And so it goes...

Last night I found out that my brother is going back to prison.

It's a difficult thing - to write about your own life and at the same time, try to respect the privacy of the people in your life. It's not my job or my place to tell their stories. But our stories are interwoven and...

I was raised with Denial. It's unhealthy. I want to smash Denial to pieces. Denial has wreaked havoc on my family. Denial lives inside of my brother and it eats him alive.

So do I write? Or do I say nothing? If I say nothing, is it Denial or is it respect for privacy?

So I land here: You cannot live with Denial. 

You cannot pretend that you're not sick. That you don't need help. That your childhood didn't happen that way. That people didn't hurt you. That you didn't hurt people. That your problems aren't too big and that you don't feel lost and out of control.

Denial will set up residence in your mind and she will poke and prod at you and then turn away and pretend like it wasn't her. She will drive you mad. She will drive you to drink. To put the needle in your arm. To lash out at everyone around you. To just say fuck it all, because what does it matter anyway?

And then Denial will tell you that there's nothing wrong. That this is normal. That no one wants to hear about your problems, anyway. Pretend everything is fine, and eventually it will be. Pretend that it wasn't that bad, and eventually you will forget.

Denial.

My heart is broken for my brother. For my entire family. For the way that we are splintered and awkward and uncomfortable and broken.

What do we do with this mess? 

We move Denial out.

We don't pretend that we're not sick. That we don't need help. We don't pretend that we aren't broken and splintered. We don't pretend that this isn't a mess. We don't pretend that we can fix each other. We don't pretend that things are fine when they are not.

It's not an easy task...to move Denial out. It hurts. But break ups are always hard. Until the day you wake up and you breathe. And you have that moment. That "oh" moment. When you realize it really is better this way. As hard as it was to let go, as long as it has taken you to get over her, life really is better without Denial.

Let her go.


2003. Denial and I have a very long history together.








Mother's Day is hard

I hate mother's day. And then I don't.

And that goes back and forth for me all week, until the day finally arrives. And I hate it. And I don't.

I'm lucky enough to have had one bad marriage that came with a mother-in-law who taught me about independence and self worth. I had a terrible relationship with my own mother, so the maternal figure that my mother-in-law became in my life was welcomed, appreciated and loved.

And then divorce. As most divorcees can tell you, you usually don't just lose the husband.  You lose everything that came with it...and everyone. I mean...it was a good thing, because the marriage was bad. But I immediately missed his family.

And then, for several years after that, I did the rollercoaster ride with my own mother. I would try with her, and it would hurt so bad. Or the anger would just consume me. The conflicted feelings. The random strangers and friends telling me that nothing mattered because my mother gave birth to me and THAT...that was a free pass for anything she threw my way.

I remember when I was a kid I gave my mother a mother's day card that I had made. It said something along the lines of "I love you more than choclate." I spelled chocolate wrong. For the rest of the day, my mom made fun of me. All day. "Chok-LATE." "Who wants "Chok-LATE." "We have to be on time or we'll be chok-LATE."

chokLATE chokLATE chokLATEchokLATEchokLATEchokLATEchokLATE

All day. Forget the physical abuse. Forget the sexual abuse. Forget the emotional trauma. Forget that my childhood wired my brain for fear which has created a never ending supply of super awesome mental health problems. Forget all of that.

Mother's Day is chocolate. Spelled wrong. And shouted in your ear all day long.

Anyway, years later, after the rollercoaster ride with my mother had made me sufficiently nauseous, my therapist posed the following question to me, "Do you like her?" And I said no. And she asked, "If you met her today, and she were not your mother, would you be friends with her?" And I said no. And she said...

"Then let go. There is no law that says you have to continue this relationship. Sometimes mothers and daughters just don't work. And it's ok. You can let go."

And so, for the most part, I let go. Because someone finally said, "it's ok."

Soon after, I met my husband. And his family.  His beautiful, kind, loving, flawed, authentic, amazing family. His mom. Oh my God...his mother. And his sister, who is a mother. And his aunt, who is a mother. His Yia Yia (grandmother, for those who don't know the Greek Grandma). They're a normal family. Sometimes they fight. Sometimes they cry. But they love fiercely. It's...

