April – Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

ACS_0232Great news readers, I’ve read the top-rated, most Instagrammed, most recommended self-help books so you wouldn’t have to, and I inadvertently saved the best for last – Girl, Wash Your Face. Honestly, my journey for “self-help” was starting to feel a little drawn out and a little pointless until I found myself soaking in the bath with a glass of wine laughing with Rachel Hollis. As I dove into her journey for happiness and self acceptance, I recognized the girl she was writing about because out of all the books I’ve been reviewing, I saw myself most in this one.

“Life is not supposed to overwhelm you at all times. Life isn’t meant to be merely survived – it’s meant to be lived.”

I constantly feel overwhelmed. I want to be the perfect girlfriend, the perfect employee, the perfect student, the perfect daughter, the perfect sister, the perfect friend; I just want to be perfect, and of course, no one is. Lately I get so overwhelmed and anxious that I break out into hives, that’s not normal, that’s not how I want to live my life; so when Darren told me to run a bath, turn off my phone, read a book, and drink some wine, I did and I have nearly every day since; you are not missing out on being with your dad, being Darren’s perfect girlfriend, or ruining your career by admitting that you need a break, that you need to put your mental health first and sleep-in, have a soak, or paint your nails. So breathe, take five minutes for you! Why is it okay that you give 23 hours a day to a job, to a homework assignment, to everyone, but you? It all starts with you and if you hadn’t taken the time to breathe, eat breakfast, or have your coffee, then you’re only letting down the most important person – yourself.

“Very few roads to love are easy to navigate, and ours was no exception.”

In the book, Rachel talks about her and her husband’s love story and we find out that her love story isn’t the stuff of a fairytale, it was real, she liked him, more than he liked her, but they figured it out. This is so important, especially in a world of #relationshipgoals and Instagram posts dedicated to someone’s #MCM. Social media makes you compare your clothes, your happiness, your friends, and your relationship to other people’s and guess what? You’re not posting about that time Darren asked you one too many times what you wanted to eat and it pushed you over the edge and made you cry in the car on the way to see him (yes, that really happened – remember? I’m overwhelmed).

Often times there is a make-it or break-it moment in a relationship and to hear someone else went through that too is comforting, albeit a little embarrassing. Darren and I are no exception, do I happen to think that I won the boyfriend lottery and got someone who is strong, caring, compassionate, and who just completely adores me and who feels like home, yes, but has it taken us nearly five years to figure it all out? Also, yes.

When Darren and I had been together for about a year, I got insecure, I was jealous, I was anxious, and I treated him the way I treated the boyfriends who it didn’t work out with, the ones who gave me a reason to be jealous, I was accusing, I was immature and the day it all turned around was in a Hannaford parking lot where he yelled at me, “I’m not any boyfriend you had before, so you’re not allowed to treat me like them.” I was sabotaging my own relationship and where did that come from? The fact that no other one had ever worked out, so why would this one? Sure, I was thinking negatively, but I thought I was protecting my heart.

I told Darren the other day, the way I see our relationship is like two separate, totally different relationships, the first, two kids so in love that they couldn’t spend a second apart, two kids who would get into a fight and try to make the biggest impact by ignoring text messages and not talking for 24 hours at a clip, two kids who couldn’t articulate the way they felt because they were too insecure, and now, we’re two grown ups, who love each other so much, who are filled with gratitude and appreciation that the other person crossed our path, two grown ups who can articulate the real reason they’re irritated or upset, two grown ups who trust, love, and respect the other person, two grown ups who talk about the house they’re going to buy, but had it not been for the few moments we feared it might not work out I don’t know if we’d appreciate the amazing friendship, relationship, and love we’ve grown.

“What if life isn’t happening to you? What if the hard stuff, the amazing stuff, the love, the joy, the hope, the fear, the weird stuff, the funny stuff, the stuff that takes you so low you’re lying on the floor crying and thinking, How did I get here?… What if none of it is happening to you? What if all of it is happening for you?”

What if you could really will things to happen? What if I told you I’ve done it before? What if the boy you had a crush on in elementary school, the boy you told your parents you would marry at five years old, the one you had fake conversations with in your head, what if one day in middle school he said he liked you, and he wanted you to be his girlfriend, I willed that to happen, I’ll keep him anonymous, let’s call him Brad, but what if you finally got your chance with Brad, after imagining it for like 10 years, it was all you wanted, and as much as people told you Brad would never, and I mean never, be interested, he was. It wasn’t some coincidence, you put that shit into the universe for like ever and you never once doubted your chances with Brad; disclaimer Brad and I only dated for two weeks and the fantasies were wayyy better than him IRL, but anyway if you put that much energy into focusing on all the amazing stuff you’re going to do, why couldn’t it happen too?

