Category Archives: Thoughts

If You Don’t Have Your Health

If You Don’t Have Your Health
By Maile Sundquist

I’d always been an optimistic person.  The life of the party, a dreamer, someone who would break into song and dance with furry woodland creatures… until the wicked witch cast a spell on me.  When I was 25 I suffered injuries at work and in a car accident.  They brought on chronic pain and physical limitations that prevented me from being as active as I once was and caused me to lose my job.  Rather than accepting my physical limitations and learning to work around them and thrive with them, I was in denial and active retaliation against them, and, in the end, because I lacked the tools and knowledge to manage my emotions and stress, I became one of the many depressed sufferers of chronic anxiety.  

In our society, too much importance is placed on our physical health and hygiene.  We need to have teeth so white they make snow jealous, be a size one if you’re a woman, be able to bench-press a bus if you’re a man, shower regularly… okay, well, that one is reasonable.  Anyway, we spend too much time pumping up our muscles rather than our character, and so a huge, arguably more important aspect of our health is neglected and at times actively sabotaged by our lifestyle and priorities: our emotional hygiene. 

I find it sad that someone could be in acute emotional distress and that the people around them, even people who care deeply for the person, might say, “You’re overreacting, you should just get over it and shrug it off.”  Or they might not know what to say, but in the back of their minds, they’re thinking that the person is unstable, crazy, or weak.  

We wouldn’t tell someone with a broken leg, “Just shrug it off, it’s in your head, just walk on it and jump and play like you did before.”  No, that would be considered insensitive and crazy!  Obviously, the leg needs time to heal, the right surgical procedure must be performed, and supports must be in place before it can work normally again.  It’s the same with emotional injuries.

Growing up in an emotionally unhealthy family where my parents didn’t take physical or emotional care of themselves, it was a sign of weakness to cry, and “butt nugget” was a term of endearment, there was a lack of good examples for me to emulate.  I embraced spirituality at an early age in the form of the Christian faith, which was and is extremely beneficial to me in terms of hope, inspiration, direction, and as a foundation for my beliefs, but due to poor theological teachings at one point, I lived in a constant state of shame for a period of time.

It was this shame over various aspects of my personal and spiritual life, coupled with a perfectionistic, all-or-nothing mentality, that compounded the struggles and challenges I was facing physically and emotionally.  So now I was down, had chronic pain, and lacked mobility.  Needless to say, I packed it on a bit and my curves became curvier.  Realizing my trajectory and wanting to avoid becoming a human version of Lombard Street, I implemented a thrice-weekly exercise routine into my schedule.  However, a combination of laziness and my love for eight-course meals always seemed to derail any progress I made… strangely enough.  I have always struggled with prioritizing my physical health.  Although I had a good knowledge of nutrition and appropriate exercises, I lacked the discipline to make it happen.  

I realized later, however, that it wasn’t just discipline I lacked.  My mental health was in such disarray that trying to get myself to accomplish these goals would be like asking a five-year-old to operate a crane.  I was attempting to lose weight because it was my most outwardly visible problem, but the source of it was hidden inward.  My emotional hygiene was out of whack.  It is true that the body is intricately connected and that helping one part will exert a ripple effect that improves other aspects of your overall health, so when you work out it produces endorphins that help your mental state.  But in this case, my hopelessness, despair, and anger, which were not being dealt with properly, kept perpetuating my depression and anxiety, which made me mope at home and eat too much.  It had me convinced that my best years were behind me, that I had gone too far, and that it would take too much time and effort to recover what had been lost.  Hopelessness is a dangerously powerful thing that can render someone immobile mentally, emotionally, and physically.

I wish I could say I was writing on this subject having surpassed my health goals years ago and that I now stand before you as a flawless specimen of feminine perfection and mental-emotional stability, able to tout my foolproof method for becoming the sexiest, most well-rounded human alive, but, alas… I cannot.

Let’s be realistic.  It can take years to get yourself back into shape after years of bad eating and self-neglect and the same can be said for regaining mental health.  But both must be accomplished if we are to live a happy, healthy, balanced life.

