The Power In ‘And’

This is a long one and rambly, but worth it (in my humble opinion). I’m hoping it gives you new perspective, makes you feel less alone and gives you a resource to share with others who may need it.

Okay, consider these things for a moment: Peanut butter and jelly. Salt and pepper. Bread and butter. Cliché? Yes. But you may also be thinking, “Yup, those are things that go well together.”

Since we use the word ‘and’ a lot for the things we perceive as going well together, some of us have never considered that perhaps we’re not the greatest at understanding how that word ‘and’ may (and should) bring together two things we perceive as ‘not going well together’. 

Here’s an example: Amy says, “I love so-and-so and I have made the choice to no longer have her in my life.” Some may hear this and ask curiously or perhaps judgmentally, “Well how could you possibly love her if you shut her out of your life?”

From my experience, this limited way of thinking comes from our tendency to think in absolutes. We pigeonhole ourselves and try to control our reality by labeling it: something is either right or wrong, black or white, this or that. And to further limit ourselves, many of us only rely on our own lived experiences to make decisions about something or someone.

Oftentimes, this need to control something is out of unresolved fear or trauma. When we feel like the world is spinning out of our control, we try to regain command by placing people and situations into boxes. Compartmentalizing may help us feel like we’ve finally steered back onto a straight path.

In the beginning example, I think it’s easy to imagine that Amy has decided to no longer have the other person in her life because maybe she’s abusive or because they share different values and the relationship will never move forward in a positive way.

There’s a million and one reasons a relationship no longer makes sense, even if the love still exists. Would you agree? I believe all that matters in this case is that the decision-maker understands what’s best for them.

While I don’t think I’ve taught you anything new, it’s my hope that you’ll stay open-minded like you were with the above example when it comes to the harder things to grasp these days: war/no war, masks/no masks, vaccine/no vaccine, political belief A/political belief B. I want this for you and the world because we’re collectively hurting. On top of our concerns and worry, many of us are angry and anger prevents us from living our best lives. Anger causes health problems, relationship problems, and it’s a major roadblock to achieving our goals and enjoying everything this amazing world has to offer.

If you find yourself grasping to unhealthy things (thoughts, words, actions) as it relates to the world around you, I get it. I’ve been there before too – many, many times.

The first thing I’ll suggest is to check in with yourself. Ask yourself, “Am I okay: physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually?” and then “What areas do I need to focus on to feel better? What unresolved stuff should I focus on for me?” While I can’t change the things happening in the world (oh where is my magic wand when I need it?), I can promise you that if you focus on yourself, you will start to feel better and the world will start to feel and be brighter.

Also, don’t forget your curiosity and your ‘and’ statements. I think this heightened way of thinking can help you feel even more in control, because you’ll remember the sky isn’t even the limit when it comes to understanding and embracing this crazy thing we call life. And there’s a lot of power in knowing there’s so much more for us to learn and experience.

If you’re already open-minded and have your anger under control, then go YOU. You can help others by sharing this blog and if it makes sense, offering some of these gentle suggestions so that their life has more peace and balance.

While I don’t find it a part of my calling to discuss politics or anything controversial (I’m going waaaaaay outside of my comfort zone here as can be seen by my wordy and zigzaggy prose, so thanks for sticking around and supporting me), I do consider it a part of my life’s work to help the world heal from trauma and judgement habits. In our current state of finger pointing and name calling (and worse) that many of us have found ourselves in, I hope to be a source of light and guidance for those in need.

I’ll end with this: I want you to know it is my sincere belief that Sally can be a people-centric person with a heart of gold and may have voted a certain way. And that Franko can be well-educated, love our country and decide not to wear a mask. I believe that Henry, Joe, Lucy and Sue can do things I don’t understand, things I would never ever do myself and things that I wouldn’t suggest others do and believe they should keep listening to their intuition and experiencing life the way that feels best to them (while of course being a respectful human being that acts and lives as though we’re all connected, because we are. I hope this goes without saying).

