Girl, Wash Your Face Review

One of my resolutions this year is to read one book a month. It isn’t a lot, but it’s realistic, so any extra reads will be a great bonus. For January, I chose Girl, Wash Your Face. It was interesting timing because I recently saw a Facebook post in a group going around talking about how Rachel Hollis’ book, GWYF, was close-minded and uptight. I hadn’t read it at the time I saw the argument going on, but I was surprised that so many girls from this group of typically very accepting people had such hard feelings toward the author of GWYF, so I became increasingly curious as to what fired people up about this bestselling author.

My best friend Audrey gave me the audiobook for my birthday last month, and I’ve finally listened to more than half of it. I feel compelled to write about it now, though, because while listening I have had several moments where I want to throw my hands up and scream, “YES. THIS IS HOW I FEEL!” It’s such a joy to find novels, blogs, and television shows that just get you. In a world that feels so incredibly big, it’s always comforting to know there are other people who have things in common with you. Whether it’s your beliefs, sense of humor, hobbies, or interests, knowing that you aren’t alone is so important for every human being.

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Instagram: msrachelhollis

I am sick of the old narrative that says just because someone is living their life a different way than the majority, that they are a judgmental bigot. One of the biggest criticisms I saw floating around was that Hollis wasn’t relatable because her ideas about sex weren’t realistic. Spoiler alert: she waited to have sex until she was with her husband. Something that bothers me is that there is no place in the entertainment world for virgins or people who want to save sex for someone special. Hollis is in no way the names girls called her; she is just different than what the norm of the group posts about.

Just because Rachel held her virginity close to her own heart does not mean she is shaming others for having sex with multiple people. I absolutely hate that women can’t talk about this freely without being criticized for being close-minded or a prude. Women in this typically nonjudgmental group began talking about how the author seemed condescending and high-strung. Honestly, I can see how Girl Wash Your Face might not be relatable to everyone, but I didn’t get this vibe at all. There is a reason this book became a bestseller; there are so many women out there who can relate and feel a lot less alone while consuming Hollis’ words. There is a need for women to speak out about virginity and waiting to have sex because they exist too. Instead of continuing the narrative that these women are boring, uptight, and judgmental, we need to move to a safe middle ground of realizing that sexual preferences do not make a person or dictate what their personality is like. Sex is a verb, it isn’t an adjective that describes what a person is like at their core. 

Hollis actually has an entire chapter about sex and I absolutely loved it. I don’t think anyone would actually keep calling her the names they’ve bestowed upon her after reading it, and her views on being intimate are actually really healthy. She talks about the way she views sex, and she isn’t boring or vanilla in the least. She writes about different seasons through her sex life with her husband and the realistic ebb and flow that most people will experience. This is just another opportunity Hollis takes to talk about something that could be difficult for some of her readers, and help them see that they are — in fact — normal human beings.

Women who choose to keep sex as something for a monogamous relationship or for marriage need to feel less alone too. We have moved to a time in society where we know that you’re not a bad person for sleeping with multiple people. We accept being sexually active as a societal norm, and as long as you’re a normal human being you don’t shame other people for their preferences. This should include the young people who are saving themselves for one person, though. There aren’t many positive examples of people like this in the media. You don’t watch a television show and see a badass virgin who has a likable personality and is someone others look up to. Talking about someone being a virgin in the media is typically not done, and if it is, it is portraying a young girl losing her virginity to “become an woman” or honing in on the storyline of a lack of sex for a nerdy character. You don’t see normal twenty-something virgins in movies or on television — in Hollywood, they don’t exist. In the real world, though, they do. They are normal people who just haven’t done the deed yet, and I think we need to do a better job of acknowledging that you aren’t broken if you haven’t had those experiences yet. Sex is a beautiful thing that shouldn’t be taboo to talk about, but it also should never be used to shame someone for their lack of experience either.