So, I’m going to fantasize about my big-girl job at Etsy, or the “impossible” jobs to land at Bustle, or Buzzfeed, or Refinery29 like I used to fantasize about Brad, because if I willed him to like me, I sure as hell can will myself to get my dream job. I’m going to picture my first day there, my 100th day there, my 10 year anniversary there, and the rejections I’m getting now, they’re not happening to me, they’re all happening for me. One day, I’ll look back on the retail-job I stayed at too long and be thankful for the lessons, for the influential person I met, that it led me to my future husband, but also for teaching me what I deserve, teaching me that I want to be inspired and creative and not follow anyone else’s operating procedure, because I’m operating on Stephanie’s procedures from here on out. One day I’ll be thankful for all I learned because it’ll make me a better, more grateful, more creative version of who I am right now.

“Disaster is the ultimate excuse. Divorce or illness or something far worse happens to you, and sometimes goals slip quietly into the background and get left there…Sometimes trauma happens, and if we’re being honest, a part of us rejoices, thinking, Well, now nobody can expect anything else from me because it’s a miracle that I’m upright.”

UGH, this one hit me like a brick wall. Does it make me the worst person on the whole planet that my dad being sick makes me want to stomp my feet, cry, and whine life is hard while I slip out of every responsibility I’ve ever had? Disclaimer – it is a fucking miracle that I’m upright, but I can’t use that as the excuse to walk around like a sad zombie, as much as I might want to. Remember when I told you that I’m too hard on myself, no one in the world would say that I use my dad as an excuse, I started school after he got sick, took on more responsibility at work after he got sick, and people endlessly tell me how strong I am, but all I want in the whole world is to use this trauma to make excuses; everything else that comes with it sucks and hurts and scares me and makes me sad, why can’t I at least use it as an excuse to drop out of school, stop showing up to work because it makes me anxious to leave my house, and just give up, why can’t I just lay in bed in my pajamas and cry and be sad and eat nacho cheese? Well, my reason is him, he thinks I’m tough, and so I try to be, but also what if I look back in ten years and realize that I let this trauma be the excuse for me not living my life? As much as I’m somewhere between wanting everyone to clap every time I walk into a room with a smile and a little bit of makeup, I don’t get to hit snooze on all of my responsibilities, and if I see this as an opportunity to prove I’m strong, it will make me stronger than I’ve ever been before.

“Someone else’s opinion of you is none of your business.”

I’m just going to admit it. My blog embarrasses me and it shouldn’t. Here I stand, simultaneously the proudest I’ve ever been of something: I decided to start a blog and here I stand nearly 100 posts later, I’ve created friendships, I’ve developed a following, last year over 5,000 people were interested enough to read something that I wrote, but blog? It still feels like a dirty word. I’m nervous to say out loud that I have a blog. When someone asks me about it, I play it off, “oh yeah, I mean I’m not like really into it, it’s like just something I do sometimes.” WHAT. It is the happiest I ever am, to write, to take pictures, to have someone ask to repost one of my pictures, to get a DM that someone reads it and loves it, but I’m so nervous that someone would say it’s not good, or not worth my time, or whatever, that I can’t even own up to it. I’m too busy thinking the writing is bad, listening to the person who suggested that one of my pictures was blurry, or listening to that “friend” who sarcastically asks, “are you going to blog about it.” YES, I am going to blog about it and every-fucking-thing else, because this, this is my therapy, this is my passion, and YOU can’t make me feel tiny anymore.

In terms of sticking with something, it’s my shining moment, of course, I started this little place on the internet hoping to someday be a full-time blogger (again I feel embarrassed), why can’t that be my goal and yours be to work for some big company? I want my own company, I want to run a business, and that’s a respectable goal, but to say that business is blogging somehow changes it. So, I’m challenging myself, I want to tell everyone that I have a blog and I don’t want my voice to get quieter when I say it, I want to say it with confidence because I am proud and regardless of what anyone thinks, I can do it. 

“I am still here because I refuse to let anything or anyone decide what I get to have…. I am still here because I didn’t allow the hard time to make me weak; I willed it to make me strong.”

We’ve all been through it. I remember my first hardship; when my high school boyfriend broke up with me, I thought I would die, and I didn’t; in fact, as my heart grew back it doubled in size, without him, I was funnier, quirkier, more myself than I had ever been; my next big upset? I don’t know, maybe that job I got passed over for, or that second boyfriend who I broke up with, but life’s biggest upset? My dad being sick, and as much as I feel like I’ll never get through this, I will, and once I do, nothing will ever be that hard again, I know that. I’m still here, and I’ve gone through hard stuff already, and it didn’t make me weak, it made me stronger.

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