As my mentor always says, “There’s no wrong way to do life. It’s all a learning journey.”

Geri – This blog is dedicated to you. Thank you for being a strong woman with strong beliefs and being open and kind to all walks of life. I channeled your light as I wrote this one. I’m proud to call you a friend. 

Join me in spreading my messages of breaking judgement habits and strengthening intuition even further: forward this blog to a few family members and friendsThe greater the shares, the greater the impact – They can subscribe here.  

Sincerely,
Danielle

PS – Here’s an affirmation to use when you’re having a hard time making sense of the world, “Everything I need is within me.”

PPS – One of the first steps in any healing process is acknowledging you’re hurting. Grab your journal and a pen. What is happening in the world that is making you scared, sad, lonely and angry?  What is happening in your own life that is making you scared, sad, lonely and angry? What daily practices can you incorporate into your life to lean into these feelings and then release them in a way that best serves you and humanity? This could be meditation, short walks, journaling, yoga, volunteering and more.

It’s a part of being human

 “Color the entire page, even the background. You can’t move to a different picture until you finish that one completely. I still see some white space on the page…”

“Eat it all. I don’t care that you don’t like it.”

“It’s broken now so you’re not getting another one. Accidents don’t just happen. I told you to be careful…”

My strict Irish Catholic, Baby Boomer father instilled in me to fear wasting things, to value every possession. Living under Dad’s high standards was tough but I was a daddy’s girl and so I tried – and tried – and tried.

As a young adult out on my own, I’d try to ‘make Dad proud’ and not waste things. I’d use a pen down to its final stroke, use a dime size squirt of toothpaste and not a nickel. When I did waste (never intentionally of course), I’d feel guilty and beat myself up.

Danielle, you shouldn’t have overbought those strawberries. Now you’re tossing out half a carton. What’s wrong with you?

Do you really need those new shoes? You’ve only had yours a year now…

Danielle, how could you lose your purse at the mall? That’s not how you were raised…You don’t deserve to buy a new one.

In my mid-twenties, I slowly realized I didn’t have to carry Dad’s unrealistic expectations. I started to show myself compassion whenever I ‘wasted’ something. Positive self-talk was a go-to of mine when I made a perceived mistake. Danielle, it’s okay. You didn’t intend to drop and break the vase. It can be replaced… Usually a couple deep breaths and some words of kindness eased my nerves.

One of my favorite expressions to give myself when I need it most is, “It’s a part of being human”. This one phrase gives me a huge hit of love and forgiveness. It reminds me to embrace being perfectly imperfect.

A few weeks ago, I was reminded how far I’ve come from my self-criticizing ways. I left my earpods in my shorts and the hubby did laundry with them still in my pockets. The earpods no longer worked after they went for their swim in the suds. Although I was bummed (I mean $120 is a lot of money), I didn’t beat myself up. I gently told myself, “It’s a part of being human,” and I moved on.

It was a beautiful experience to pause and marvel at my personal growth. It’s hard breaking any type of judgment habit, but as the years have gone by and I’ve ‘wasted’, damaged, misplaced and over-indulged, I’ve learned to naturally and instinctively talk to myself in a loving way.

Healing is possible my friends. You don’t have to color the entire page or stay within the lines.

Join me in spreading my messages of breaking judgement habits and strengthening intuition even further: forward this blog to a few family members and friendsThe greater the shares, the greater the impact – They can subscribe here.  

PS – Here’s an affirmation to give yourself self-love in those situations you need it most, “I am at peace with who I am. I am enough. I am whole. I am love.

PPS – Are you trying to live up to somebody else’s standards, as opposed to your own? Maybe you’re the ‘party planner’ of the friend group, but you don’t want that responsibility anymore? Or perhaps your family expects you to visit frequently, but you just don’t have the time or desire? Whatever the case, grab your pen and a journal. Write that person a letter. How do their expectations of you impact your feelings and quality of life? What do you want them to know about your wants and desires? Now write a note to give yourself encouragement to speak your truth to that person. To start living life for YOU. Doesn’t that feel good? Now see if you can put your words into action.

