Decade Three and My First Self-Help Book

While the bookstore has always been sacred, holy ground to me, the looming “Self-Improvement” aisle was the one teenage-Bri would scoff at before striding over to the Young Adult section to seek out a gripping tale with a strong heroine who was probably caught in a luscious love triangle. Any title sitting on the shelves of the aforementioned place of doom was likely full of sad insight about how to climb out of a painful rock bottom situation. I thought you had to be desperate to go seeking information there – and if you were indeed that desperate, you were obviously old and dull.

… I was quite a cocky teenager.

Jump to light speed and join me here at the beginning of my third decade, and you’ll only find maybe one or two titles closely described as “Christian Reflection” books, and then maybe one or two more books dictated by my previous Corporate America life about sales and management. While I have let go of the stigma of what that aisle contains for others, I have held on to the idea that it meant darkness and doom for me. (Reality Check No. 1 – Self-reflection can be instigated in many ways and in many packages – not just in those 5 minutes of corpse pose in yoga.) I had my mind set that is was a depressing aisle filled with depressing things.

Until recently.

Now – I consider myself an ever-growing but quite emotionally healthy adult. Still, when I first heard the title of Girl, Wash Your Face (by Rachel Hollis) there was this little being inside me that just went full fan girl at a Bieber concert. Admittedly, I didn’t even know what it was about beyond the tagline on the front cover, and truly, I didn’t really connect with the tagline itself. I simply thought, “Well, sure – yeah.” Even worse, I didn’t know anything about the author – which may be an epic fail causing the revoking of my Millennial card – or even worse, my Modern Millennial Mom card. Too bad – I think I lost them in my “Societal Titles that Don’t Mean a Thing” junk drawer in my kitchen on Mars anyway. But I digress.

For some reason, I really, really wanted this book.

Let’s not give me too much credit. I didn’t face that long, dark aisle I scoffed as when I was younger. Instead, my Amazon Fairy placed a package under my front doormat, and I really could not contain my excitement. In fact, my sleep-loving self was so excited to read it that I woke up at 5AM, completed a short workout, then curled up on the couch in a with a steaming cup of joe in a dark and still sleeping house to crack open this book like I’m about to find the Golden Ticket in a Wonka chocolate bar!

I can just see my teenage-self sitting in the oversized chair in the corner silently judging me with a strong side-eye. Sorry, not sorry, Young Bri. Reality Check No. 2 – Self-care is not just a day at the spa. Despite what she may think (despite what my now-self may think) this moment of me in a quiet home before dawn reading a self-help book is a normal, relaxed, well use of my time. I just have to learn to be comfortable in it. Beyond the revelations that left me in tears within the first few pages, I’ve been pondering the dynamic between the self-judgey teenage self and the even harsher self-judgey but now receptive adult-self. Why was this book now deemed healthy? Why did teenager-self hold such a stigma against it? When did it change? What caused that switch?

Writing this now, I think I have realized just how unhealthy my mental state was when I was that young age – which should be no real surprise and would require at least 100,000+ words to explore at even the minimal surface level. But surely there is a shift in most of us that still leaves the questions of when, where and why we first decide to pick up a book like this. I’m sure it’s a different answer for everyone, but I also think that it speaks volumes about the desire for community in our society where we can speak uplifting truths, find support, move forward together and be real about the trials that we come across as we all do this thing called life. I also hope that the reason books like Hollis’ is hitting fandom level speaks to the breaking down of the ‘stigma’ around mental health – thus allowing us to be more comfortable sharing and discussing such challenging topics.

Or maybe I’m just crossing that age threshold where I’ve begun to stick my head out of the foxhole to take notice. I wish my immersion has been as brave, strong, and elegant as Wonder Woman climbing off of that ladder out into the fight as the army of men behind her stand with mouths agape, but at least I’m climbing. (Reality Check No. 3: Be free to move at your own pace. Life is not a cycling class.) I feel like womankind as a whole is finally up the ladder and striding over the barrier. Legions and legions of us! With books like this to push us forward. With forums like this to make us ponder and build communities of support within ourselves.

But it starts while sipping coffee on a couch, book in hand held like a mirror before me as I reflect deeper upon what motherhood means to ME, what being a professional woman means to ME, what being a wife means to ME, and what self means to ME.

I am only a couple of chapters in to the book, but I already feel as though Hollis is my spirit animal. She may actually be my twin. Honest. Either way, she keeps asking me some great questions, and I look forward to the next one. Meanwhile, I’m telling that teenage that if she doesn’t clean up her room in the next hour there’s no going out with friends this weekend.

