Reschool Yourself

Latest Posts

The Difference Between Knowing and Doing

Originally published as a TinyLetter

There’s a big difference between knowing and doing, isn’t there?

It’s baffling, the gap between what I know and what I do. I called this TinyLetter “Like I always say…” because it’s infinitely easier to rattle off wise words for happy living (like “This, too, shall pass”) than to follow them. Especially in moments of stress.

I actually know quite a bit about best practices for a happy, productive life, having immersed myself in personal development (a much better term than “self-help”) content since high school.

I can tell you all about Martin Seligman’s research on learned helplessness and learned optimism, but I still get stuck in self-defeating thought patterns of “I can’t” and “This is never going to change.”

I can explain researcher John Gottman’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the four types of interaction that predict divorce and other ruptured relationships, but I still react with defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling when I’m really angry.

I can share nuggets of wisdom from my sheroes Oprah, Elizabeth Gilbert, Brene Brown, and Gretchen Rubin, and I have 20+ parenting books on my shelf (see photo — Evan’s spirited nature has really given me a run for my money!). So why am I not a fully expressed human being and exceptional parent by now? Why do I keep tripping over what Gretchen calls “happiness stumbling blocks”?

In moments of stress, Darren will sometimes ask me, “Is there a tool you can use here?” and I sit there searching my mental database and coming up empty. (Darren, on the other hand, doesn’t know half of what I do about all of this, but effortlessly manages to practice it. Must be nice!!)

So what’s going on here? A few things, I think:

1) Analysis paralysis. Over 20+ years, I’ve amassed an enormous toolbox to draw from. Under duress, I find myself desperately rummaging through the jumble of tools and coming up empty because there are just so many to choose from.

What I can do: Organize my toolbox in advance. When I learn about a new tool, I can decide what to use it for: “This will be a good tool for (when Evan sasses me / I find myself procrastinating / I feel hopeless.”) That way, when the situation calls for a wrench, I’m not trying to fix it with a hammer I grabbed from the mess at random.

2) Unrealistic expectations. I expect myself to apply best practices as soon as I encounter them, but things are simply easier said than done. That’s why New Year’s resolutions fall by the wayside, even though we know they would make us happier and healthier. It’s just human nature to fall into the same old habits we’re used to.

What I can do: Realize that these lessons are called “practices” for a reason, because they’re not quick and permanent fixes, Like the board game Othello, they take “a minute to learn, a lifetime to master.” I’m working on taking a pause before reacting, and while this will get easier, it may always take conscious effort — especially when it comes to parenting.

3) Blind spots. It’s hard to notice the gradual evolution in yourself because you’re with yourself 24/7. It’s like how you see someone else’s kids every so often and see how much they’ve grown, but you don’t notice the same kinds of changes in your own kids.

​What I can do: Recognize progress. I wish my 15-year-old self and my 37-year-old self could have coffee together so I could see all the ways I’ve evolved, due to life experience and work on myself. I know that I’m kinder, more confident, and less judgmental, and even in the areas I’m still working on, I’ve made progress.

What are the gaps between what you know and what you do? Where have you made progress, and which tools are you using to keep doing better? Hit reply and tell me.

what’s fueling me

Last week I was drafting a different TinyLetter that just wasn’t working, and I felt deflated and frustrated after wasting the one precious hour I have for creative projects in the morning. My sister happened to send me a clip of Janelle Monae on Sesame Street singing “The Power of Yet” (It “needs to be my mantra,” she said). It brought tears to my eyes because it was — and continues to be — exactly what I needed to hear.

Selling our old house (hallelujah!) has freed up time and money to put into our new house, and I was overjoyed to buy a longtime wish list item: a digital piano. I grew up playing an upright piano but have grown to prefer a digital because it’s compact and easy to move, you can change the key (helpful for singing when the piece is written too high or low for your voice), you don’t need to tune it, and there are a lot of fun features built in, like different instruments, a metronome, and the ability to record. I’ve been learning the Westworld theme, which is a shiveringly gorgeous piece of music, through a Guitar Hero-style tutorial on YouTube. The kids are enjoying messing around with making music, too.

I’ve been loving Spotify’s Time Capsule, which creates a two-hour playlist of songs from your teenage years based on your age and location. From “Interstate Love Song” to “I Love Your Smile,” these songs are making me feel like I’m 15 again, in the best way possible.

Signs from the Universe

Originally published as a TinyLetter

I was not expecting to change jobs last month, but sometimes the universe has other plans.

I’d been working for an education foundation and had started a new marketing role there in January. I was loving the work and my team, and things were humming along smoothly. I had just announced the new job on Facebook, and my friends were excited and supportive.