Only You Get To Decide If It’s Ego

In 2019, I graduated with my Doctor of Business Administration from the University of South Florida. This was huge for me.

Success always seemed like a losing battle. A doctorate degree, let alone finishing high school would have been alien to me when I was younger. At 12 years old I was assigned a truancy officer for skipping school too much, and at 13 I was kicked out of school.

When I hit my late teenage years, I found determination to build a better life for myself, and that started with mustering up the courage to take two busses a night to GED study classes. I failed the math portion of the test, but on the second try a few months later I passed.

At 21 with a 6-month-old baby at home, I enrolled in college courses. Despite my worries that I wasn’t smart enough and that leaving my baby at night made me a bad mother, I earned my bachelor’s degree. Then two master’s. Then my terminal degree. 

To me, my doctorate degree means: overcoming adversity, successfully navigating impostor syndrome, perseverance, sacrifice, self-love… and finally earning the ‘Dr.’ in front of my name.

After graduation, the time came to announce to the world that I was ‘Dr. Clark’. I was thrilled, but a sense of hesitancy creeped in. For several months and even with my business students, I’d introduce myself as ‘Danielle’ or ‘Professor Clark’ and avoid the doctorate title altogether.

What if people think I’m conceited? What if my students think I have an ego? I feared coming across as arrogant, as some kind of pompous professor shining a stage light on my achievements.

A friend I graduated with had the letters ‘Dr.’ beautifully tattooed on his wrist. I loved the idea of having a visible daily reminder of ‘I can do anything I put my mind to’ whenever I needed the confidence boost.

I told a few people I was considering getting the tattoo myself and each one further fed my fears by responding along the lines of, “Conceited much?”

It took many conversations with myself and others to finally realize I’m the only one who knows if I have ego, and I shouldn’t care what others think. If it feels good to me, why not? If I want to honor my journey and who I am today by introducing myself as ‘Dr. Clark’ in certain situations (like the classroom), then go me!

It’s now been a few years of hearing ‘Dr. Clark’ echoed back to me. Each time I hear it, I experience a ping of pride. And I’ve heard from many others that knowing I am a young terminal degree holder with an at-risk youth path inspires them to shoot for the stars.

I still don’t have that ‘Dr.’ tattoo. I’ve chosen not to get it; not for concern of what others think, but because I’m just not ready for a tattoo yet (this would be my first so I’m taking it slow). 

What have you been holding back from because you’re worried others will assume you have ego? Where have you made yourself small to make others comfortable? And the most important question, how can you put others’ thoughts aside and follow your ego-free desires?

Join me in spreading my messages of breaking judgement habits and strengthening intuition even further: forward this newsletter to a few family members and friendsThe greater the shares, the greater the impact – They can subscribe here.  

Sincerely,
Danielle

PS – Here’s an affirmation to remind you that your desires matter regardless of what others think, ‘I know my intent and truth. I am a magnet for my dreams and desires.

PPS – Do you want to work on your self-confidence when it comes to owning your growth and achievements? If so, grab your journal and a pen. Jot down areas of your life you’ve grown in the last year (health, finances, career, spirituality etc.) Have you told your family and friends about your progress and wins? And not just the short generic version because you didn’t want to look like you had an ego? If yes, good for you! Give yourself a pat on the back and write yourself a kudos note. If you answered no, write out how you think a conversation with a family member or friend would play out if you humbly boasted about the things you’re proud of. If this person hints at arrogance or ego within you, how will you respond in a courageous way?

The Weird Is Your Oyster

Do you think you’re weird, but maybe you’re not happy or completely comfortable with that weirdness? Perhaps you look down on yourself for being different?

If so, I’m hoping my list of things that probably qualify me as ‘weird’ will make you feel better. We all have our oddities and quirks. Rather than hide them or be ashamed by them, we should embrace our weird and have a good laugh (or several).