I can try.

In the meantime, whether its Girl, Wash Your Face or another self-help book that has caught your fancy – I hope you are in a place where you can embrace the message in one way or another and allow the pain you have in your life to move you forward. I hope you are also able to use that pain to serve as a beacon to support, love, and lead others.

It’s not a dark, dreary isle. It’s an aisle full of life. We should all meet there sometime.

Update: By the end of the book, I ended up really not liking it. But I read it. And I know myself better for it.

Wildflower

I’m not always vocal about my faith – mostly because I journey this life wishing to experience it in me, through me, and around me. This includes observing others as they do the same and wanting to find connection before opposition. I do not always know when my journey is influencing others nor when others are influencing me. I trust it happens – constantly. Though there are moments when I’m struck so strongly with the obvious effect on my life that I must sit and reflect on the long path that has been winding to that particular moment.

When I was 18, my birthday present from my mother was a tattoo. She was very eager about the present, and I spent a solid few weeks contemplating how I could wrap as much of my identity up into a single permanent impression on my skin. I decided on a fleur de lis (a symbol meaning life) with Celtic knot-work (a symbol of eternity and a reflection of my Celtic heritage) done in a henna brown color between my shoulder blades. With its size being bigger than a softball, it was certainly an ambitious first tattoo, but I tend to fully embrace commitments.

First

It healed beautifully, but within a year or so, the color had started to fade away. I got it touched up to bring the life back to it, but within another year, the color was fading again. It was as though my skin was rejecting the ink. I was tired of going back and sitting under the needle for two hours each time just to hope it would stick and being sorely disappointed (in more ways than one). So, I decided to allow the artwork to continue to fade away for the next decade.

During this time, I had an experience that defined my belief in a higher power, and the concept of eternal life came to have a new meaning. A few years later, I was having a conversation with the universe, and I came to have a new understanding of myself. It has a name for me – a secret name, a powerful one. It calls me “Wildflower,” and I saw myself in an open field, filling it with complex and ornate colors as I encouraged life to spring forth around me.

It was a beautiful concept – one I could only hope I could look back on my life and possibly witness the fruits born from it. But years passed and the memory became faded, or perhaps it just simply became part of me. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between the two.

Until recently. There has been some drastic movement in my life where I have been able to transition from breadwinner and momma to being able to have a renewed focus on a lifelong dream to pursue writing as a career. This is the beginning of a very long journey, but it has stirred change in my life. Positive change.

I looked in the mirror one morning and noticed the faded, discolored, splotched “artwork” on my back, and I suddenly, absolutely had to do something about it. Within a day, I had a consultation at a local tattoo studio and two days later I was under the needles again.

Now, my tattoo was so faded that I truly could have had anything cover it. Instead, I instantly decided I would keep the fleur de lis, but I would do it in a black outline with an explosion of watercolor from behind it.

To give you a little more insight into my character, I don’t do color well. I live in neutral tones. My home, my clothes, my car color – neutrals, please. If I try to incorporate color, everything gets disconnected and out of hand quickly. Still, I was set on the foreign concept of vibrant hues becoming a permanent part of my body.

Maybe I have a rash personality. I do operate very swiftly and decidedly. The tattoo artist free-handed the work, and by the end of it, he had incorporated every color of the rainbow. I trusted him completely. After all, nearly anything would have been better than the stain I had before.

Tat

I have to say that I absolutely love my new tattoo. It’s more beautiful than I ever could have imagined. I feel its presence on my back, because I can feel the identity it is pulling from me. A day after I got it, I was talking to my husband, and I was suddenly struck by the remembering of that conversation I had with the universe.

It wasn’t rashness. It wasn’t nonchalance. It wasn’t coincidence. I was moved by my true identity that I strive to live within every day. I want to bring light to this world with knew understandings as I lift people up with support and encouragement.

My old identity is covered over by the new. The old tattoo is still there. The outline of the fleur de lis remains, but I am both and the same. I am free to live a bold life, proud of my values and with a desire to spread forth the color. Trust in what I cannot see in the mirror. Instead, I must twist about to see what is on my back. My new art serves as a physical reminder that the universe moves through me and around me in majestic ways, and I am free and eager to witness and participate in this beautiful life.

*** A special thank you to Fredo at @LiquidInkLubbock in Lubbock, TX for unknowingly serving as a vessel with his genius talent.