiddo. Enjoy each day to the fullest rather than riddling it with worry and stress over things you simply can’t control. All you need to do is do your best, follow your heart, and try to make smart decisions (Note: I didn’t say RIGHT decisions because even the wrong ones are okay).

Adoption: The Gift That Keeps Giving

As a self-proclaimed (and friend-agreed) crazy cat lady, I honestly didn’t think I’d adopt an animal until I was in the “adult” stage of life – aka. I’d own a home, be married and maybe have a kid or two.

Basically, I figured I needed to have my life in order and settled before I even thought about bringing in another living thing. I took the old cliche “You can’t love somebody else until you learn to love yourself” to heart. How could I provide the love and attention an animal needed when I couldn’t even figure out what I needed in life?

But if I’m being honest (and for better or for worse, I always am on Live Inspired) then I must admit that things didn’t work out that way – four years ago today, I adopted an abandoned cat named Twiggy through a rescue website.

When I adopted her, I was living and working in the tiniest little one-bedroom apartment, eating ramen noodles and working a job that I enjoyed but didn’t afford me many luxuries. I was happy but I wasn’t “settled” in any way, shape or form. In fact, I was lonely most of the time and I wasn’t sure where I’d end up a year or two down the road.

That’s why when I was performing my nightly post-work ritual of perusing adoption websites, I was only partially serious about finding a furever buddy. Well, I was only partially serious until I saw Twiggy’s page.

I’m still unsure as to why I inquired about her instead of the other hundreds of cats I looked at over the past 6-12 months but I did. I knew that I needed to have this “talkative” black cat in my life.

After three phone interviews, a visit to her foster home, a few panic attacks and some ugly-cries later, I fell in love with that little furball.

Being a kitty mom wasn’t easy, especially as I was scraping by on my bills. She has special dietary needs and her food cost about $40-70 per bag. She meowed so loud every night and she woke me up almost every morning. She kicks her litter everywhere and she throws up hairballs more often than I’d like.

But those little “negatives” don’t matter at all when I think about the joy she brings myself, my family and my friends. She always seems to find my lap when I’m stressed out or crying. She’s been by my side through breakups, lay offs and cross-state moves. She poses for numerous (… hundreds?) of photos and even looks cute as Snapchat Disney princesses.

Simply said – I’m not sure who saved who.

Adopting an animal in need has changed my life in the most incredible of ways. If you’re considering adding a pet to your life or to your household, please please pleaaaaaase consider adoption.

According to ASPCA:

  • Approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.9 million are dogs and 3.4 million are cats.
  • Each year, approximately 2.7 million animals are euthanized (1.2 million dogs and 1.4 million cats).
  • Approximately 2.7 million shelter animals are adopted each year (1.4 million dogs and 1.3 million cats).
  • Of the dogs entering shelters, approximately 35% are adopted, 31% are euthanized and 26% of dogs who came in as strays are returned to their owner.
  • Of the cats entering shelters, approximately 37% are adopted, 41% are euthanized, and less than 5% of cats who came in as strays are returned to their owners.
    If you can emotionally and financially afford to give a home to an animal in need, please do. There are so many animals in desperate need of love and if you can provide a caring home, they’ll change your life.
      For Twiggy’s 5th birthday, do us both a favor and start your research here:

The Humane Society
ASPCA

 

2016 – The Year of Choices

Fact: I’ve never been one to identify and/or keep new year resolutions.

It’s not that I think they’re a bad idea. Not at all.
Honestly, I’ve tried numerous times to figure out the right resolution but it just doesn’t work out for me.

See, the thing is that, after 29 years of being on this Earth, I know myself and I know that I’m going to feel too much pressure to identify the ‘right’ goal, I’m going to stress about sticking to it and it’s going to consume my every thought.

That’s why this year, I didn’t really even go down the path of setting a resolution for myself; however, I found myself setting one. Yep, you read that correctly.

On my way into work about 3 weeks ago, I was letting my mind wander and I realized that this year, I wanted to accomplish a lot – I wanted to be happier, I wanted to be healthier, I wanted to rekindle the love I have for writing.

After figuring out those broad goals for the year, my brain naturally wanted to put numbers behind these goals – volunteer once a week, lose 20 lbs, write twice a week.

But minutes after identifying these numerical ways of tracking my “success or failure,” I stopped myself.

In those few moments, I realized that this idea of “success and failure” is what has stopped me from making (or keeping) resolutions in the past.

For the sake of this blog post, let’s discuss the typical “lose 20 lbs” goal – If I told myself that I wanted to lose 20 lbs then I’d let that idea dictate my every move. If I was craving a burger and fries, I’d pass on going out to lunch with coworkers because of the temptation. If I was out for date night with my boyfriend and he suggested dessert, I’d think to myself, “That’s going to add unnecessary calories.”

In my eyes, these little setbacks would be considered failures. but that’s not what new years resolutions are about.

I don’t want to feel bad about sharing a slice of cake with my boyfriend or pass on lunch because I feel like a burger instead of a salad.

That’s not how I want to spend my days. 

Aren’t resolutions about making conscious efforts to improve your life? If that’s the case (and I do believe it is) then I wasn’t going to let myself fail in these ways. I refuse to punish myself and get down on myself if I have a slice of cake, if I have a busy week and I can’t volunteer, or if I just have writers block.

I was setting myself up to fail before I really gave myself a chance to lose weight, be happier, whatever.

That’s why this year, I decided my resolution is simply to “make better choices.”

If I’m out at the bar but had a big lunch, I’ll have water (orrrrrr vodka with soda water) or if I’ve lost touch with a friend, I’ll make the choice to reach out. I won’t let what I do or don’t do reflect upon my overall goal of improving my way of life.

I’m going to focus on little acts every day to better myself in the long haul and not get down on myself or give up on the resolution if I slip up.

For me, it’s all about using little actions, every day, to better myself as a person and with this mentality, I can’t fail.

If you haven’t yet set a resolution, if you’re looking to add something new to your list, or if you find that the numeric goal isn’t working for you, don’t give up. Shift your way of thinking and try this yourself.

I’ve been actively making better decisions for the last 3 weeks and I’ve already noticed a difference ❤