Then, one afternoon, somewhat but not completely out of the blue, it became clear that the CEO and I were not going to mesh. It felt awful, but it didn’t seem like I had much choice but to brush away the tears, dig in my heels, and soldier on.

As fate would have it, I did have another choice (and of course we always do). The very next day, Darren’s marketing director at Creative Distillery, his branding and design firm, let him know that she’d accepted another job. He was going to have to find someone to fill her role, someone with my exact skill set, and someone he trusted. What kind of crazy cosmic timing is that?

Still, my first reaction was no. I felt loyal to my team at the foundation. The money was good. It was easier to stick with what I knew than to risk making a change.

Darren and I kept talking it over. Could this work financially? Yes. Could we work together? We did it for four years while we got the business off the ground. Working for myself would open up more time for creative projects — my writing, the podcast that my sister and I have been working on — and I’d be able to speak freely about what I was struggling with without worrying about optics. Plus, when my kids were sick, I could work from home without feeling guilty about being out of the office.

It felt like a door had appeared in front of me, inviting me to step through it toward a bigger life, the kind I envisioned for myself. And I decided to listen to my instincts, summon my courage, and step through.

My first few weeks have been not without their challenges — the learning curve of any new role, adjusting to taking direction from my husband instead of leading my own team — but I know in my core that this was the right move. I just need to be patient and bear with the process (like I always say…) as I settle into the new normal.

I believe in signs from the universe that point us toward our calling. It’s up to us whether we pay attention and follow them. Sometimes it’s a rough road, and we may be able to see only a few feet in front of us at a time, but we have to trust that we’ll end up better off than where we started. Right now I’m not quite sure where my own path will lead, but I’m looking forward to finding out.

what’s fueling me


My friend Kathryn recently introduced me to “The Mother,” a gorgeous song that gets me a little verklempt every time I hear it. It captures the joys and sacrifices of motherhood that are so difficult to put into words. I’d heard Brandi Carlile’s name go by for years but had never listened to her music, and my friends say that her albums “Bear Creek” and “The Story” are their favorites. I love her voice and vibe and can’t wait to hear more.

 re: my last TinyLetter

In my last TinyLetter, “Untangling the Knots,” I wrote about being overwhelmed by the prospect of untangling a big, ugly mess of necklaces but achieving it one strand at a time. Afterward, I wrote to my writer friend Margaret, “Was I clear that the untangling can go beyond necklaces? Darren thought so, but now I’m wondering whether people got the metaphor I was going for!”

She replied, “Oh, I think people should get it! Especially with the context of your letters in general, no one would think you were advocating a child-centered approach to jewelry maintenance. :P”

But I think it did seem like I was just sharing a story about organizing my jewelry, to which you may have thought, “Hmm…good for you?” I could have given an example or two of applying the “one strand at a time” strategy, like paying off major debt or getting in shape when you haven’t exercised in a while.

With my old job, I’d have to rush a TinyLetter out on a Friday morning so I could get to work, but with my new role I can take a bit more time to say what I mean. Cheers to that.

Untangling the Knots

Originally published as a TinyLetter

You know when you move house and stash a few items in the corner, and suddenly it’s eight months later and they still haven’t put themselves away?

One of those items stored during our move last summer was my wooden jewelry rack. When I packed up the master bedroom in the old house, I put the rack in a large plastic bag, jewelry and all, and placed it flat on a high shelf in the master closet in the new house. I moved a few of my favorite necklaces and earrings into a bathroom drawer to wear until I could access the full selection.

As I was getting dressed each morning, I’d look up at the jewelry rack in the closet and think, “If you just make time to hang this, you’ll have less clutter and more jewelry to wear.” But the weekends would pass, and still it wouldn’t get done. Darren and I needed to buy a stud finder and batteries, and find some drywall anchors and the level and a sharp pencil. It all seemed like too much.

Last Saturday I told Darren, “If we do one thing this weekend, let’s hang my jewelry rack.” So with that laser focus, and with the kids playing together on the floor of our closet, we gathered up all of the items we needed and hung the rack. Seeing it hanging on the wall, at long last, felt like a huge victory.

But as it turns out, there was a Part 2 of the Jewelry Rack Challenge. My strategy to move the jewelry without it tangling didn’t work, and two dozen necklaces and various earrings had become twisted into an ugly mess. I set it on the floor and took stock of it. It looked tangled beyond resolution.

Maybe I should just put it back on the shelf and deal with it another day, I thought. It just seemed like too much to handle, when the kids were starting to go wild. But I knew that I would probably put it off for another six months.

Instead, I sat down on the floor and gently pulled the end of one strand, a thin, silver chain. Evan wanted to help, so I asked him to help me look for the path of the necklace. Over, under, and through, we freed the chain, hung it on the rack, and high-fived each other. Then we tackled a second. When one snagged too much, I resisted the temptation to use brute force that would further tangle the jewelry. Instead, we changed our focus to another necklace that was easier to extract.

