Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Dead Weight

Have you ever carried a dead body?  My goodness, I hope not.  But what about a child who fell asleep on the couch or a frat brother who had a little too much to drink and passed out face-first in the toilet bowl?  Most of us have carried “dead weight” at some point in our lives, so we know that it seems to weigh a whole lot more than “regular weight.”  If that sleeping child was even half awake and not quite so limp, you could count on her to wrap her legs around your waist while you carry her to bed.  If that frat brother wasn’t three sheets to the wind, you could probably throw his arm around your shoulders and ask him to put one foot in front of the other so you could get him home.    You would still be carrying weight, but at least the burden would be shared. 

What kind of dead weight are you carrying around right now?  Some of us don’t even realize we are carrying it because we’ve gotten so used to the burden.  Dead weight can come in many forms.  It can be that really negative person in your life who doesn’t know how to find the silver lining in any situation.  When you talk to her, you try to help her see the bright side of things, but she would rather complain and wallow.  Maybe your dead weight is a long-distance family member who calls and talks about his own problems for 30 minutes straight and then says he has to go before it ever occurs to him to ask how you’re doing.  Does your dead weight live in your own mind?  Is it low self-esteem, anxiety, fear, addiction, doubt, or negativity? 

I’ve been carrying all kinds of dead weight around for years.  Some of my dead weight was people.  There were some who never had anything nice to say and tried to create or perpetuate drama in every situation.  They made me laugh from time to time and we had other friends in common, so I thought it just made sense to keep them around and not rock the boat.  Others would run to me with every need or problem, knowing that I would stop what I was doing to solve their problem, meet their need, or just give them a shoulder to cry on.  But when I had a need, they were too busy to help.  I’ve pulled away from a lot of these people because I realized that they were dead weight and I refused to let myself carry them any longer.  Some noticed, and some didn’t.  I’m not mean to them…I have no reason to be.  They are who they are and I can’t be mad at them for it.  However, I do not need to allow them to have a place in my inner circle.  That, my friends, has to be earned now. 

I think the most dead weight I carried lived right inside my own head.  I spent so many years trying to make other people like me that I never got to know who I really was.  Instead of being me, I was the version of me that I thought everyone else wanted.  Instead of knowing myself and owning my personality, I would adapt to whomever I was with at any given time.  Because I had no idea who I really was, I lacked confidence.  That constant second-guessing of myself – who I was, how I looked, what I wore, what I said, etc. – was enough dead weight to run me right into the ground.  I was also a worrywart.  I would worry about every detail in every situation, playing things out over and over again in my mind.  It was only when I started going to church, reading the Bible and listening to a whole lot of Joyce Meyer that I learned to turn all my worries over to God and enjoy peace while He took care of the rest. 

Getting rid of dead weight isn’t always easy.  In many cases, you can’t just drop it because once you’ve been carrying it for a while, it becomes a part of you.  You start to feel safe under the weight, and shedding it can feel pretty terrifying.  The first step is to take a good look at your life and the people in it so you can identify your dead weight.  After that, it’s a process and it takes some people longer than others to go through it.  I know firsthand what it’s like to know beyond the shadow of a doubt that something or someone is weighing you down but be too scared of the unknown to do anything about it.  The good news is that I got there.  It took time and I changed my mind about 47 and a half times, but I finally got there…and when I did, I felt that weight lift right off my shoulders and the freedom was almost intoxicating.  Now I'm ready to fly.  


Monday, March 24, 2014

What a Difference a Year Makes

One year ago today, my life changed dramatically.  There were days when I didn’t know how I would get out of bed and put one foot in front of the other, let alone take care of my daughter, go to work and get dinner on the table.  I’m typically pretty strong and positive, but I definitely felt myself sinking into that horrible place of self-pity.  I remember asking God, “WHY ME!?” and wondering what I had done to deserve what I was going through.   I made a lot of choices and sacrifices out of desperation, and they weren’t always the right ones.  I felt like nobody could possibly understand my pain, fear, disappointment and anger.  In a word, I felt alone.  I remember going to the doctor and hanging my head in shame as I told her that I couldn’t do it alone and that I thought I needed counseling and medication.  My OCD was out of control and my anxiety would go off the charts if there was the slightest change in my routine.  As the memories of my struggle with postpartum depression came flooding back to me and the tears started to fall on the floor in the doctor’s office, I wondered how many times I would have to go through this again.  Then I remembered what made it so bad the first time around: I tried to do it alone.  Then and there, I dried my tears, lifted my head and promised myself that I would NOT do it alone this time.  And I’m proud to say I didn’t.  I told a few trusted friends and family members and I was honest with my doctor about my symptoms.  What a difference it made.

I also realized that I needed more help this time around; more than friends, family, doctors and pills.  I knew I needed something much bigger than all of that…I needed Jesus!  My desperate circumstances led me to Tapestry Church, where I found a new home, became a part of a new family, and had a long overdue spiritual awakening.  I knew that I didn’t want to take those pills forever or continue paying over $200 a month for a therapist to let me sit on her couch and talk about my feelings.  I prayed about it often, and soon I realized that God was the best therapist I could ask for, and best of all, he doesn’t charge by the hour!  Every morning I used to take a pill, but now I read this every morning instead:



And I’m proud to say that I, Jenalee Hill, former uptight worrywart, have more peace in my life now than ever before.  The last year was probably the most challenging one of my life, and I know that there are more challenges to come.  But I don’t look back with any resentment or anger because not only did I get through it, I GREW through it.  A year ago I didn’t know how I could pick up the pieces and go on, but today I’m happier than I have been in years.  I learned something very important years ago, and it’s the reason I started this blog in the first place:




Sometimes the last thing I want to do is tell people what I’m going through because I feel ashamed or I don’t want them to pity me.  People generally mean well, but it really drives me nuts when someone defines me by my circumstances.  This alone makes me want to keep everything to myself, just to avoid them labeling me a victim and giving me that piteous look every time they pass me.  Nonetheless, I know that today’s tests are tomorrow’s testimonies and that my testimony is worthless if I keep it to myself.  I’m a witness to the beautiful things that can happen with effort, prayer and faith, and if my sharing can help even one person, it’s well worth it.  

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Stop Waiting and Start Doing!

Before I get into today’s blog, I need to do a little housekeeping.  You may have noticed that my blog is a little different today.  For a long time I made the decision to keep this blog secular so that I wouldn’t scare anyone off.  However, I’ve realized that my faith has played an enormous part in my journey toward health and wellness, so I should definitely talk about it.  Many times I have had ideas for blogs that I shelved because they may have crossed that invisible line into the spiritual realm, but I decided not to do that anymore.  I’m still the same girl who fought (and WON!) a long battle with postpartum depression, reclaimed my confidence after years of self-loathing, lost almost 75 pounds and decided to speak up about all the lessons I learned along the way, no matter how taboo the subject matter.  The only difference is that now you know I couldn’t have done any of it without Christ.

Okay so that’s out of the way and I hope you’re still reading.  For those who left, I pray that you will come back soon, whether it’s out of curiosity or the realization that you just can’t live without my quick wit, life lessons and verbose stories.  That was a joke.  Moving right along….

I’ve been thinking in “ifs” lately, and it’s stopping me from making progress.  I keep thinking things like:

“IF I could just find a new babysitter…”
“IF I can buy a new car and finish the insurance paperwork for the old one…”
“IF I can start the divorce process…”
“IF my back would feel better…”

My thinking has been that IF all these things would fall into place, then I could refocus on my physical and emotional health.  But you know what?  My thinking has been backwards, and even the Bible says so:

“Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.” Ecclesiastes 11:4

What does that mean?  Let me say it another way, borrowing some wise words from my pastor:

“You don’t get good to get God.  You get God to get good.”