Imagine making fun of someone for running — or not. Picture judging their personality solely on being a runner, not based on anything else like how friendly they are, how kind they are, or how smart they are. Running an activity that people often enjoy or never participate in; it doesn’t dictate what they’re like as a person. Sex is the same concept. You don’t suddenly change drastically because you are sexually active; you just have a new activity in your life. Sex is fun, and an incredible way to connect with someone you love, but it isn’t something that will change the core of your being.

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Instagram: msrachelhollis

If you haven’t read GWYF yet, I highly recommend it. It’s a light read and Rachel is an awesome motivational speaker — it feels like she’s just a friend offering advice. I love her little words of wisdom on Instagram, and am obsessed with this quote she attributes to her therapist,

“Someone else’s opinion of you is none of your business.”

I think we can all learn a little lesson from this on fearlessly being ourselves. Many of our biggest fears stem from what other people think about us. This year I’m trying my best to put my blinders on and share my thoughts without worrying about the opinions of others. I think this is going to be the best way to really connect with people, even though I might also reach some people who just don’t understand my heart. Subscribe to my email list to get some extra premium content this year! I have a lot to say and am excited to be sharing more with you all.

New Beginnings

I rarely go out for NYE anymore, but it’s still one of my favorite holidays. I love words and symbolism, so the idea of having a clean slate is such a beautiful thing filled with possibilities. This is my favorite idiom on January 1st, and I take resolutions pretty seriously.

The past few years I’ve been choosing a “word of the year” that I try to keep as the foundation of the decisions I make. 2016 was “perseverance.” It was the year of the deployment and involved a whole lot of patience, sleepless nights, and pushing through the really hard parts. Something I remember so well about this year was running away from my thoughts at the gym. I often rode the recumbent bike and pushed harder and harder to try to escape from the difficult parts of life. As I’ve grown up I’ve found my coping mechanisms for hardship involve either working out, or doing my hair and makeup for no reason other than to feel like I have control over something when I can’t do anything about certain things life throws my way. I have a hard time dealing when people do things that hurt me, and I begin to feel claustrophobic when I know there’s nothing I can do about the way others behave or the fact that my health is declining despite working hard to feel good. Finding things I can control when it feels like things are spiraling has been so helpful to my heart.

I skipped 2017 because I felt too busy and excited for Robert’s homecoming. I wrote all about trying to get Tom Brady to come greet him at the airport, then about what our reunion was actually like. It happened to be perfect, even without the greatest quarterback there with us. We started a normal life together this year, and I focused on being in the present a lot. This past year was supposed to be “Fearless,” but as I’ve said a few times before I failed miserably at this word for 2018. I didn’t leave my comfort zone enough, and I gave up on a lot of my writing because I felt scared of sharing my intimate thoughts with the Internet. One of the reasons Single in The Suburbs really took off in the beginning was because I was able to candidly talk about my life without much of a filter or fear of being judged. I loved being open about the dating world with everyone because I realized that my dating life was just as uncomfortable, frustrating, and fun as every other twenty-somethings. I embraced the awkwardness, shared my weirdest stories, and ultimately tried to help other people realize they weren’t alone in anything. We all were having a hard time trying to find love and meeting someone who really understood our heart.

My problem now is that I don’t always feel as relatable anymore. I feel like nobody understands the pain that I have (Even though I know they do, and so many have been through so much more), I am more guarded and protective of my relationships, and I am afraid of the shadows of strangers that lurk on the Internet. Instead of feeling like I have a nice space where I can share without being judged, I feel like there are so many people who are cruel to others for having a different opinion, and “different” is a word that seems to define me. I can’t always relate to normal twenty-something’s lives, but I rarely find myself feeling insecure about being different. I was raised to love and be kind to everyone — whether or not they are similar to me — and I don’t understand the culture that accepts being cruel as a way to show disagreement. The Internet is plagued with trolls and people who get a kick out of tearing others down, which makes sharing any sort of opinion frightening.