One by one, we untangled them, unhurried but determined to reach our goal. Twenty minutes later, the pile on the floor had disappeared, and the necklaces and earrings hung in neat rows on the jewelry rack.

I almost couldn’t believe that we had overcome such a daunting task so quickly. It felt almost magical that suddenly there were no more knots to speak of. We had untangled all of them, one thread at a time.

what’s fueling me

I love The Bachelor, and I’m not ashamed to say it. The collective outrage this week over Arie’s take-backsies proposal to Becca and for-realsies proposal to Lauren, then the nationwide cheer when Becca was announced as Bachelorette, was riveting. The routine of watching The Bachelor and Bachelor-related shows, then dishing with my friends, consuming tweets, the feminist Here to Make Friends Podcast, and Ali Barthwell’s delightful Vulture recaps is one of the few things I do for pure enjoyment and not self-improvement.

The Parkland teens. ‘Nuff said.

This is from last spring, but a friend recently shared it and had me LOL’ing: Newport, Oregon police investigated what appeared to be a cat perched in a tree, holding an assault rifle.

This Is the Work

Originally published as a TinyLetter

“Mommmmyyyyy!” I hear my four-year-old wailing from his bedroom.

It’s the fourth time he’s called me in there, and the clock reads 10:35 p.m. It’s a weeknight, and I want to scream. All I ask after a long day is to drink a glass of wine and watch a half hour of Bachelor Winter Games before I inevitably fall asleep on the couch. A friend has just shared with me an article called “Study Confirms Putting Kids to Bed Earlier Is Better for Mom’s Mental Health,” and to this I say LOLOLOLOL.

As I go to tuck in my son and reassure him for the zillionth time that there are solid brick walls between him and the darkness outside, I remind myself that this is not a waste of time. Instead, “This is the work.”

I’ve had to repeat this mantra more than usual lately. The kids have had colds and have been clingy and fussy. The baby has wanted to be in my arms at all times, not understanding that this prevents me from washing her clothes, cleaning the kitchen, or doing much of anything else.

“This is the work,” I remind myself again.

These interruptions feel frustrating, like detours from whatever I want to be doing at the moment. And they are. But they’re also the actual, boots-on-the-ground work of parenting, not just a distraction to push past to get to the real stuff. I want my son to feel safe and learn to sleep better. I want to comfort my daughter when she’s sick. The minutes and hours I put in now are an investment in an outcome that’s important to me: happy, healthy kids.

This philosophy applies to creative work, as well. This TinyLetter has been sitting in my drafts since last fall, and I keep trying to get it right, changing out the anecdotes and tweaking the phrasing like I’m trying on hats.  I’m still not quite happy with it. But I keep plugging away, because one of my 18 for ’18 goals is to write a post biweekly. Even when it’s not quite working, this is the work.

The darkness outside won’t hurt you. Shh, baby, sleep. Type / delete / repeat. This is the work. This is the work. This is the work. A mantra to repeat often, as many times as it takes to get you where you want to go.

what’s fueling me

Elizabeth Gilbert recently lost her beloved partner, Rayya Elias, and posted this video of Rayya singing at the top of her lungs to the Doobie Brothers, full of joy in the midst of her suffering.

Amy Purdy’s story on Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations podcast gave me chills. Amy lost both of her legs to bacterial meningitis at age 19, but she has gone on to be a Paralympic snowboarder, model and actress, nonprofit founder, author, and competitor on Dancing with the Stars (I watched her in utter awe). She is a reminder that so many of our obstacles are internal, and there’s nothing really stopping us except for our own fear. I can’t wait to watch her TEDx talk, Living Beyond Limits.

18 for ’18

Originally published as a TinyLetter
I love a fresh start. Even opening a fresh page in my notebook at work or closing the many tabs open in my browser is a hopeful act, a chance to do a little better than before.

Gretchen Rubin, happiness researcher and one of my greatest role models, calls this “the strategy of the clean slate“:

The slate may be wiped clean by a change in personal relationships: marriage, divorce, a new baby, a new puppy, a break-up, a new friend, a death. Or the slate may be wiped clean by a change in surroundings: a new apartment, a new city, even rearranged furniture. Or some major aspect of life may change: a new job, a new school, a new doctor.

The New Year is the Super Bowl of fresh starts. I like to do a Year in Review in my journal — even a few bullets about the progress I’ve made — and then an activity envisioning what I want for the new year. I’ve done vision collages, outlined resolutions in Google Docs, and chosen a one-word resolution for the year.

This year I tried “18 for ’18,”which Gretchen and her sister, Liz, have been talking about on the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast. You write down 18 things you want to do in 2018, big or small, fun or not so fun but good for your well-being.