Still having trouble?  Let’s take it out of church and put it into words we can all understand:


And there it is.  If you wait for perfect conditions, you will NEVER get ANYTHING done.  If you wait until you stop sinning to start going to church, you’re going to be waiting forever.  If you wait until you lose 20 pounds to join the gym, it’s very likely that you are going to remain at least 20 pounds overweight indefinitely.  And if I wait for every single aspect of my life to fall into its perfect little stress-free compartment, I’m going to be living in constant mental and emotional chaos.  Why do we do it to ourselves?  I guess it’s just human nature.  Sometimes it’s a chicken-and-egg situation in which it’s hard to tell which thing comes first.  Sometimes it’s fear of the unknown or fear of failure.  Whatever the reason, try to identify it and then throw it right out the window.  You know why?  Because we will NEVER be perfect.  Not you, not me.  So if that’s what we’re waiting for in order to make any kind of progress, we had better get comfortable right where we are because we aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. 

So what do we do now?  Take action.  For me, that means logging into MyFitnessPal.com for the first time in awhile and starting to keep track of my calories again.  It means no more trying to push through the pain at the gym and act like I’m not hurt.  But it doesn’t mean sitting at home with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and a spoon, upset that I can’t work out the way I want to because of my back.  It means modifying my workouts but getting my butt to the gym to do something.  And when I do those things I will no longer have the desire to sit at home and feel stuck and stressed out.  I’ll feel proud of myself, motivated, and STRONG.  And that’s how I need to feel to bring my A-Game in all aspects of life.  The conditions will never be perfect.  I will never be perfect.  There will always be something trying to stand in my way.  But that doesn’t mean I have to let it. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Lessons From the Trenches

I’m getting a divorce.  There, I said it.  That’s why I’ve been MIA for so long…because trying to preserve a marriage is a full time job that doesn’t leave much time for blogging.  As usual, I’ve spent many months trying to appear fine when in fact I was anything but fine.  And as usual, I probably had a lot of you fooled.  Anyway, I’m not going to air all my dirty laundry here (or hopefully anywhere, if I can maintain my dignity, sense, and self control), but the whole point of this blog is for me to be open and honest about the things that affect my health and happiness, so I wanted to share the truth.  My pastor always says “your mess is your ministry,” and I believe he’s right.  I could sit here and be mad about the things I’ve had to go through, or I can realize that I’ve been given an opportunity to grow, learn, and most importantly, share my story and my lessons with others because I know that my doing so might just change someone’s life.  So here are some of the lessons I’ve learned during my recent period of tremendous personal growth (and please note that these are conclusions from life in general, not necessarily from my marriage alone. I have a great deal of respect for my husband and the family we have built together over the last 8 years).

Lesson 1: Don’t ever be anyone but YOU
Sometimes people confuse my confidence for arrogance, but they are NOT the same thing.  As a result of being judged or labeled, I overcorrected.  Shame on me.  I know who I am and I should never apologize for it.  At some point, and I don’t even know exactly when, I started to change myself, my words, and/or my behavior in order to make others more comfortable.  Over time, this will just lead to one thing: you will forget who you are.  If you’re constantly adapting and trying to be what other people want you to be, you will eventually wake up and realize you’re not who YOU want you to be. Who am I?  I am strong, positive, confident, compassionate, loving, determined, emotional, competitive, humble, and loyal to a fault.  Some people find this combination intimidating, but what they think of me is really none of my business. 

Lesson 2: People treat you how you allow them to treat you, so set the standard HIGH!
If someone doesn’t treat you the way you expect to be treated, it’s your right responsibility to speak up and do something about it.  If you never set the standard, you are, by default, allowing someone else to set it for you.  I’m not saying you need to call out every stranger who lets a door slam in your face because for anyone who commutes to NYC daily like I do, well, suffice it to say “ain’t nobody got time for that!”  But for the people with whom you interact regularly (i.e. family, friends, coworkers), it’s important to show them what you expect.  And by the way, this is a two-way street.  In other words, don’t forget to lead by example!  You can’t treat someone else like garbage and expect them to treat you like a queen.  Once you’ve set the standard, the choice is theirs; they can either fall in line or keep right on moving.