...it's really cool.

So on Mother's Day, I am conflicted. It feels weird to be a person who shouts "I am enough!" to the heavens on a regular basis, yet I have estranged myself from my mother. Am I saying that she is not enough? Brene Brown says something along the lines of  "each one of us is doing the best they can." Which - to be honest, the first time I read that I was like..."you SUCK, Brene Brown." I think I threw the book across the room.

And then I started thinking about it and thinking about intent. And the thing is, I don't think my mother is malicious. I don't think she wanted to mother me poorly. She was young. She had some big problems. I was her first kid. I like to think of it as a trial run, so that she could do better the next few times.  I think she did the best that she could. We just... we don't...fit.

So where do "I don't talk to my mother," "people are doing the best that they can," and "we are all enough" intersect?

I'm not sure. I'm old enough and have had enough therapy to know that the healthiest relationship with my mother is no relationship. And I know that that clashes with the idea of being enough and how forgiveness works for some people.

So on Mother's day, I wrestle with my brain. I try to smother memories of chokLATE. I try to remember that people do the best they can. I try to remember what's healthy for me.

And I celebrate the mothers around me who rise to the challenge of motherhood every day. Who have mothered me and blessed me with their love. Who struggle but keep going. Who love their children so fiercely and beautifully that it fills me with a sense of longing but also so much admiration and respect.

We can let go of our own mothers and still appreciate mothers. We can be sad and happy on mothers day. We can be conflicted. We can cry. We can laugh. Mother's Day is just like that for some people. And that's ok.


Shirley Maclaine screaming at the nurse for pain medication for her daughter in "Terms of Endearment" is my Mother's Day go to...weird?

Bravery is pretty much the scariest thing ever

I've talked about scuba diving here before. About how scuba diving is really scary and that depression can feel like the scariest part of scuba diving (at least for me). That part where you're in the water, and you're deep enough that you can't see the surface. You can't see the bottom. There is no end to the water around you. You're just there. In the nothing. And you don't know what's coming, or where it's coming from, and all you can hear is the sound of your own breathing and it's so loud and you're in the nothing and breathing and nothing and loud and claustrophobia and finally... just panic.

I've talked about that, right?

Did I tell you that in a million years I was never going to get certified to scuba dive? Because sharks are everywhere. And piranha. And also, dead bodies (I watched too many scary movies and read too many Stephen King books as a kid).

But I love the water. And I'm so obsessed with sea creatures and coral reefs.




I read this thing about this aquarium in Georgia where you can swim with whale sharks, and I was like "THAT...would be the coolest thing ever." And then I read the part where, for the best experience, you should be scuba certified. And I was like,"THAT...sucks. I'm not gonna do that."

But the more I thought about, the more I wanted to do it. And I KNEW my husband would love it. And it was a total surprise to me, but you can actually get certified to scuba dive right here in the midwest.

So we signed up for the course.

I'm going to skip over all of the learning stuff and the exercises and just tell you that the first time I submerged completely in all of the scuba gear...IN A SWIMMING POOL...I freaked out.

I came right out of the water and was all sorts of  Nope. No. Nuh uh. No. Absolutely not.

It took a good ten minutes to calm down enough to go back under.. But - once I was under, it was actually really cool.

Swimming pools have clear water. And walls. And aren't terribly deep. You can see the end. You can see the beginning. You can see what's coming.

Swimming pools are NOT the nothing.

But quarries are! And that's where we went for the next part of our class. Our group went to the quarry and we all swam out to the middle, where there was a bright orange buoy. And we all grabbed this rope and lowered ourselves down...about 12 feet...to this underwater platform where we started the next part of our training.

I had a panic attack.

And the thing about scuba diving is, when you're in the water, you can't just shoot up out of the water. You have to rise slowly. So I'm freaking out and just trying to get to the surface but also trying to remember all of the rules so that I don't die but also freaking out and everyone is looking at me because I'm screwing up the class for everyone else and I'm pretty much the worst and DEAR GOD JUST GET ME TO THE SURFACE.

My husband doesn't miss many opportunities to tease me...but he's also really awesome. He loved everything about learning to scuba dive so much and I know I was totally messing up his good time, but he was completely patient with me.