Here are my 18 for ’18:

  1. Stay current on news, from local to international, to know the headlines-plus.
  2. Work a little exercise into each day, even dancing to one song.
  3. Hang the pictures.
  4. Buy black dress pants that fit.
  5. Go on a date night with Darren at least once a month.
  6. Arrive five minutes early.
  7. Publish the book.
  8. Launch the podcast.
  9. Write a TinyLetter biweekly.
  10. Get rid of clothes that I haven’t worn in a year.
  11. Clean out the kids’ toys.
  12. Reinstate weekly lunch at home with Darren to connect with each other, pay bills, etc.
  13. Make time for joy every day: play guitar, dance, or sing.
  14. Meditate or journal for five minutes at least 3x/week.
  15. Make an emergency kit.
  16. Write a will.
  17. Spend 20 focused minutes a day following the kids’ lead in play.
  18. Connect with my parents and sister at least once a week.

Shoot for the moon and land in the stars, right? Because visible is memorable, I’m going to print them out and post them on the fridge. Then I can give myself stickers (literal gold stars) when I stick to my goals. It’s silly, but it totally works for me.

What are your 18 for ’18? Hit reply and tell me.

what’s fueling me


When I found out that my dear friend Chris Balme was dating the sister of indie artist Kina Grannis, I couldn’t get over how cool that was. When he married her over the holidays, and Kina not only wrote a song about their love story but featured their wedding footage in her new video, I lost my fangirling mind. It makes me so happy that Chris has found a love for the ages. Watch the video for “I Found You.” You may need some Kleenex — you’ve been warned.

Darren and I have jumped aboard the Instant Pot bandwagon, and it’s fantastic. Granted, he’s the one who does 90 percent of the cooking, so I’ve only observed the magic so far, but it’s made tender collard greens and potatoes fit for mashing, red lentil stew with kale and sausage, and chili in no time. It’s true that it should be called the “Hands-Off Pot” because it takes a while to come up to pressure and back down again, but it’s much more efficient than the slow cooker we used to use every week.

The Actor’s Life: A Survival Guide by Jenna Fischer is both hilarious and creatively encouraging. I love her stories about eight years of struggle and rejection in Hollywood before landing the role of Pam on The Office, and her advice about getting good at your craft and not giving up. It’s inspiring not just for actors, but for writers and other artists, too.

Christmas Cheer 2017

Originally published as a TinyLetter

As a child, I felt more and more excited as the holidays approached. Strings of lights twinkling around town, tins of cookies, Christmas carols, presents, time off school…what’s not to love?

Now that I’m an adult, I realize how hard the grown-ups, especially Mom and Dad, must have worked to make the holidays magical for me. All of those presents don’t thoughtfully pick out themselves! I wrote about this feeling a few Christmases ago, when the weight of so many obligations had all but crushed my Christmas spirit.

This year when one of my preset radio stations started playing all Christmas music, all the time, it wasn’t excitement that I felt. It was dread. Instead of singing along to Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” like I wanted to, all I could think about was my long To-Do list unspooling like a scroll.

When I told Darren about this, he said, “That’s not acceptable to me. What can we do to change that?”

In my world, any new undertaking calls for a Google Doc, so I created one called “Christmas Cheer 2017” (yes, tongue-in-cheek) and started unloading the To-Do’s rattling around in my brain: Bake cookies. Shoot Christmas cards. Buy presents. I was hoping that making a To-Do list would clear my mind and put the “happy” back in the holidays.

Well, it’s now midway through December, and I’ve succeeded in not being a stress ball. But I haven’t ever gone back to the list. I turns out that it wasn’t the To-Do list that’s made this holiday season more pleasant; it was the To-Don’t list: the things that I cut out or simplified that took the pressure off.

Darren designed a Christmas card with some of our favorite photos from this year, so we didn’t need to shoot new ones, and the printer sent it out. I made a one-stop shop at Shutterfly to personalize gifts for the whole family (looking at photos boosts happiness). I’m going to bake the simpler Christmas cookies and save the labor-intensive ones for my family get-together, when we can make a day of it. I bought a tabletop Christmas tree while grocery shopping at Kroger, and we decorated it as a family with carols in the background (Bing Crosby made me smile this time).

Project Christmas Cheer 2017 is working. It’s not that I’m gritting my teeth and getting through the Christmas season; I’m just cutting out everything that doesn’t matter to me so I can focus on what does.

Please remind me of this next week if I have a meltdown next week during “Spirit Days” at Evan’s school. (Why, God, WHY?!)

what’s fueling me

I printed a few copies of the Reschool Yourself manuscript on CreateSpace, and it was a beautiful moment to lift it out of the box and into the world as a real book. I have a few trusted “beta readers” who are helping me tighten it up, and they’ve been sending me photos of “Reschool Yourself in the wild.” My sister, Gill, sent me this from a cafe in Barcelona:

My sister-in-law, Meghan, sent me this one, cozy in her PJs with a fittingly inspirational mug:

I put my book on the shelf among the ones written by talented women I admire. It’s good for my soul.