This year I asked my Instagram friends to help me choose a word. We were either going to focus on “Joy,” or try “Fearless” one last time. The vote fluctuated from leaning heavily on “fearless,” to giving “joy” the lead later in the day. They switched back and forth a few times, and I liked that people seemed interested in both words, but ultimately I landed on FEARLESS for my word of 2019. I chose it for a few different reasons. First, I think it’s more difficult for me. Joy is something that comes more naturally with my personality, and although it’s been more of a struggle through times of hardship, I am always going to try to be joyful — regardless of the circumstances in life I cannot control. It doesn’t matter whether it’s 2019 or a decade later, I don’t see that changing about me. I like a challenge and being fearless this year certainly is going to be just that. I don’t want to lose the part of my heart that makes me kind, but I need to get my edge back that makes me more resilient to other humans.

Finally, I got some words of wisdom from a friend that if I live fearlessly, joy will come along with that. This was exactly what I needed to hear to pull the trigger and choose 2019 as the year of living fearlessly. I want this to impact several parts of my life. I am going to start writing on here more about things that matter to me — even in the areas where I feel like I’m different than the majority. I am going to face my fear of rejection in more than one area of my life, and I am going to pace myself for the dreams I want to chase. Finally, I’m going to teach myself that I am more valuable than what my body can and can’t do. One of my biggest fears since getting sick with POTS has been whether or not I could still be a valuable part of the world, even when I feel like I’m at my worst. Exploring what makes me special is a surprisingly scary thing because what I used to really value and love about myself was different before I got sick. I had very different goals and things I wanted to do in my life, but my trajectory drastically changed five summers ago. This is going to be a year where I take care of myself and learn how to be brave, even when it’s hard. 2019, get ready to be fearless. 

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Photo Credit: Katie Nesbitt Photography

Choosing A Season Of Joy

I’m baaaaack! A lot has gone on in the week and a half I took off, but I’m ready to write again and update you all on some new developments.

It’s been crazy rainy lately and my POTS symptoms seem to get aggravated during changes in weather. Something interesting about POTS is that it affects a bunch of important organs, and has trouble finding homeostasis when even minor changes are introduced. My physical therapist takes my blood pressure and heart rate every single session — before and after and sometimes during my workouts — and it’s crazy to see that whenever I feel symptomatic my blood pressure is super low, and my heart rate is higher than usual. One cool thing about people with chronic illnesses is that we really know our bodies well. I can almost always pinpoint what is physically wrong with me because of the way my symptoms are behaving. We are going to start looking at the barometric pressure and my blood pressure throughout the day, just as a little test to see how they compare since both of us have noticed this trend. I can’t wait until POTS has been studied better and we can just look up a million and one facts about it, and one day there can actually be a cure.

Which leads me to my next point. I have been trying to be really cognizant of the blessings I have in my life lately. It makes every obstacle a whole lot easier to tackle, and I have felt more peace and joy by looking at the great things God has given me, rather than focusing only on the pain or discomfort. Today, for example, I saw a sweet little bunny outside on our front lawn. He was eating part of our flowers, but I sat and watched him until he was ready to leave before I walked past him. While I was sitting on the porch I saw a little red robin fly into a puddle next to our yard, and he started to fluff his feathers and bathe himself. These two little moments made my heart so warm the rest of the night.

As far as wedding planning goes, we keep making slow and steady progress. Robert and I got our wedding bands this week and they’re absolutely perfect. I keep putting mine on every time I go to his house because I love it so much! I am super sentimental, so I love that he picked everything out for me, but it’s also just so me. I love his too, and I think he looks super handsome with a wedding band. I wrote a little message to him in it so he’ll always be reminded of how I feel when he looks at it. 🙂 Despite all the stress of planning, I keep realizing how fast this time is going by and reminding myself that the primary feeling of this time of engagement should be joy. We have four months to go as of today, and I am so, so excited.

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How To Grow — Or Kill — A Relationship

We only have two posts left about 1 Corinthians 13, and today’s is going to be a little lengthy, so hang in there!

“Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.”

Sadly, there is a lot of evil in the world, some of which isn’t even thought of being that way. We are going to keep this post a little simple, though, and focus on the Bible by remembering the seven deadly sins. Pride, envy, gluttony, sloth, greed, wrath, and lust are categorized as the “seven deadly sins.” These are all things that can possibly kill beautiful relationships. I could have a lengthy conversation about how each of these can completely destroy two hearts that are bound together, but today I am going to focus on the three that feel the most prevalent.

We don’t really use the word “gluttony” very often, but according to Dictionary.com it means, “Excessive eating and drinking.” When we think of this word, we think of someone who cannot stop eating, and Bruce in Matilda* comes to mind as someone who eats to the point of being gluttonous. Instead of using the traditional definition of gluttony, however, I want to dig deeper into the reason gluttony is considered one of the seven deadly sins. The key word in the definition is, excess. “Eating and drinking” is in no way a harmful behavior. We need to eat to survive, and a glass of wine can be a great treat at the end of the day. Anything in excess can be incredibly damaging, though, especially to a relationship. The most prominent things I can think of today that people enjoy to excess would be videogames, television, alcohol, or even work. It is heartbreaking just how many girls I see in wedding groups talk about how their future husband won’t pay attention to them because he is too focused on Call of Duty or another game of the sort. I have seen countless people asking for advice on how to get their loved one out of the house and to take care of them half as much as they do their Playstation or Xbox.

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I had to sit and think of excessive habits before writing them on this page, and “work” was an interesting thing to include because many people would argue that if someone works hard, it can’t possibly be a negative attribute. A quote that has always stuck with me is,

“No one on his deathbed ever said, ‘I wish I had spent more time on my business.'” -Arnold Zack

Living in the suburbs outside of Washington, DC has been an interesting way to grow up because so many people here prioritize status, money, and power above relationships. Even in school we were always pushed to take as many high level classes as we could manage without breaking — and then some. We were encouraged to play a sport every single season and maintain extracurriculars that would “help us get into a good college one day.” Even in the younger grades I had several hours of homework after spending all day at school. Never once did my high school mention that spending time with family was important, or that having close friendships would be what remained after school was all done with. Doing something meaningful and productive in the world is so important, however the influence you have in the lives of the individuals you come into contact with on a daily basis is just as important.

Greed is something that is a really obvious detrimental trait in a relationship, as it is linked to selfishness. A lack of contentment is the easiest way to lead an unhappy life, and constantly wanting more for yourself will secure a spot with all the other people who can’t focus on the present and always just want more.

Lust is one of the most obvious relationship-destroyers. When I think of “lust,” I think of Hollywood, and I think of society’s normalization of objectifying women. Movies are filled to the brim with sex, nudity, and innuendos, and whether you like it or not, we are conditioned to think that sex isn’t always a private moment between two people who care about each other. It is something that we see every day in magazines, on television, and on unsuspecting webpages, and it is no longer considered “shocking” when someone poses without any clothing on for millions of people to see. Relationships fall apart every single day because one — or both — parties believe they can do better and find someone new and exciting to pursue. Lust is one of the deadly sins because love cannot be sustained through lust. Love is fed through hearts and souls, and a beautiful body is never going to keep a relationship happy and healthy. If anything, love gives a beautiful new set of lenses to view your partner through, and gives a healthy physical component through knowing what is deep down in someone’s heart.

*Side note: When I was a kid, we saw Matilda in theaters and had to leave because I was terrified of the chokey. In hindsight this was a kind of sick movie, hahaha!


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“Love rejoices in the truth.”

Two of my favorite words in the English language are “love,” and “rejoice.” They both make my heart flutter with joy, and always have something positive attached. Truth is the key word in this sentence about love, though. “The truth” is the direct object of the sentence, which means it is the reason love is rejoicing. Your love is able to be excited because of having an open and honest connection. Trust is the very basic necessity of a strong relationship; without it there is no foundation to build love upon. Something I really love about my relationship now is that I haven’t ever questioned whether or not I am being lied to. I know my significant other is someone who is always going to be upfront and honest with me, and that has given me such an enormous level of security that I want every single person to be with someone that they first and foremost trust. The world is not a perfect place, which means the truth can sometimes hurt or be difficult to deal with, however love becomes much easier when it is centered around truth. True love doesn’t keep secrets and can grow and really flourish with truthfulness.

Our last post will finish Corinthians with,

“[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

We will dissect each of these, and talk about why I think it’s important the verse ends with, “always perseveres.” Thank you for keeping up with this little segment, and I can’t wait to finish this chapter about a beautiful favorite wedding Bible verse.

Full

First, I would like to start this blog post by saying “Hoppy Easter.” Macy is sitting in my lap right now and wanted me to include a cute animal pun.

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The change in weather in the DC area has been crazy lately. This is a huge annoyance because it’s made me more symptomatic. Fall has become my favorite season since the temperatures are typically pretty mild, and there doesn’t seem to be as much rain as there is in the springtime.

This summer will be my 5 year anniversary with POTS. Did you know that a 50 year anniversary is called a “golden anniversary?” I guess you’re typically supposed to get your significant other something made out of gold. My brain is a funny thing and works really quickly jumping from one subject to the next, so I somehow got to thinking about that and wondering if a 5 year anniversary had a name. After a quick meeting with Google, I found that silverware is the token gift for 5 years. I couldn’t help but grin since I often feel like I don’t have enough spoons throughout the week. This is a kind of cruel irony.

One of the hardest things about having a chronic illness is just the simple fact that life is more drastically unpredictable than the average human’s. You often hear someone with a chronic condition say that they are having a “good day” or a “bad day,” but either way it will pass and there will be another kind lined up and ready to take its place. POTS has taught me to really enjoy moments, especially when I get to do something out of the ordinary that might cause a lot of joy — and bring with it a lot of pain the next day.

I write about pain a lot more than I ever talk about it because I do want to enjoy my life and have the little moments that make life so beautiful. Regardless of feeling crappy right now, I want to remember that four years ago my life was being lived horizontally. I do feel really blessed that I can walk, sit upright, and enjoy so many amazing things that I do take for granted. A few years ago I couldn’t stand more than a minute at a time without fainting, and the only time I really left home was to go to the doctors office or to the gym for my daily recumbent bike routine.  The thing I find most interesting about this is that I have really fond memories even from way back then. The amazing part of being an optimist and looking at the glass half full is that I do remember how shitty I felt, but it isn’t at the forefront of my mind when I think about being 23 years old. I think about watching Top Chef with my mom and dreaming about being able to cook again one day. I remember making “Dunkaroos” with Goldfish and salt because I couldn’t figure out another way to eat enough, and I remember close friends coming over and sitting on the couch with me and telling me stories about what their life is like post college. I remember sitting with my passenger seat reclined as my dad drove me two miles down the road to do my gym workout, and the stories we would tell each other back and forth. I remember him telling me I would get better one day, and my mom playing “Would You Rather” with me when I couldn’t sleep at night. I still have the memory of lying down in the middle of the movie theater floor so I wouldn’t pass out while waiting in line for popcorn with friends, but I don’t remember the extreme nausea and dizziness from that episode anymore. Now it’s a kind of funny memory, and I wonder how there was a time I didn’t feel embarrassed to be the center of attention for something so out of the ordinary. In fact, I feel lucky that I get embarrassed about POTS things now. This means I am healing and major health complications are not a regular part of my day.

Tonight I am stiff, sore, and ready for sleep. My shoulders hurt from a long week and I am ready for the pain to subside so I can get a good night’s sleep. Instead of remembering this feeling a year from now, though, I know that I am going to remember what it was like going out on a fun double date and reminiscing through old college memories, rather than how badly my shoulders hurt or how tired I am of “working to get better.” I know that one day I will be a lot more normal because I am still making improvements, even if they sometimes feel small.

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I don’t know whether looking at the glass half full is something you’re born with, or an outlook you develop, but I am so thankful that I have that ability in my life. I know sometimes it can be easy to feel frustrated or wonder why you got the short end of the stick in one way or another, but the way I see it is if a glass is half empty, it is because you enjoyed something from it, so there is something to be joyful for. Glasses are things that are meant to be filled and emptied, kind of in the same way that life sometimes has its ups and downs. We may not have the ability to control everything that happens in our lives, but we can learn to control our outlook, which is actually one of the most incredible and worthwhile things a person can do. Life isn’t always easy or fun, but there is always something to be joyful for — you just have to learn how to look for it.

To The Creatives Of The World

Your work matters too.

Having a chronic illness makes me so, so thankful for people who are different than I am. I appreciate the people who can handle blood and unhinged joints, and those who have brains that work for chemistry and biology. I’m not wired like that; I enjoy using my hands to write and create stories. I like painting metaphorical pictures for people, and I love resurfacing feelings from my heart and putting them on paper for others to read and relate to.

Something that really kept my spirits up when I first got sick with POTS was watching The Food Network and reruns of The Office. Laughter is often some of the best medicine, and despite not being able to do very much physically, I was able to laugh and dream. I learned as much as I could about food and health, and I lived each moment in the present as the room spun in circles around me.

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Every chapter of my life has included a soundtrack. I hear an old favorite song and it takes me back to a memory. I often do my best writing while I am listening to music, and will play a song on repeat until I have spilled old feelings on the pages in front of me. Despite not having the same ones anymore, I have a perfect memory for feelings. I know them all so well and even though I can’t remember dates, numbers, or physical details, I always remember how my heart felt about something. The best part about my writing is that it strikes a chord with people. With each blog post I get messages about how someone could relate to my own thoughts and feelings, and I take a lot of joy in knowing I can make others feel less alone by sharing my life with them.

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There are a lot of people in the world who get credit for their practical work, but I think creative people sometimes get left out of the thankfulness. I’ve written posts about how great I think people like doctors, physical therapists, nurses, and researchers are — without them I would be a complete wreck — but I’ve conveniently left out the people I understand most. The artists, the writers, the actors, and the comedians who all make life just that much brighter and more beautiful. The world is a really cool place because we have such a vast mix of humans who care about all of the other kinds of people. Without the left brains we wouldn’t be able to fix painful everyday problems, and without the right brains we wouldn’t have all the entertainment options we do. Both types of people bring more joy to the world, and we are all are a piece of the puzzle that makes for a happier society as a whole. No matter what your talent is, use it to make the world a better place.

Today’s lesson: Just because you can’t cure sicknesses or fix things doesn’t mean you aren’t important to the world. Laughter and bringing joy through the form of creativity and entertainment is a very important job. Keep practicing what you do best and giving back to the world with your own unique talents.

Give A Piece Of Your Heart To Someone

I’m always seeing little graphics that say, “tag someone who needs to hear this,” or, “tag a friend to let them know you’re there for them,” on Facebook and Instagram. While the person who created the thread means well, as do the friends who write, “@insert_name_here” in the comments, that just doesn’t cut it for letting your loved ones know you care about them.

November is a month for thankfulness, so the next few weeks I’d love to challenge you to write love letters to friends and family you care about. A letter is one of the most intimate and personal things you can offer someone; you are giving a piece of your heart and spilling out your feelings on a permanent page.

Is letter writing not really your thing? Then I encourage you even more to sit down at your desk and write a few letters. Often some of the most beautiful notes I get are from people who have scribbly handwriting or don’t use the most eloquent adjectives available in the English language. I realize that these letters are truly written from the heart, and that someone was sitting and thinking about me for an uninterrupted amount of time while they put pen to paper.

If you don’t quite know where to start, some of the subjects you can touch on are why you love the person you are writing to, how they have made an impact on your life, and what they do that you happen to think is incredibly amazing about them. You love them for a reason, and all you have to do is write that down so they can see that and cherish it forever. If nothing else, I challenge you to write three letters in the rest of November. Then, see who really appreciates the note, and make a habit of sending one letter every month. It only takes a few minutes, but is a gesture that can mean the world to someone.

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Bonus: Write a letter to sweet little Jacob. You can count this toward your three for the month, and I promise this will be an effort that won’t be in vain. As someone who saves special letters from readers and loved ones, this gesture means more than you could imagine.