Sooo, without further ado, here are 8 things that make me wonderfully weird (or at least funny weird, I hope).

My List of Weird

  1. I clean my ears at least once a day, usually twice.
  2. I put lotion on my hands at least 20 times a day, usually 30.
  3. I talk to dead people and they talk to me. I’m a medium.
  4. I smell my socks after I wear them. Seriously, I do. My dad used to do the same thing.
  5. I’m more afraid of bees than I am of dying.
  6. I pluck hairs off my chest and shave my big toes.
  7. Presenting to a room of 1,000 people I don’t know is much more calming to me than having lunch with a single person I don’t know.
  8. I use a GPS to get everywhere. And I mean everywhere, like two streets away to somewhere I go like 5 times a week (Aaron’s school, for instance). That’s how poor my sense of direction is.

Did I make you feel less alone or at least make you chuckle? Good! Now, go out there and pick your nose and shower with your bathing suit on or color your leg hair purple and wear the t-shirt you’ve never washed because it’s ‘good luck’. Don’t think twice about that weirdness and if you do think about it, be proud and have a good laugh.

Join me in spreading my messages of breaking judgement habits and strengthening intuition even further: forward this newsletter to a few family members and friendsThe greater the shares, the greater the impact – They can subscribe here.  

Sincerely,
Danielle

PS – Here’s an affirmation to help you love your weird and wave your freak flag, My uniqueness is beautiful and worth celebrating.

PPS – Are you looking for more ways to get comfortable with your weird? If so, here’s a journal prompt: Think of three people you love being around that you spend a lot of time with (this activity works especially well if you live them). List out all the things that ‘make them weird’. Now reflect on that list. Do you love them less because they clean the dishes before they put them in the dishwasher? Do you think less of them because they rearrange the medicine cabinet by color? Of course not! So now ask yourself why you don’t judge others, but you judge yourself.

From Shame To Acceptance: It’s Possible

I have herpes type 1 (HSV-1). Yes, you read that right: I have herpes and I’m sharing that with you (well not literally so don’t worry). Remember, we can’t take ourselves too seriously.  

So why am I telling you this? Because I sensed you may be harboring shame about something that feels deep, wrong and maybe a little taboo, and I wanted to help you release it.

Here’s my story:

When I was a young teenager, I aggressively sought out male attention from older guys. When I was 15 years old, I flirted with a man I worked with who was in his thirties. He was funny, kinda cute and we had worked together for a few weeks. I trusted him. This guy flirted back and before long, I found myself at his house. We kissed. We had sex. It gave me what I thought I needed: to feel pretty, to feel wanted, to have an adult finally pay attention to me.

The day after our hook up, the outside and inside of my mouth were filled with large sores that tingled and burned so bad that I got a fever and swallowing was a task. I eventually ended up in the hospital. I had no idea what those sores were and feared something was terribly wrong with me.

At the time, I didn’t know herpes was a thing and when the doctor started to ask me about my sexual activity, it finally clicked: “I caused this. This was my fault. I’m a slut.”

For the next few years, my herpes breakouts would occur every few months and each time they’d come on, I’d feel deep shame and spew nasty comments to myself, “Danielle, you’re a whore. You’re nasty. You’re dirty.”

Not once was I ever mad at the guy twice my age who infected me when I was a kid nor was I mad at my parents who didn’t give me the love I craved resulting in me looking in other places for it. Instead, I was only mad at myself. Funny how that is, huh?

It wasn’t until just a few years ago that I realized I was ‘that girl’ (the stereotyped label of ‘promiscuous’) because my story was complex; my early childhood trauma of being raised by addicted and neglectful parents shaped my behavior. Although I shouldn’t have been flirting with older guys, that guy (and many others) shouldn’t have taken advantage of my vulnerabilities.

Fortunately, I only get a herpes breakout about once a year. When it does come back, instead of shaming myself like I used to, I fill my mind and heart with love, “You’ve come a long way Danielle. You’re beautiful. This and everything you’ve endured has made you stronger. You are loved.”