It’s Okay to Buy the Cookies

Originally published as a TinyLetter


I signed up to bring cookies to my one-year-old daughter’s Thanksgiving luncheon knowing full well that baking on a weeknight would be stressful. But I love to bake, and the teachers love when I bake for them. I do it as often as I can, because God bless them for taking care of our munchkins all day, every day.

It was 8 p.m. by the time I started pulling ingredients out of the pantry to make cowboy cookies. I searched high and low for baking soda, but we were completely out. I vaguely remembered using the rest of a box to clean up a pet mess. I silently cursed the cats and dog and all of the messes they make.

Pretty much every cookie worth its salt (ha!) has baking soda in it, so I was SOL. It was too late to run to the store or bother our friends next door for some.

“Can you use Bisquick?” Darren said. “It already has baking soda in it.”

I thought this was a good hack and found a recipe for Bisquick cinnamon monkey bread to make after the kids were in bed. It wasn’t difficult, but it took a lot of time to roll each ball of dough, coat it in cinnamon sugar, and arrange it in a loaf pan. The consistency didn’t seem quite right, so I made a wetter version and a drier version.

It’ll be nice to have some extra for breakfast and bring some to work, I thought.

Well, neither scenario happened, because the wet version tasted like wet Bisquick covered in cinnamon sugar, and the dry version tasted like dry Bisquick covered in cinnamon sugar. Unless I screwed something up when I doubled everything, this recipe should not be out in the world!

I felt deflated. I’d tried so hard to make it work. I knew that a lot of the other parents would be bringing homemade side dishes and desserts, but it just wasn’t going to happen for me this time.

It’s okay to buy the cookies, I told myself.

I repeated it again when I stopped by the Whole Foods bakery before the luncheon and picked up a box of chocolate chip cookies. And again when I arrived at the school and saw the pies, cobblers, and homemade chocolate chip cookies that the other parents had brought. I felt so sad about my failed baking experiment that I almost turned around and went back to work.

I know that comparing yourself to others pretty much guarantees that you’ll be unhappy. I wouldn’t judge another parent for bringing something store-bought instead of homemade, because we are all doing the best we can, but I hold myself to a stricter and often unreasonable standard. And I really just wanted to contribute.

The funny thing was that there were so many other desserts in the luncheon pile that mine wouldn’t have stood out even if it had turned out beautifully. And the store-bought cookies ended up being eaten more than some of the homemade desserts that were still covered and didn’t have serving utensils with them. Plus, the bakery cookies were actually pretty delicious (I ate two).

Most of all, seeing my little girl’s face light up when I walked into the room unexpectedly reminded me what was really important — and why we parents brave the unbridled chaos of the preschool Thanksgiving luncheon. She climbed all over me, using my leggings as a napkin, and when her dad arrived she beamed even more. She didn’t care a bit that I’d bought the cookies. Having Mama and Daddy eat with her was more than enough.

Friends, it’s okay to buy the cookies. It really is.


what’s fueling me

A few of the talented women I know have released books in the past month:

The Grasping Root, by Margaret Pinard – a historical novel set in 1824 Nova Scotia, book 2 of the Remnants series

Start, Love, Repeat: How to Stay in Love with Your Entrepreneur in a Crazy Start-Up World, by Dorcas Cheng-Tozun – a practical guide to building a healthy relationship when your partner is an entrepreneur

Heating and Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs, by Beth Ann Fennelly – a new genre of poetry + narrative nonfiction, a collection of vivid snapshots from the author’s life

I’m going to dedicate a shelf to these books, to inspire me to add my own to the collection. I’ve ordered some copies of the Reschool Yourself manuscript in book form from CreateSpace and am in the process of researching and querying agents. It’s slow going because I have only around an hour each morning, but it’s going.

I felt buoyed by this Happier in Hollywood podcast interview with Jenna Fischer, who talks about her new book, The Actor’s Life: A Survival Guide. She struggled for eight years before being cast in The Office and talks about feeling like no one would ever notice her. She urges artists to keep trying and assures them that they’ll find their fit eventually. It takes fifty no’s to get one yes (like I always say… 🙂 ).

 If this post adds something to your life, please share it!

Stay in touch:

Let Yourself Off the Hook

Originally published as a TinyLetter


HGTV Magazine has a recurring feature called, “How bad is it…” It presents common everyday scenarios, like “…to swipe $20 from your spouse’s wallet?” and “…to not start bagging your groceries yourself at checkout?” and gives it a rating (kinda bad! and not so bad!).