Eventually, I went below the surface again.

And finally, despite multiple freak outs, I got scuba certified.



The thing is - I was scared the whole time. And I'm still scared. I'm quite sure that the next time we go into the water, I'm going to have a really hard time. At least...until we get to the part where I'm face to face with a school of fish. And they're swimming around and some of them come right up and look you in the eye because you're a curious looking creature in their space...and then they swim off and so you swim off as well and it's so peaceful and amazing and it's kind of like flying and...the fear is worth it. 




I was thinking about scuba diving this week because I posted two things that really freaked me out. I posted about the worst thing that I had ever done. And I posted a video of myself, where I was super raw and emotional.

And both times I posted, I had a running tally in my head of the people who I knew, should they see either of these things, would mock them. And this isn't even an imaginary fear. Because of everything that happened last year, I'm only too aware that people like to say bad things about me. And while I would love to say I don't care...I can't. I'm better at handling it, but of course I don't want to have people sitting around and making fun of me. I mean...gross.

So I was terrified to post those things. It's not easy for me to write about some of the things I write about. Or post a video where I just cry and my nose is running and I'm sure my teeth are just too big and the whole time I'm thinking "don't look like a horse, don't look like a horse, don't look like a horse."

I have a really hard time sharing some of this stuff, for a variety of reasons.

But it's SO much easier than going out into the world after I post those things, knowing that people have seen them. Knowing that they have read about the worst parts about me and seen my insecurities and my pain and my too big teeth and ...sometimes I can't even leave the house for a couple of days after I post something. 

And then, because you are amazing, you tell me that I'm brave.

And I'm like...no. You guys...I am so freaked out right now. I can't even leave my house. Like - I'm still in my pajamas. I won't even put on real clothes.

And you guys are like..."thank you for being brave."

And I'm so thrown off by that, because I don't feel brave. 

And then you tell me again...thank you for being brave. You tell me, "I saw this and I finally called a therapist." Or "I finally talked to someone about their depression." Or "I feel less alone." Or "me too." 

And I'm like...oh. Wow. Because that matters. And so I keep going. And I'm freaked out every time. And I always feel scared. And I wanted you to know that if what I do is brave, then you shouldn't discount your own bravery just because it might not feel like bravery. Or at least what we think bravery should feel like. If this is brave, then I think bravery feels like fear. And it can be really uncomfortable. 

Sometimes, getting out of bed and putting on real clothes is brave. Or waving at a stranger. Or asking someone if they're feeling suicidal. Or telling someone that they hurt you. Or strongly disagreeing with someone you love. Or quitting your job. Or leaving a relationship. Or saying no. Or making waves. Or being honest about who you are. Or being a parent (how do you guys even DO that?)

And we don't call it bravery because it feels like fear.

So I want you to know that if I'm brave, you're brave, too. And I hope that you can recognize it in yourself and appreciate all of the hard things that you do every single day. All of the things that you don't want to do but that you keep doing, because you know that beyond the fear and exhaustion and doubt lies something that's far more important.

I posted this video the other day because I think that sharing this story should be bigger than my fear. And I want you to know that I hate that it's out there. And that I hate the way that I look. And I'm scared of strangers on the internet judging me. And everything about it feels gross gross gross. 

Until someone sees it and it prompts them to open up. To seek help. To talk about it. To feel less alone.

And then it feels like scuba diving.  Like floating in a school of fish, in this amazing world that you didn't know that you could be a part of, surrounded by the peacefulness of water, knowing that the fear was worth it. Bravery is fear, you guys. And we're all so much braver than we ever think we are.







The business of feelings

Sooooo....

This week I've been knee deep....waist deep? Neck deep in building a business. I've built businesses before and I've been successful. But it's always been with very little money and not much knowledge. I had to work a lot and I had to study a lot. I had to fail a lot. And this all feels a lot like starting from scratch, and failing every single day, because the world has changed so much since I last did this.

Hey Lola is a business.

I know that it is, but I hate saying it. Mainly because of this blog.  Because this blog is where I pour my heart out and you guys come here and so often you pour your hearts out back to me and it feels so amazing to be here in this space and just KNOW that I'm not the only awkward kid in the room. We're all awkward and amazing here together and it's really been a beautiful experience.