From my story, it’s my hope that you:

  1. Unfold your shame. Don’t perceive your past actions and decisions as poor choices or wrongdoings. Rather, see if you can find how people, events and circumstances connect to the shame you’re holding. This may give you a deeper understanding of your feelings which will help you release them.
  2. Forgive yourself. It’s a fact: You didn’t know all the things you know now. Every day, every second, we are learning and evolving.
  3. Consider sharing your shame with someone. a friend, your partner, a therapist. When we talk about our shame, it loses power.
  4. Know healing is possible. Although we can’t change the past, we can move forward from it.

Join me in spreading my messages of breaking judgement habits and strengthening intuition even further: forward this newsletter to a few family members and friendsThe greater the shares, the greater the impact – They can subscribe here.  

PS – Here’s an affirmation to help you release shame, I heal and forgive myself for harms I and others have caused. I love myself and accept the past.

PPS – Are you looking for other ways to release your shame? If so, here’s a writing activity. Find somewhere quiet. Go deep into your shame (I know, a hefty request but this will be rewarding!). Be honest with yourself about your experience with shame. What happened that caused the shame? What are you feeling guilty about? Disappointed in yourself about? As you dive deeper, allow yourself to feel all your emotions: sad, scared, frustrated, confused. Write them all down. Don’t judge what comes. When you’re feeling ready, stop writing and burn or throw away your notes as you repeat the affirmation, “I release what no longer serves me.” Symbolically releasing your shame can be magically healing.

If You Don’t Know Why, Ask Me

The other morning, when my 14-year-old son Aaron asked me where I was going, I cheerfully responded, “To my eyelash appoint.”

Aaron’s nose crinkled as he gave me a judgy look, “Why do you try to be someone you’re not? Who are you trying to impress anyways?”

His response hurt; he was quick to judge with questions oozing accusation.

Excited for a change amidst the 2020 work from home same-old, same-old, a few months ago I started getting false lashes. My lashes have brought me joy. They make me feel more confident, more prepared and prettier for my dozens of Zoom calls. I’ve had fun waking up looking like Marilyn Monroe (hey, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it) and receiving compliments from my clients, students and even strangers I meet on my daily walks and trips to the store.

That’s why I was disappointed by Aaron’s assumption; that I was trying to pretend I was someone I wasn’t as opposed to enhancing the person I already was and am: Confident. Prepared. Pretty. I cringed hearing that Aaron thought impressing the world was a bad thing. What’s the problem with wanting to look good for others? I’ve found that the more put together and refreshed I look, the more others perk up and are open to my energy, which helps when I am teaching, coaching or giving a seminar. As long as self-esteem doesn’t solely rely on how others see you, then looking good can fuel self-love and happiness.

To snap me out of my critical feelings towards Aaron and I’s conversation, I found empathy. I reminded myself that Aaron’s limited viewpoint wasn’t his fault. He’s a freshman in high school, an age when many kids judge one another and make unfair assumptions based on appearance. He’s superglued to Snapchat, TikTok and I’m sure other apps I don’t know much about that seem to perpetuate this habit.

I took a deep breath in, looking Aaron straight in the eyes.

“This is important. I don’t like that you judged me right there. I am being ME. Just like my blonde highlights and gel nail polish compliment me, so do my eyelashes. A girl can want to look good and do that for different reasons. Some will do it for herself and others will do it for someone else and regardless, that’s their decision to make. These lashes make me happy. I’m not getting them to try to fit in or hide who I am; I get them as sort of a celebration of who I am. As a way to treat myself.”

I could see Aaron processing. I smiled and said, “I love you kid.”

Aaron told me he loved me back. He then gave me a ‘thanks’ and a head nod that showed me I got him thinking differently. And with that, we moved on with our day.  

I’m proud for speaking my truth – not always an easy thing to do – especially to my teenage son. Will he get it? Will he understand? Will he care?