Darren and I joke that if the two of us were to write the “How bad is it…” feature, our ratings would look like this:

How bad is it…

…to send your kid to the school’s evening fall festival in his uniform instead of his Halloween costume? 
Melia’s rating: Kinda bad! / Darren’s rating: Not so bad!

…to leave a large, fallen tree branch in your front yard until it’s brown and dry?
Melia’s rating: Pretty bad! / Darren’s rating: Not bad at all!

…to delay getting our our old house ready to list because we’ve had a lot of other things going on?  
Melia’s rating: Really bad! / Darren’s rating: Not so bad!

You can see the pattern here. Darren almost always lets himself off the hook, truly believing that he’s always doing his best with the knowledge and the bandwidth that he has at the time. I can count on one hand the times that I’ve ever seen him get mad at himself for something. I simultaneously admire and am annoyed that he’s so easy on himself, because I come down hard on myself literally every day for infractions both big and small. I carry a list of grievances against myself that I run through in my mind, like Arya Stark reciting her list of enemies.

The time I was late for that meeting with my boss (pretty bad!). The time I forgot to send money with my then-three-year-old for the circus, so he couldn’t play games or buy snacks (super bad!). The list goes on.

I want to be clear that I don’t hold other people by anywhere near the same standards. It’s somehow okay for them to do these kinds of things, but not for me.

A few weeks ago, Elizabeth Gilbert linked to an interview that she’d given for an online course called the Self-Acceptance Summit. (It’s not cheap, but it’s cheaper than therapy!) It spoke to the issue of being much harder on ourselves than we are on anyone else.  Here’s an excerpt from the transcript of “Test Everything Against Love”:

And sometimes I feel like when I’m really beating myself up about my best not having been good enough, “You should’ve known, you should’ve done better, you should’ve seen this coming. Ten times you were warned, why didn’t you…” All of that stuff that you do to yourself, it’s so savage—so savage. I just think—I have to almost go out of myself, and I have to not see myself as Liz who failed. I have to see myself as a member of the human family, as a human being. And I have to look at all the other human beings who I know and love, and look at all of the things that they’ve failed at, and say, “Knowing that person as well as you know them, Liz, and loving them as much as you love them, was their best good enough? Were they doing their best? Was there anything they could have done differently, really?” And the answer is always no.

And what I think we do is that we want to love humanity and we want to be people who love and embrace and forgive and accept humanity, but we forget to include ourselves in that. And sometimes the only way I can forgive myself is by thinking of myself as a human being, not as Liz. And here is a tenet that I believe: I believe that all human beings are deserving of grace and forgiveness and compassion and second chances and humanity. I believe that all human beings are worthy and deserving of that. And I believe that as a member of the human species, I therefore also must be worth and deserving of that.

And if I hold myself outside of that, there’s a dark narcissism to that that says only I, Liz Gilbert, am exempt from forgiveness and grace and compassion. Everyone else gets to have it from me, but I don’t get to have it because I’m some sort of a special case. If I think I’m some sort of a special case, I basically think I’m God. I basically think I’m the only one who isn’t a human among the family of humans. I’m the only one who is held to a higher standard. I’m the only one who actually should be perfect. Everybody else doesn’t have to be. 

And the thing that I tell myself, again and again, when I get on that perfectionist bent of “Your best wasn’t good enough, you should’ve known better, why did you fuck up again, you’re the worst, worst, worst, worst, worst” is I say, “Liz, if you are not innocent, nobody is. If you are not innocent, then everyone has to be held to the same standard, that same harsh cruel standard that you’re holding yourself to. If you’re not innocent, nobody is. That means if you’re guilty of everything in your life, then everybody else is too. And if that’s the case, you don’t need to worry about going to hell because you’re already there. You’re living in a planet that is hell, where no one is innocent, where no one gets a reprieve, where no one is entitled to grace, where no one is allowed to say, ‘I should’ve known better but I didn’t,’ where no one gets second chances, where no one gets to be let out of the hole of shame. And if that’s where you live, you are in hell. You are in hell and so are all the other humans.”

And until you can extend that same grace and compassion and forgiveness to yourself that you want and claim, especially as a spiritual person, if you’re listening to this, you’re a person on a spiritual path, which means you believe that human beings are entitled to compassion. Until you extend it to yourself, you won’t be able to actually have mercy for anybody else either, because there’ll be this secret dark little part of you that looks upon everyone else’s failings and everyone else’s errors and everyone else’s shortcomings and says, “They should’ve done better. They should’ve known better.” And then you’re just keeping everybody in hell. And that’s not good enough for me. If I’m going to be a perfectionist, I’m going to be a perfectionist about that.