But...

Hey Lola is a business. Ugh. I mean...I started this blog in 2009 specifically to drive business to my Etsy store. But back then it didn't feel weird because honestly - I wrote about dogs, cake, Kevin Bacon and jewelry. Actually, for a really long time I just wrote stories about my husband and made pictures like this:



And none of that felt weird. I just needed a place to put an ad for my store and I figured my own blog was as good as any. But now...it feels weird. It feels a lot like I'm saying, "Hey you guys, check out all of these feelings and also, give me a dollar." 

So this week, as I'm taking webinars and creating spreadsheets and studying algorithms on social media and just posting all over the place just to try and figure out the right formula, it feels a little gross. You know? A little inauthentic.

The blog was never designed to be a business. The jewelry company was. But when the bottom fell out of everything and I started writing about it and then I decided to make jewelry that was specific to healing and spirituality and recovery and the Penny Project, it all became intertwined. Right now, they exist together. 

I had to turn the Hey Lola facebook page from "blog/website" to "public figure" in an attempt for facebook to verify me so that I can protect the name "Hey Lola."  That felt gross.

I learned how to hide hashtags on my instagram posts and that I should use as many as possible. Feels gross.

I had to make an editorial calendar for the blog to make sure I'm posting regularly which is...how do I post regularly about feelings when I don't even know when I'm going to feel them or if I'm even going to want to talk that day or get out of bed? And the internet was like, "Oh - just blog ahead of time and schedule your post." 

Right. A feelings schedule. Super gross.

I took a webinar on pinterest, so I'm designing pins that are "clickable" for the blog. Feels so gross.

Everything that I've learned has pointed to "you have to be the face of your brand." Like - a literal picture of me has to be identifiable with Hey Lola. So I took a picture and then I pasted it all over the internet, including the jewelry website. THIS FEELS REALLY GROSS.

I am in battle with myself over the dream of the tourbus and the hugs and the pop-up shops and eating dinner vs. feeling gross about feelings as a business.

I try to remind myself that some of my favorite authors write about feelings and that that's how they make a living. Glennon Doyle Melton. Brene Brown. Rob Bell. Reba Riley. Lacey Sturm. I love the crap out of them. I paid money to feel feelings about the feelings that they wrote about. Because feelings.

I have to remind myself that I deserve to eat, too and having a goal is awesome and I truly love writing and creating and hopefully someday I can just pay somebody to do the gross stuff...

It just feels weird right now. Like...


Gross.


That's it. I don't have anything profound to say. I'm just struggling with staying really focused on the dream while feeling uncomfortable about some of the steps necessary to get there. Oh! I guess the profound bit is - I'm still in the game. I'm still working on the dream... even when it feels like this:



Or this...





or this...


(images via photographer Kaija Straumanis. Her "stuff that hit me in the head" series made my whole day.)







When Your Dreams Are Too Big.

When I was in junior high, our school was putting on a production of "Once Upon a Mattress." I was really excited about it and had been working up the nerve to audition. I nervously told my parents about it and my stepdad laughed at me and said,"Seriously? You're going to sing? Who do you think you are?"

Wha...what? I was going to...I just thought...I mean...No? I shouldn't?



That's the first time I really remember feeling like my dreams were too big. And that I wasn't good enough. And I really wasn't good enough for my too big dreams. Which...a role in the school play isn't even that big of a dream. No way was I going to shoot for anything bigger than that.

I spent a really good chunk of my life keeping my dreams small. My dream is to have a paycheck. My dream is to not get fired. My dream is for my hair to look good today. My dream is to make enough money to get by.

And then, when I was 33, my dream became, "I don't want to work in clubs anymore where people point guns at me and try to grab my ass all night."  Real things that happened, real "dream." I was managing a strip club and had this sudden realization that this was my life. Hoping I didn't get shot. Trying not to get felt up. Going home to my husband and trying to just be normal and not stressed out. And not feel worthless.

I didn't have any education. I was a high school drop-out with a GED and GEDs were really easy to come by when I got mine. I didn't know how to do anything except work in bars. So I decided to go back to school. I didn't even know what I wanted to study, I just knew that school would help me achieve the dream of "I don't want to work here anymore." I thought about it for a really long time and settled on...something smart. I'm going to study something that smart people study, because I'm dumb.

I really thought that. I thought that my entire life. I'm a high school drop-out, I'm dumb, and the whole world is smarter than me. So my education needed to be "something smart." I picked biology. After all, science is for smart people, right?

My placement tests were a joke. My composition skills were great, my math skills were non-existent. I would have to take a year of math before I could even get into college level courses.

Biology degrees require physics, calculus, and organic chemistry. Needless to say, people tried to dissuade me from biology. But...I was really, really tired of feeling dumb. So I chose biology anyway, and I just dove into math with everything I had.

I was terrible at it. Like - REALLY bad.

So I bugged my teachers every single day. I was in the math lab every single day. I didn't leave campus until I had finished my math homework and more. If we were assigned the even numbered problems, I did all of the problems.

I was not going to spend my life getting my ass grabbed and having guns pointed at me because I couldn't figure out how to solve for X.



So I got my associate's degree and because I had worked SO hard, I got a bunch of scholarships and I got accepted into a 4 year university. And I'm actually really, really good at math. And I got a job doing something that I loved and decided to take a hiatus from school for a bit.  And for a while, that was awesome. When I left that job, it was to open our bar Blue, and that was also awesome. I learned how to be an event coordinator in that time, as well, and I loved it.

Something as simple as being able to "solve for X" gave me the confidence to realize that I can figure out just about anything, if I set my mind to it.

But then my dreams got "too big" again...

When we closed the bar this past February, I said I wanted to work from home. The anxiety and depression meant my dream was just to not have to leave the house, ever again. And then, as I got better and more focused, my dream was to actually contribute to our household expenses. And then, as I got even better, I decided that my dream was to take Hey Lola on the road, in an RV or tour bus, with a traveling studio, and do pop up shops across the country and hug people and cry and tell them that they are worth SO MUCH and that they are loved and not alone and it's ok if you don't want to go to the party and your voice shakes when you speak because ME TOO! We're in this together! And maybe I could write a book or something and...

And then me was like, "Girl. That is so stupid. That's going to cost you like a trillion dollars and how is that even going to work? Reign it in. Why don't you just dream about paying your mortgage and buying groceries?"

But...but ..I could...

And me said, "Sister, you are delusional. Do you have any idea how much stuff you would have to sell every single week to do that? You can't even get out of bed half of the time! And you can't go on tour! You cry ALL.OF.THE.TIME. Who wants to talk to the crying girl?"

And I was like...Oh. Yeah. You're right. That's pretty dumb.

And me said, "Also, you're not going to write a book. You have a blog, not a book. You're not a writer. It's not the same thing. These are like...hobbies, not jobs. You should probably get ready to start waiting tables again."

And for a couple of days, I let that version of me drive the conversation and pretty much piss all over my big, beautiful tour bus dream.

And then, in this moment of clarity, I realized....never in a million years would I say that to someone if they came to me and told me that that was their dream. I would NEVER talk to anyone the way that I had talked to myself. If it was anyone else, I would have asked, "Do you have a plan? Do you have multiple goals before the big goal? Is it realistic? How committed are you? How can I help?" And I would have helped them formulate a plan because dreams are awesome and worth pursuing and who on earth tells someone with a dream that their dreams are TOO BIG?



Not me, you guys. I can solve for X. So I made a plan. And I set a series of goals that would need to be fulfilled in order to achieve the big goal. And in 3 years, I'm getting a tour bus and taking this show and my whole family on the road. That's the big goal. And if the big goal takes a little longer, that's ok. Because I know for sure it will NEVER happen if I give up on it or if I don't put together a plan that at least makes every attempt to reach it. Faced with "this is a possibility" vs. "never," I choose the possibility.

Don't ever let anyone tell you that your dreams are too big. You have the power to accomplish really amazing things. I believe in you. You should believe in you, too.



(OH! And I auditioned for "Once Upon a Mattress" anyway. And I was cast in a lead role, where I sang a song all by myself, in front of everyone. And I was good.)