I hope introducing Aaron to a new way of thinking opens his eyes to the importance of not snapping judgements and instead, becoming more conscious of others’ WHY. I hope he starts asking questions that come from a place of curiosity such as, “Does it make you happy? How so?”

Later that day, I started wondering how many people had judged me for my fake eyelashes and how many other females had also been judged for theirs. I then thought about all the women out there getting judged for their botox, their weight or their clothing. That number was enough to inspire me to write this post.

So, to those rocking new outfits that match your flair; those typing away with fake nails; those driving to work with a brand-new hairstyle: Go YOU! There is no need hide or be ashamed. You’ve taken the time to invest in yourself, and that’s beautiful self-love!

As for the others who judge you, remember that their judgment is a reflection of themselves, not you. Hold onto grace and patience in these moments; they don’t know your WHY. If they don’t ask, they probably don’t know any better. Keep rocking anyways.

If you’re making assumptions about others, how can you break those limiting beliefs and work toward appreciating the choices that others make?

And most importantly, how can we have meaningful conversations with our youth to ensure appearances don’t control their perceptions of others?

Did you enjoy this post? You can subscribe here

Sincerely,
Danielle

PS – Here’s an affirmation to help you along your ‘I won’t let sticks and stones hurt me’ journey: “I am the only one responsible for my self-esteem.”

PPS – To remind you that empathy is possible in all situations, get out you journal. Here’s a writing prompt: Think back to a time when someone hurt you. What did that person do? How did they make you feel? Although you may not forgive that person, can you find empathy? What human experiences may have shaped the way they treated you? How do you think they feel about the situation now?

Expect more typos from me

I recently completed a 10-week advanced memoir writing class with a well-known writing school. I gained tons of valuable tips for my memoir: how to find the right balance between action and reflection, how to create engaging dialogue and how to end a memoir with just the right amount of open-endedness and closure (A tricky balance to find!).

While I walked away with new writing skills, the real takeaway was that I didn’t have to be perfect. Here’s the story:

My writing instructor was (and still is) brilliant: sharp, witty and unafraid to tell you when you should cut a word, sentence or section. Every week, she’d send out thought-provoking announcements, actively participate in our discussion boards and give lots of feedback on my writing homework. It was clear why she was so well-published and regarded – she was a dream come true! 

The second week into my studies, I saw one of her posts had two typos in it. I thought, Huh. Maybe she was rushing? Perhaps it was a tough week? wasn’t judging her; it was more like curiosity and a bit of tenderness toward her. When I make a typo, I can’t help but beat myself up. Danielle, how could you? What will people think? You’re a writer. You’re a professor. You should be better than this. I didn’t want the same self-annihilating mindset for this amazingly talented woman whom I deeply respected. 

Week three rolled around and I saw another typo, and then another, and another. Only little errors, a missing word here and there, maybe a word lacking its apostrophe. The mistakes weren’t distracting, just subtle enough to notice.

Despite these small blunders, her feedback remained top notch – supportive yet critical. I found this a bit perplexing. With such credible work, why would she be making these errors? But over the weeks, as I received valuable guidance regularly, it finally dawned on me: My instructor knows her talents and her strengths. She’s confident in the value of her words and knows she doesn’t need to be perfect to be of great service.

I thought about the freedom this instructor must have felt when she didn’t over-edit her words. I thought about the extra time she gained by choosing not to worry about a missing word here or there. And I thought about how our perceived mistakes can be a gift to others.

I’m taking my instructor’s gift and am applying it to my writing now too, so if you happen to come across any grammatical errors within these newsletters, I want you to know it’s a sign of my confidence.

With that, have fun making mistakes.  

Did you enjoy this post? You can subscribe here

Sincerely,

Danielle

PS – Here’s an affirmation to help you along your ‘I don’t have to be perfect’ journey: “I value learning more than I value being right.

PPS – Does it feel like your need for perfection controls your time and energy? Spend a few minutes journaling. Here’s a prompt: What would life feel like if you released yourself from perfectionism? What would you be able to accomplish if you adopted a ‘done and not perfect’ mentality?