So next time you’re running through your own list of grievances against yourself, ask yourself how Liz Gilbert and Darren would rate each infraction.

Not so bad!

Not bad at all!

Let yourself off the hook. Because you’re doing the best you can with the knowledge and bandwidth you have at any given time. Because if you’re not innocent, nobody is.

what’s fueling me

A Catfishing with a Happy Ending – The Atlantic (h/t Darren). I hope this stranger-than-fiction love story is made into a movie.

This is Your Brian on Nature – Hurry Slowly, a podcast about leveling up by slowing down. As a lover of “The Great Indoors,” I need to be intentional about getting outside. I’ve started taking a short walk outside during the work day to get some fresh air and sunshine and clear my head.

The Big Sick – This is the first movie that I’ve seen in ages, and I just loved it. Funny, poignant, original and based on a true story about the first year of comedian Kumail Nanjiani’s relationship with his wife, Emily.

Chocolate Riesen – I stumbled upon these at the supermarket the other day. How did I forget that these chewy little delights existed?


 If this post adds something to your life, please share it!

Stay in touch:

When the Wheels Fall Off the Bus

Originally published as a TinyLetter


Well, this week did not go as planned! On Monday afternoon, the baby was sent home from day care because she was throwing up and lethargic. When I updated Darren via G-chat, he said that he was also feeling bad. He came home that night and face-planted on the couch, immobile. He tends to be a bit dramatic when he’s sick (see The Man Cold vs. The Mom Cold), so I gave him a bunch of ibuprofen and thought it would pass.

The next morning he still had a horrible headache, so after dropping off our four-year-old at school, I took Darren to urgent care. They referred him to the ER for a CT and blood work. We spent the day at St. Dominic’s with the baby in tow (who was still sick, as well, and projectile vomited in the exam room) waiting for test results. Darren’s mom, Jill, works at St. Dom’s and came around lunchtime to hold the baby so I could get some food.

Darren needed a spinal tap to test for meningitis. Just the words “spinal tap” make me a little green, but he said he felt only the stick from the lidocaine shot and then didn’t even realize the spinal tap was happening.

I wasn’t scared until the nurse started an IV on Darren, saying that he was being admitted to the hospital but not telling us why. “The doctor will talk to you about that,” she said. The CT hadn’t shown any physical abnormalities, but my mind still began to run wild.

I walked out to the common area and heard the doctor say to someone on the phone, “Meningitis.” He came into the exam room and told us the same. The spinal fluid hadn’t shown any bacteria, which was a relief, because bacterial meningitis is far more serious than viral meningitis. Darren very likely had the latter. They moved him to a hospital room and started antibiotics just in case it was bacterial (after culturing the spinal fluid, they confirmed that it wasn’t). I wondered if I should take the baby to the ER that night for testing, but the advice nurse said to wait to see her regular pediatrician in the morning. Turns out it was just a normal virus, which has passed now.

In case you’ve been around us recently and are freaking out that you might get viral meningitis, read this from the CDC. You don’t need to worry. In short, it’s typically a regular virus that manifests as cold, flu, etc. in most people but, for whatever reason, inflames the brain and spinal tissue in the rare instance. So you could have caught the virus that made Darren sick (he’s no longer contagious), but it’s very unlikely to develop into meningitis. Darren and the baby probably had the same thing.

And if you’re thinking, “Why didn’t you tell us sooner?” — it’s a weird situation, trying to figure out whom to tell about an emergency, and when and how, especially when words like “viral meningitis” can cause unnecessary panic. It takes a surprising amount of energy both to keep all the different circles of people informed and to manage a flood of replies (questions, worries, and offers to help, by text, phone, email, and Facebook) when you’re already overwhelmed. It’s a blessing, of course, that so many people care about us and want to pitch in. We truly appreciate it, and you don’t need to do anything differently. I have more bandwidth to engage now, from here at home, than from the ER.

Jill watched the kids on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings so I could visit Darren. Every time he moved, he felt excruciating pain in his head, but the rest of the time he was able to watch baseball and instant message his Creative Distillery team. He joked that it was kind of a vacation — the most peace and quiet that he’d had in four years.

I took him home on Thursday afternoon, and he’s doing OK. He still has a nasty headache and tires easily, even walking from room to room. A full recovery will take weeks. It’s going to be an interesting adventure, given how much we already have going on when we’re both healthy. This morning I was trying to color pictures with a whiny four-year-old while preventing the baby from putting each crayon in her mouth, while the dog was barking for food and the cats were scratching up the new furniture. There are a lot of competing needs to meet all at once.