Having a toddler, I have this topic fresh on my mind.  We want our children to become mentally balanced, physically healthy, productive, thriving adults and so we teach them the best practices we can.  But we can’t teach them what we don’t know, and, despite our good intentions, they will follow our example more than they will follow anything we tell them to do.  How can I take care of him if I don’t take care of myself?  Do I want him to grow up prioritizing everything and everyone else while neglecting his own health, personal and artistic goals, and development?  Do I want him beating himself up over arbitrary goals or not being able to meet the important ones?  Or do I want to give him the knowledge and tools to succeed by living them out myself and making sure I emphasize the importance of not only working out and eating properly, but of loving himself and being open and honest with himself and others about his thoughts, feelings, struggles, questions, and emotions?  Our bodies are amazing, magnificent creations that are minutely intertwined and connected and what we put into our brain affects our body just as much as what we put into our mouth… except maybe for s’mores.

Why we struggle with self-love and self-care could vary from person to person.  Most everyone’s default excuse is laziness, and that might play a part, but I think that, in many cases, it goes deeper than that.  Perhaps you are unorganized and struggle with time management so you can never find the time.  Maybe you are an all-or-nothing perfectionist like me and you convince yourself that, if you can’t execute your ideal health and diet regime perfectly, then there’s no use in trying at all.  Maybe you don’t feel that you’re worth the effort.  Or maybe you’re an alien.  I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on the reasons that keep you from taking care of yourself and, once you’ve found them out, consider what you can change, add, or take away from your life, outlook, and commitments to allow the necessary tools and time for self care to grow and be utilized and prioritized.  I believe a healthy mind begets a healthy body, but that, ultimately, nurturing the two in tandem will reap the greatest benefits.

Whatever your personal struggles, I encourage you to not get discouraged.  Just like mastering any new skill, cultivating self-love, emotional hygiene, and physical health takes time, practice, and perseverance.  I’m still working it all out myself in real time, but I’ve listed some tools and actions or mindsets that have helped me on this journey so far.

Let Go and Let God

This is a religious-based sentiment, but it just means releasing the control that we fight to maintain over things that are out of our control or in the past that are bringing us down.  Letting go of the past self you are hoping to recreate, the emotional and physical hurts you experienced, unreasonable goals, and missed opportunities will bring only freedom and make room for healing, new experiences, and joy.  We are good at allowing regret, fear, and worry rule over our lives, sway our decisions, and prevent us from moving forward.  Forgive yourself and those that have hurt you and choose to embrace the abundance of the current moment and the beauty that is the current you and move forward.

Make Time For Self Care

There’s a reason they tell you if a plane is in distress to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you attempt to help anyone else.  If you pass out, you are no good to anyone.  Oftentimes caretakers are so busy taking care of those in their charge that they neglect themselves and are unable to give their best to those who count on them.  Do something for yourself, even if it’s a ten-minute walk or a bath, writing, singing, dancing, or working on a hobby.  You only get one life, so staying healthy will bring more happiness and length to it.

Make Smart Goals

Rather than setting large goals without concrete set steps for achieving them, break goals down into smaller, more manageable ones to keep momentum and focus.  For instance, if you want to lose 20 pounds in the next six months, break it down into four-pound chunks, then decide what steps need to be taken to lose those four pounds every month.  Create daily and weekly goals such as running 20 minutes a day, drinking eight glasses of water a day, or only having a sugary dessert on Fridays.

Join Community

The support and encouragement of an in-person or online community of people who understand your struggle – weight loss, chronic pain, depression, etc.- can be very helpful and it can simply be reassuring to know you aren’t alone in your struggle.

Seek Help

Get the help and treatments you need and don’t procrastinate.  If there are treatments that exist that could help you don’t let anything stop you from pursuing them.

Be Informed

Seek out trustworthy resources for up-to-date information.  In the ‘90s, fat was bad, but today, fat is good.  In the past, shock therapy was used for mental disorders; today, it’s cognitive behavioral therapy.  The medical and nutrition world is always growing and shifting.  Being knowledgeable about past and present health trends and treatments can help you know what questions to ask your doctor and what options you should consider, to address whatever physical or emotional issue you are struggling with.

Create a Routine

When I was young I wanted nothing to do with restrictions of any kind.  I was convinced that it could only bring stagnation and boredom.  I’ve grown to realize that, without well-balanced and considered boundaries, I fall victim to the extremes of my personality and end up becoming a prisoner of my bad habits.  Rather than exerting self-control and self-discipline to aid me in meeting important goals and milestones in my life, I was floundering, wallowing in my self-made pool of regret.  Routines can help us figure out what’s most important to us and aid in setting goals and life trajectories.  Old habits die hard, but once we take the first step to a better life, the ones that follow are easier.  

Pace Yourself

Listen to your body, know your limits, and be proactive in managing your time so that you can use proper ergonomics, take the time you need to process information, decompress, and get the job done without added mental or physical strain.

Manage Stress

Be proactive in addressing conflict and stress in your life.  When you find you are tense, excessively worried or tired, or showing signs of stress, take a few minutes to reflect on your life and write out all your stressors (good and bad), from the one that is causing you the most anguish down to the least.  Then find ways to address the stressors.  In some cases, like sustaining an injury or losing a loved one, the things that are causing you stress are out of your control.  In such instances, coping techniques will need to be employed.  Other stressors, like aggravating and negative coworkers or family members, could be addressed by creating boundaries to protect yourself from continued conflict.  Utilizing de-stressing techniques such as prayer, meditation, calming visualization, deep breathing, light exercise, journaling, or even getting a massage can aid in relieving your stress and bringing about a sense of calm to your spirit.

Go Play

Find a hobby like biking, birding, rock hounding, hiking, or rollerblading – one that will get you active and outside the house – or just walk and wander this beautiful planet of ours.  We weren’t made to sit within dead trees, we were made to dance under live ones!

Help Others

I have found time and time again that helping others, whether it be buying groceries for an elderly neighbor, being a big brother or sister to a child in need, or volunteering in the community to help the homeless, gets your mind off of yourself and your problems, brings about perspective, and helps to heal the soul.

Keeping my all-or-nothing mentality at bay, not comparing myself to others, and rejoicing in small victories has been key in helping me make the small but impactful steps forward that I have so far.

I pray for mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical healing and success to you, now and always! 

“Live BRIGHT!”

What “Live BRIGHT” Means to Me

What “Live BRIGHT” Means to Me
By Maile Sundquist

I decided to create an inspirational motto, a short phrase that could be used by me and my fellow Stars as an encouragement to one another and ourselves.  Thus Live BRIGHT was born.  Yes, the cheese factor isn’t lost on me, but don’t most things in life worth pursuing have cheese?  Like pizza!  I digress.  So I created this phrase that has become a creed for me to live by.  It is a call to action, an encouragement to live in a deeper, more meaningful and impactful way.  Aside from the implied meaning of bright – intelligent, creative, hopeful, optimistic, boldly shining forth your light into the world – I’ve created an acronym to remind me of the kind of person I strive to be and the virtues and character traits I want to live out for the benefit of myself and those around me.

B: bighearted (compassionate and generous)

R: righteous (good, faithful, trustworthy, and morally sound)

I: ingenuous (free of pretension, trusting, honest, and a reminder to just be me)

G: grateful (content and thankful for life, each new day, and what I have no matter how little)

H: healthy (mental, spiritual, physical health and balance and the disciplines and habits that sustain those things)

T: thoughtful (respectful and intentional with all I say and do and where I invest my time and resources)

So now you know what I mean when I say “Live BRIGHT.”  May our lives and the lives around us be transformed as we let our love and light shine by living bright!

Change

Change
By Maile Sundquist

I remember watching an episode of Hoarders where a counselor was talking with a woman who hoarded, who still had her young teenage boy under her roof.  They were discussing her behavior and addressing the piles and boxes filled with everything he had ever owned or created.  The counselor asked the woman about the significance of several items from one of the boxes and the woman gave an excuse and reason why each item was special and had to be kept.  The counselor then said something I’ll never forget.  In so many words, “Your son is here, with you, still alive, and you are missing out on making new memories with him by holding onto all of these items from the past and clinging to the memories of yesterday.  You and your son’s relationship is being suffocated by your stuff”.  It was heart breaking and tragic, as most of those episodes are, but the counselor made such a good point!  

You have to grow with things, whether it be a child or your circumstances, and embrace the change.  If we fight or deny the only constant in life other than death and taxes, we will always lose, being left resentful, frustrated and stuck in the past.

Change can seriously suck sometimes.  Like trying to fit into your wedding dress 5 years, or in my case a year later and not being able to get it past my ankle, or getting crows feet or a divorce.  I love feeling in control and having things just so, a perfect orchestrated masterpiece of efficiency and harmony that I can rely on.  Alas, this only lasts a short time before “change” rears it’s ugly head.  We can only control so much for so long before the winds of change put a snag in our plans.  But maybe it’s not always for the worse.  I know I could benefit from letting go and letting God more often.  Change can bring beauty and healing as well as frustration and stress.  Think of the changing of seasons!

Often people are shocked to find out that Fall is my favorite season.  “Everything dies in Fall.”, they always say.  What I love about Fall, other than the crisp air, blue skies and beautiful colors, is the fact that it makes room for new growth and rebirth come Spring.  Without the dying off of the old, bad habits, there’s not room to create new good habits.  Without the letting go of regrets of the past, there would not be time or mental and physical energy to create new memories and live each moment to it’s fullest!

Although I live simply in a minimalist lifestyle, I can relate to the hoarding mom a bit now that I have a son of my own.  Seriously, watching my son grow up has been insane!  A total emotionally charged blast!  Now that he is over a year old my husband and I are already finding ourselves reminiscing about when he was a newborn, 3 months, 6 months, 9 months.  And what I would have never thought of before being a parent is just how much there is to reminisce about in such a short period of time because they grow and change so incredibly fast their first year of life.  Sentimentality kicks into overdrive when you become a parent, and I definitely have felt the hoarding bug crawling up my leg more than once, but every time I do I recall the words of the counselor in Hoarders and remember how much better it is to embrace change in life.  Cherish yesterday, but live in today embracing every facet of the now.  

Don’t lose the present by holding too tightly to the past.

“Live BRIGHT!”

Keeping the Wonder in your Work

Keeping the Wonder in your Work
By Maile Sundquist

In 2013, I began writing a fantasy/sci-fi novel set in Japan.  I am currently working on the final draft of and illustrations for the first book of the trilogy.  I have never taken a proper writing class outside of high school, so it’s been quite a learning process, but an entertaining and engaging adventure too.  Although I’m a quarter Japanese and I love the aesthetic (which I use in my home), I realized I knew very little about the culture I was writing about outside of a college class on Japanese art history I had taken, so I decided to become a student of all things Japanese.  I started with reading books I came across, and then took my studies to a higher level by taking inspirational field trips.  I went to the Seattle Asian Art Museum to learn about ink block drawings and to the Bellevue Art Museum to learn about origami history and to get visual ideas for the drawings I’m adding to my book.  Next it was off to the Japanese Garden to experience a tea ceremony and the Zen landscape, then onto the Hanami, Moon Viewing, and Japanese Cherry Blossom Festivals to experience Japanese culture, art, philosophy, music, food, and more.  Note pad and camera in hand and filled with childlike wonder, I soaked in every sight, story, taste and sound I could, and in doing so, came into a greater appreciation and understanding of the world of my story.  Since it is set in the future there is room for interpretation, but my studies gave me motivation and inspiration and they kept my focus on my novel and the art I would create for it, which were the most important things.  I had to remind myself that it was important to balance my study time with time actually writing my novel, as I could easily immerse myself for days in research, and that it was merely a means to an end and not my main objective.  I encourage you to embrace wonder, and look outside your imagination for inspiration for your creative pursuits by way of nature walks, reading, personal testimonies, or interaction and creative field trips.  It enriches your life and feeds your soul while motivating and inspiring you in your artistic projects, and adds a depth to your work that might not have been there otherwise.   Be a kid at heart, a student for life, and view the world as your personal classroom and playground.  Life and creating is an adventure!  Enjoy the ride!

“Live BRIGHT!”

A Drawer Full of Dreams

A Drawer Full of Dreams
By Maile Sundquist

My son has entered the stage where he’s catching onto the fact that there is a big, crazy world going on around him.  I’ve noticed lately during feedings that he’ll suck for a moment then pop off my breast to flash me an adorably gummy grin then pop back on only to pop back off at the movement of my husband through the room then back on, oh, but not before a detailed examination of his hands.  A truck drives by our street – off again, on again.  A knock at our neighbor’s door two houses down – off again with another quick smile to me before popping back on, just to pop back off at the sound of a flea fart.

After reading up on this phenomenon, which is apparently pretty common for this age, I found that infants will often lose weight and a mother’s milk production could decrease all because this wide-eyed infant is being so distracted by and excited about the world around him.

It got me thinking about distractions in general, and specifically how they inhibit goal completion.  In my case, being multi-talented and having a broad range of interests, I’ve often found myself jumping from unfinished project to unfinished pursuit and back again.  I’ve collected tools and clothing, equipment and books for big and small hobbies, arts, crafts, business ideas, and dreams I’ve had since I was 16.  One big trend through it all was how little I got accomplished and how much stress, shame, and clutter I caused myself.  Not unlike a distracted infant during mealtime, I was sacrificing progress for the excitement of a new idea.  

I blame my childlike wonder and short attention span for making me giddy when I see something fun and new or when inspiration strikes.  I find myself powerless against its advances and compelled to add it to the “buh buh buh bum” dreaded to-do list!  Over time these ambitions made up the backbone of a to-do list that not even the most efficient, talented, and productive person could hope to accomplish in three lifetimes.  As my list grew longer, I realized that the idea of the idea had become an idol, so when these ideas didn’t come to fruition they became less inspiration and more condemnation.  Reminders that I failed to follow through and now somehow my life will not be as full or has less value and meaning.  My beautiful ideas, dreams, and pursuits had become a heavy burden in the back of my mind that nagged at me for attention, in turn causing me mental exhaustion and depression.  I was setting myself up for frustration and failure and life is too short to feel that way!

We are only one person, we have two hands, one brain, one heart, one life, and limited time in a day so unfortunately we just can’t do everything we’d like before we die.  That is why we need to choose wisely.  It takes focus and discipline to reach goals and if we strive for too many, the likelihood that we will reach them is hindered and usually something or everything, including ourselves, will suffer.  Mozart didn’t become a great composer and pianist by tole-painting, learning how to cut hair, and writing a graphic novel while doing magic at kids’ birthday parties and teaching yoga on the weekends.  He focused on piano and made his time, resources, and mental energy align with this goal.

It has been a long, stressful, painful process trying to reduce and streamline my dreams and ambitions.  I remember poring over my list with my husband for moral support, trying to figure out what to pursue first, and how, and what to let go of.  In my case, I used to think it would take hypnosis, cognitive behavioral therapy, shock treatments, and a miracle to get me to limit my ambitions.  It wasn’t until I began prayerfully being more thoughtful and intentional and pursuing simple living, AKA minimalism, that I started seeing reduced stress and feeling more in control of my thoughts, desires, resources, and life.  Paraphrasing Clare Boothe Luce and Leonard Thiessen, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

I began with the low-hanging fruit, which for me was clothes.  It was a straightforward weeding-out process.  Old, ratty, unfixable?  Garbage or rags.  Fixable?  If it wasn’t fixed by the following weekend, garbage or rags.  Hadn’t worn it in awhile, didn’t feel great in it, wasn’t my style, or didn’t fit anymore and I wasn’t within 5 pounds of fitting into it again?  Give to a friend, sell, donate, or consign.  My wardrobe now only consists of items that reflect my personal style, fit me well, make me feel good when I wear them, and go together so I can form outfits with limited fuss.  Because I also have fewer clothing items, it makes caring them easier and forming outfits faster.  Plus, they take up less space in my room, I know what I have, and I only replace items as I need them, which has prevented me from impulse shopping and feeling powerless in response to sales, saving me money.  I found that this positive domino effect played out in every area or thing I minimized or, as I like to call it, curated.  I went through every room in the house and every possession I owned asking myself, “Does it serve me, is it useful, does it bring me joy?”  If the answer was no I let it go and freed up not only tangible living space but, surprisingly, mental space as well.  There’s a peace and clarity that comes from knowing what you own and why you own it and not letting your possessions own you.  There was a time when I felt like my life would be over and that I’d have a breakdown if I lost my belongings to a fire or theft, and now I no longer feel that way.  It would be heartbreaking to lose truly irreplaceable sentimental or handmade items, but even then, as long as I have my life, my memory, my family, and my faith, life will go on.  Most categories except for sentimental items were easy to minimize, but then came reducing my ambitions.

What I came to realize was that I was a hoarder, not of things, but of ideas and ambitions.  I asked myself the same questions stated above, but I was also forced to ask myself harder questions like, “What are my core values?  What are my goals for the next year or five?  What are my deepest, truest passions, and how do these ideas, hobbies, and pursuits fit into the bigger picture of my life?  What do I want the majority of my precious and finite time and mental energy and resources to go to?”  I rated them all against one another based on the above criteria and only the highest rankers for joy, passion, fulfillment, and calling remained in the running, namely building up Soul Scribes to make a positive impact on individual’s hearts and in the community, finishing my books (writing and art), and making music and music videos with my husband for our band.  Gone were my scrapbooking and card-making supplies, my candle- and soap-making tools, various musical instruments that I didn’t feature in the music I made, fabric paints, the rocks I was going to paint animals on, and the life-sized cardboard cutout of Tony Danza.  It’s better you don’t ask.

Letting go of all of the things that I had invested in for the many pursuits was hard, but I figured it was a sunk cost and remembered my goals and truest passions, took a deep breath, and let them go, hopefully to someone who will actually need and use them regularly.  The hardest part, however, was letting go of those great ideas that I didn’t have time for, the hobby that brought up good memories of the past but that I hadn’t picked up in three years, or the hopefulness behind the dream that was to make a positive impact to society or for a cause.  It is a daily struggle as a dreamer, artist, and visionary to not take on more “great ideas,” but since I decluttered, the physical aspects of these ambitions and fought against them reentering my mental space I have felt freer and happier and more inspired to pursue the few ambitions, hobbies, and dreams that remain.  Which are really quite a lot still.  There’s no rule saying I have to pick three and that’s it until I die.  I recognize I have to leave room for my interests to evolve along with me and my life circumstances.  I could put one down and pick up another or meet my goals in one and start to pursue another; as long as I’m in control and keeping my pursuits manageable and curated like my possessions, then I will feel awesome and be successful.

Living simple has changed the way I look, not only at my belongings, but at my life, myself, my time, my resources, and my ambitions.  Life is short and we only have a finite amount of resources to accomplish our truest calling and desires before we die.  You are in control of curating your life, of editing out the negative and making room for the beautiful.  Let what you own, how you live, what you spend, what you eat, the people you hang out with, and your ambitions support the lifestyle and beliefs you choose to promote in your life so that you can reach your goals and live your dreams.  When you are not weighed down and overwhelmed by physical or mental clutter and distractions, you are free to live your life more fully and pursue the things that are most important.

“Live BRIGHT!”

Practicing Gratitude

Practicing Gratitude
By Maile Sundquist

Although the average person has as much of a chance of having a good day as a bad one, the majority of us seem to go through life sullen, defeated, weary, tired, fearful, and depressed.

Life is an ever-changing thing, full of complex circumstances, relationships, points of views, belief systems, words, and actions.  So how, when so much of life and its happenings seem insanely overwhelming and out of our control, do we maintain contentment and joy?

Since 2005 I have had chronic pain that has made it hard for me to keep a smile on my face.  In my youth I was an upbeat, energetic, optimistic girl, but now I have become a mentally and physically overwhelmed, anxiety-ridden, emotionally unhinged, fatigued, depressed shadow of my former self… and that’s on a good day!

But seriously, although I am not as low as I once was, I still battle negativity and generalized anxiety daily.  One of the biggest attitude changers that I have come across is gratitude.  Peace and happiness are fleeting.  They ebb and flow based on circumstance.  However, true contentment and joy are deep, abiding things that should remain in place despite life’s comings and goings.  They are a state of mind we can choose to inhabit or not.  They are a choice that being grateful through all circumstances can aid in.

I by no means claim to have mastered the path of true contentment and joy.  If I had, I think I would at least have one bestselling book, regular TV appearances, surely more money in the bank, and go by a name like Guru Shasta Sauce.  Like I said, being positive and anxiety-free is a daily struggle, but I’ll list a few things I try to put into play daily that have helped me move in the direction of contentment and joy.

A healthy perspective and self-awareness.  Developing awareness and mindfulness of the roll I passively or actively play in my life and circumstances is huge to being able to see things more clearly.  Our perception plays a huge roll in how we react and are affected by events in life.  Just like a healthy immune system, a healthy perspective will allow us to fight off most negative, irrational feelings that try to invade our peace of mind and erode our emotional foundation.

Faith in a higher power.  The stabilizer for all areas of my life has come from my faith as a Christian and holding onto God’s promises in the Bible which bring me hope, reassurance, and encouragement.

Embrace change.  I know, painfully cliche but an important life lesson.  It is after all the only constant in life.  The times I have attempted to tackle life through a narrow, rigid filter and have been judgmental or controlling have only caused me unnecessary stress and anxiety.  Crappy things will happen but we need to let them and the negative emotions that come with them crash and recede like waves on the shore.  We can’t control what others do, but we can control our response.

Let it go.  What’s done is done.  Not dwelling or ruminating on negative interactions or events, but learning what I can from them and moving on, has been so freeing, and made room for forgiveness and joy in my life.  Replaying embarrassing or negative dialogues or happenings in my head has only ever caused discontentment, shame, and frustration, which only going back in time could remedy – which is impossible.

Being grateful.  Despite one’s struggles or situation past or present there is always something to be grateful for, no matter how small.  Comparing myself or what I have to others has been a surefire contentment killer.  Society and marketers play on our insecurities and want us to live in a constant state of discontent.  When we feel inadequate or that we or what we have does not measure up then we will inevitably reach outside ourselves to remedy the situation whether it’s a new job, a new haircut, a new car, or a new relationship.  Stuff is not the answer.  Assessing my life, knowing and loving myself, creating a value system that correlates with my belief system, accepting my strengths and weaknesses, and being at peace with what makes me me and what I believe all contribute greatly to giving me confidence in my choices about how I live my life and what I want from it.  They have given me confidence to opt out of any preconceived notions of how any aspect of life should look.  I make due with what I have and try to cultivate an attitude of gratefulness by being mindful in each moment and circumstance of what there is to be thankful for.  “Count your blessings” and “want for nothing” are two mottos I try to live by.

Practicing gratitude will help us not to dwell on the negatives in ourselves, our circumstances, and our relationships.  It encourages us away from comparative thinking and keeps us from dwelling on what we lack and what we want, helping us to live in and embrace each moment.

I hope we can all allow gratefulness to be an abiding trait in our lives.  Let’s go forward with grateful hearts rejoicing in and embracing each precious and fleeting moment.  May our eyes be open to seeing the silver lining in every rain cloud that comes our way.  Even when we feel there is nothing to be thankful for, remember there is hope in each new day and our existence. 

Today I am thankful for another new year, and for all of you who take the time to read my words.  May your new year be full of hope, love, peace, joy, and ice cream, ’cause who doesn’t like ice cream?

“Live BRIGHT!”

In His Arms is Home

In His Arms is Home
By Maile Sundquist

It’s not often in life that you meet someone whose worldview, interests, and passions align so perfectly with yours.  Someone who makes you laugh, is your sounding board and rock, is intelligent, talented, ingenuous, sensitive, not afraid to admit he loves Hello Kitty, and sexy to boot.

I met my husband in December of 1999 at a Christian college group and we’ve pretty much been inseparable ever since.  It’s our eight-year wedding anniversary today, which makes it 17 years of being together.  We had our first child last May, are continuing to write music together, and are daily planning our next great invention and adventure.  My love and appreciation for this man knows no bounds.  He is everything to me, including my editor.  Without his magical editing powers my writing myte look’ somethin: like thiss for inscrutability.  The “inscrutability” is autocorrect for “instance.”  But seriously, this man has literally made my existence and our family possible during some of the darkest moments of my depression.  He has kept things moving forward while I was treading water.  Although what he does means so much, he’s obviously so much more than the things he does.  It’s who he is that made me fall in love with him and keeps me in love with him.  It’s the depths to which we know one another and the security I have in knowing I can trust him with my life.  It’s the spark of joy I feel when I see him, no matter how I’m feeling about myself, him, or life in that moment, that warms my heart and gives me strength to face the day and is proof that I chose wisely when I said “I do.”

Relationships are amazing, life-giving, soul-reviving things, but they can also be hard work.  It’s during those tough times that the promise and commitment you make to one another in your marriage vows plays its strongest roll.

Being a Christian, I believe marriage is a sacred union and a promise that you make to each other before God and friends and family to cherish, honor, respect, and care for each other until death do you part.  In addition to this, there is an expectation that the community that attends your wedding will help to uphold and support your marriage relationship, but so many times this accountability falls short and the couple is left floundering in the middle of rocky seas without life support. 

I have witnessed innumerable marriages fail in my lifetime.  It’s heartbreaking for the couple and especially for the children if there are any involved.  The family unit and marriage union is not respected and the value of a strong, stable marriage has fallen by the wayside in a culture that is driven by independence, selfishness, and pride.  

It both saddens and angers me when I hear a woman complaining about her husband to a girlfriend who, rather than showing true care by offering encouragement and ideas on how to mend things with her spouse, pours gas on the fire by joining in to tear him down and in the end sometimes encourages her to leave him, saying, “You deserve better.”  Now there are instances such as abuse and infidelity where things get sticky, but the flippant manner by which a lot of people discuss and handle relational struggles is broken, which inevitably leads to a broken marriage and divorce.

I know people can change or make huge mistakes but I believe marriage should be a promise that you make once, and a choice you make everyday.  

Trust me, I get it.  It’s hard enough to make time to care for yourself most days, so it will always be hard to care for those outside yourself.  It will always be work to maintain long, meaningful, lasting relationships that stand the test of time, but it can be fun and joyful work, and it’s worth it.  A relationship as long-lasting as my husband’s and mine has definitely been through, and continues to survive, its share of slings and arrows.  We may have scars, but we share those scars, and they remind us of all we’ve been through, and in turn make us stronger.  

If you are struggling in your marriage don’t be afraid to confide in someone you trust or make the time for counseling or just a long heart-to-heart with one another.  The love you started your relationship on is worth saving and magnifying out into the world.  There are always things that can be put off rescheduled or dropped altogether for the sake of unity, love, passion, and your marriage.  

Even if you are carrying around emotional baggage from the day before or years before, just take hope in the fact there is always a new day dawning and with it a new chance to forgive, a new chance to ask for forgiveness, and a new chance to choose a happy, healthy, thriving marriage.

“Live BRIGHT!”