Lesson 3: Sometimes admitting to failure can be a success
I hate quitting anything.  And worse than that, I hate failing at anything.  But the fact is that nobody gets it right 100% of the time…and that’s okay!  For a perfectionist like me, this concept is much easier said than done.  For many years I wanted to be a doctor. I was a pre-med student going for a degree in biochemistry, but when I got to college I found out that I hated chemistry.  There was a lot of stress and many sleepless nights and bad grades before I finally just admitted that I chose the wrong major.  But once I admitted that I got it wrong, I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders.  After that I had the freedom to choose the major that was right for me and when I did, I had a far more successful and fulfilling college career than I would have otherwise.  I got so hung up on the idea that changing my major meant that I was admitting failure or defeat that I almost forced myself into a career that I knew was all wrong for me.  In my opinion, that would have been a much greater failure than simply acknowledging that it was time to change my major.


There are many more lessons I could share, but these are the three that stand out tonight.  I’ve just begun yet another significant journey in my life and I have no doubt that I’ll have more to share in the next several months.  Stay tuned!    

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Patience

When I was 4 my grandmother took me along to drop off my older sister for her first day of kindergarten, and I desperately wanted to be able to stay and go to school too.  When I was 13, I met a boy whom I was certain would be my future husband, and we had an almost 5-year relationship.  When I was 17 I decided that I needed to see more of the world, so I started applying to colleges out of state.  When I was 18 I told my parents that I loved Boston so much, I was going to stay there and get a full-time job rather than going home to Maine to catch up with my high school friends and enjoy a lazy summer.  When I was 23 I met a man named William Hill and fell in love.  Nine months later I asked him to marry me, and five months after that I became Mrs. Hill.  As you can probably tell by now, patience is not exactly my strong suit.  When I know what I want, I go get it instead of waiting for someone else to hand it to me.  While that sounds great in theory, it also presents a big problem when I can’t just go out and get whatever it is that I want.  Some things – the best things, in fact – usually require hard work and a fair amount of patience.

Patience (or my lack thereof) seems to be my downfall more often than anything else.  The only times I have ever quit anything in my life, it was a direct result of lacking patience.  When I switched from pre-med to business in college, it was because I realized just how long the road to becoming a doctor was and that realization scared me right onto a new path.  When I lived in Paris during college, my school couldn’t solidify an internship for me by the start date but instead of giving them a couple more weeks to find something, I got on a plane and came home.  I still remember feeling like I missed out when I heard my friends talk about their internships and when I saw their pictures from the trip to Nice that I missed due to my early departure.  Every single time I tried and failed to lose weight, it was because I gave up when the pounds weren’t coming off fast enough.  I would lose five pounds and instead of stopping to celebrate that very celebration-worthy accomplishment, I would instead think of how 5 pounds is just the tip of the iceberg when you have 70 more to go.

Today is one of those days that I’m writing for myself as much as I am for my readers.  I know I usually sound like I have things all figured out by the time I actually publish a post and share it, but trust me when I say that I sometimes struggle to practice what I preach.  Some of my posts are inspired by others and their issues, but quite a few of them are derived from my own life and my own struggles.  Right now patience is a big problem for me in a few different aspects of my life.  I’m grateful to know what it is that I want, because sometimes just figuring that out can be a battle.  But I get frustrated when I can see so clearly what I want and I don’t know exactly how to make it happen or how long it might take.  Here are three things I do in order to stay focused:
  1. Think about the thing that I want, WHY I want it, and how I will feel when I get it.  I try to do this every single day because I know that the minute I lose my focus on the end goal, I may start to stray from it.   
  2. Learn to be okay with where I am right now.  Yes, I want more and I realize that I’m the kind of person who will ALWAYS want more because I have confidence in my ability to do great things.  But if I am constantly setting the bar higher, I can easily start to feel like I’ll never be “good enough” since there is always a next level.  This is when a little positive reinforcement comes in handy.   This is when I turn my gaze to the past so I can see how far I have come and be proud, rather than looking at how far I have to go and feeling stuck. 
  3. Have a little faith.  I hear so many people talk about how they have faith, but then all they do is worry.  If you’re worrying about something, you’re not calm and assured that it will work out.  The definition of faith is “complete trust or confidence in someone or something.”  If you are spiritual or religious, have faith that God will take you where you need to go.  If you don’t, have faith in yourself and believe wholeheartedly that you can do what you have set out to do.  Negativity and doubt will only set you back.

 And no matter what, remember:


Thursday, October 10, 2013

20 Things I Wish I Knew When I Was 20

20 words of wisdom from 31 year-old me to 20 year-old me, in no particular order:
  1. You are good enough.
  2. How other people treat you says nothing about you and everything about them.
  3. Always live within your means.
  4. If a person will do it with you, they will also do it to you (i.e. talk sh*t, cheat, etc.).
  5. If it’s worth having, you are going to have to work hard for it.
  6. Stop worrying about everyone else and just worry about yourself; after all, that’s the only person you can control.
  7. Never be too proud to say I love you.
  8. Learn to forgive even those who aren’t sorry.  Forgiveness is for you, not them.
  9. This is the only body you get so make sure you take very good care of it.
  10. Don’t hide who you really are.  Some people may not like the real you, but maybe that just means they aren’t meant to be in your inner circle.
  11. Just because you aren’t friends with someone doesn’t mean you have to be enemies.
  12. Sometimes it’s okay to do nothing.
  13. If it matters to you, don’t be afraid to speak up about it.
  14. Pursue what makes you happy, not what makes you money.
  15. Don’t ever ignore your intuition.
  16. Watch the company you keep.  Surround yourself with those who make you want to be better and do better.
  17. It’s okay to say you don’t know.
  18. Don’t be self-deprecating in order to make others more comfortable.  Instead be proud of the gifts and talents you were given.
  19. Don’t dumb yourself down or use your body to attract men.  The ones worth attracting will love your intelligence and be attracted to you for a lot more than your physical appearance.
  20. There’s a difference between assertive and aggressive.  Advocate for yourself but remember, nobody likes a bully.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Be the Difference

It’s easy to notice when something isn’t right, and it’s even easier to complain about it.  I’ve worked many jobs where people were quick to point out flaws in the processes, but few people would actually take the time to come up with solutions or improvements.  Scrolling through my Facebook feed is always like a study in human behavior.  Today I see a whole lot of complaining, as usual - complaining about the weather, weight gain, Obamacare, taxes, rejection of some kind, or things just not going as planned.  When bad things happen to me, I feel that same urge to post my news on Facebook so I’ll get some sympathetic words or reassurances from my cyber friends.  I also feel the urge (and give in to it too often) to complain to my friends or family about whatever disservice has been done to me.  But honestly, where does that get us?  All this drama and complaining really just makes us dwell on the issues for longer than we should.  I found myself doing this just the other day and a friend said three simple words to me that really hit home and made me stop dead in my tracks:

BE THE DIFFERENCE

So often, I get caught up in the issues of my life and unload all the details on whatever poor soul asks me what’s wrong.  I spend so much time talking about my problems that it starts to feel as though I’m really invested in the issues since I’m spending so much time discussing them.  But I’m not getting anywhere because all I’m doing is talking!  I’m not saying that we should never talk about our problems.  Just ask my husband…I would never say such a thing!  Talking is an important first step.  When I think of every big decision I’ve made in life, talking through it was an important part of the process.  However, it’s really easy to get stuck talking about something for way too long, and most of the time it’s just fear that keeps us from moving on to BEING about it.  Talking is good, but eventually it has to be backed up by action or else you will just stand still forever.


For me, prayer is what helps me get from thinking to talking to doing.  Yeah, I know I just said the P word on my blog, but I’m about to re-secularize (is that even a word? It is now!) so don’t leave me just yet!  Okay so I believe in God and I spend a lot of time talking to Him.  Maybe you don’t, and that’s fine.  Maybe you don’t pray.  Okay.  But there are other things you can do.  Meditate.  Reflect.  Write.  You don’t need to believe in God to make progress, but you do need to focus on your goals in order to move toward them.  I keep a notebook on hand and write down the things I want to pray about, and then I make sure to set aside some time each day to go through my list.  If you don’t pray, you can still do this…you’ll just be talking to yourself instead of God.  The point is to set aside some time to focus on the changes you want to see, either in your own life or in society, and then reflect on how you can make them come to be.  Facebook venting and bitch sessions feel good sometimes, but they don’t really get us anywhere.  Instead of venting, complaining, dramatizing and dwelling, try something new.  Try to be the difference!