So yeah, this week kind of sucked, and things are going to be a little rough for a while. But it could be much worse, and we have a lot to be grateful for. We live a few blocks away from excellent medical care. We have insurance. We sought treatment early. We have tons of loving support from family and friends. My boss and team cleared my calendar for the week. My in-laws will do anything for us. Seth and Alicia, our dear friends next door, picked up our son from his after-school program when I was rushing to drop off Darren’s prescription and pick up the baby. They fed him dinner (he even ate vegetables!!), then fed us, and took him to school the next morning.

I get choked up thinking about how fortunate we are to have our little village surrounding us. When the wheels fall off the bus, we have a lot of people helping us put them back on again.

what’s fueling me

Celebrities Read Mean Tweets #11
 – Jimmy Kimmel Live (h/t Gillian Burgess)

President Obama: Dropping off Malia at college was like ‘open-heart surgery’ – (h/t Laverne Dicker)

Teen Titans Go! – A wickedly funny cartoon that the whole family loves.

Snack Pack Naturals Chocolate Pudding – Chocolate pudding makes everything better.



If this post adds something to your life, please share it!

Stay in touch:

Image via Tsuji, Flickr Creative Commons

Am I Turned Outward Today?

Originally published as a TinyLetter



As I dropped off my daughter at day care, a poster on the wall caught my eye. “AM I TURNED OUTWARD TODAY?” it said in white capital letters against a red background.

If you ask me that question at any given moment during the day, the answer is probably no. One of the hallmarks of being an introvert is a “rich inner life,” as I’ve heard it described; I’m often so lost in thought that I don’t register what’s happening around me. I’m turning an idea over in my mind, running through To Do lists, or ruminating on something that’s bothering me. I take up residence in my own head without even realizing it.

Last night I was reading a bedtime story to my four-year-old, one called “Lion Lessons” that he’s chosen for the past few nights. When I got to the middle of the story, I noticed a scene that I’d read out loud several times before without even registering what it said, because my mind had been a thousand miles away. This happens we’re playing action figures, too. I’ll have Spider-Man run away from Venom, and my son will say, “No, Mommy! They’re friends!” He’s told me, but I didn’t hear him. I was just going through the motions.

The problem with turning inward is that you miss out. You’re staring at your phone instead of being aware of your surroundings (it kills me when I look up and see my baby girl smiling at me, and I wonder how long she’s been trying to get my attention). You don’t take in useful information (my mind has wandered off during more webinars than I can count). You’re so focused on your own little corner of the universe that you don’t observe what’s going on elsewhere.

When this happens en masse, neighbors don’t know each other, and we’re blindsided by the things that happen in our communities. Here in Mississippi, the State Board of Education voted yesterday to take over the public school district where my son is enrolled. A community group came together to try to maintain local control, but it was too late. On a national level, forward-thinking Americans were shocked by the election last November and only then realized that we’d been asleep at the wheel, not attuned to the way that millions of people were thinking. We were not turned outward.

The poster on the wall at my daughter’s day care came from Harwood: The Institute for Public Innovation. I looked it up and learned that it’s “a nonpartisan, independent nonprofit that teaches, coaches and inspires people and organizations to solve pressing problems and change how communities work together.” I found a HuffPost piece by its founder, Richard Harwood, who wrote:

Being intentional means becoming more deliberate in your actions. It is to make choices about whether to take one course over another. It is to be more attentive to your surroundings – that you hold a greater awareness about who we are, who we want to become, and the kind of change you seek to generate. In these ways, being intentional is about being more directed.

But I am moved most by the following definition of intentionality – which comes in two parts. The first involves what I think of as “wakefulness.” I love this word. I encourage you to consider its meaning and potential for your own engagement. Wakefulness suggests that we are alert. That we come to the world awake! Our eyes are wide open, our hearts are open, and we are willing to see and hear that which is around us. In being wakeful, we are ready to engage, to be with others.

We can start now by asking ourselves, “Am I turned outward today?” We can get out of our own heads, look up from our phones, talk to our neighbors, and go to school board meetings. If we see something gets us fired up, we can share it with our friends instead of just consuming it. We can pay attention to what’s happening in other parts of the country and the world; we can call our representatives and vote at the ballot box and with our dollars.

If each of us can turn outward a little more, we can take those rich inner lives and leverage them into rich lives in general, for us all.

what’s fueling me


Nathan Fielder: How The Cult Comedian Rules the Outer Limits of Awkward (Rolling Stone) – Nathan for You is one of the most uncomfortably hilarious shows on TV, and I laughed out loud at some of the scenarios he’s cooked up to help small business owners.

Inspired Man Bolts Out Of Bed At 3 A.M. To Jot Down Great New Worry (The Onion) – Me, pretty much.

By the Book podcast – A believer in personal development and her no-nonsense friend follow the rules of a different self-help book to the letter for two weeks at a time. It’s fun to hear about what worked for them and what didn’t, and they share takeaways from books like The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

 If this post adds something to your life, please share it!

Stay in touch: