Being a writer/editor is rewarding, enjoyable, and sometimes even glamorous (and sometimes SO NOT glamorous). That’s all you can ask for, right? Wrong! You can also ask for money! I have said it before, I’ll say it again: the word “starving” is not required before the word “artist.” Creatives don’t need to suffer in order to produce awesome work!
But. (There’s always a but….)
Since I don’t believe money is naturally good or bad, we need to know when money acts as a good thing and when money acts a bad thing.
In my life and particularly my creative business, money acts as a bad thing the second I choose profit over integrity. That is why I have decided that the foundation of my business is and must always be integrity. It will be the ground I walk on as I grow, expand, succeed, fail, and succeed again.
I recently landed a job (yay!) as a social media manager and content writer for a company, working only a couple hours a week. Without sharing many details, this company sells a consumable product with an all-natural ingredient that has a long list of benefits. As a proud hippie, I’m all about all-natural health products, so I was EAGER to create their content.
I spent a couple hours talking about specifics and negotiating my prices. Then I was hired. I love being hired as a freelancer. I become giddy. But the giddy ended quickly after I immediately did more research on this super ingredient and found it has traditionally been used as an abortifacient and can cause heavy menstrual bleeding.
Women are my audience! Women’s issues are my issues! I want women to be healthy and safe. Thus – I can’t work for a business with a product that can terminate a woman’s pregnancy and bring other potential harm to her health.
They were going to pay me good money, and I turned it down. Honest moment: there was a twinge of sadness that I’d be losing decent weekly income from easy work I enjoyed doing. The Boyfriend had to take me out for a drink that night. And don’t think I didn’t try to think of other possibilities like “Well I’m not technically SELLING the product…” But no! NO!
In her book Rising Strong, Brene Brown brilliantly gives her definition of integrity:
“Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.”
If I had kept that job, I would have been comforted by the fun, fast weekly paycheck. I’m a freelancer – any amount of money feels like a squishy pillow to rest my crazy head. But I can’t talk about fighting for women and then work for a company that goes against what I want to see for women – healthy lives!
My fellow creatives and business owners and human beings:
If we get rich, but lose our integrity – what was it for?
If we choose comfort, but lose our courage – what was it for?
If we choose what is fun, fast, or easy, but lose what is right – what is it for?
If we profess values, but don’t practice them – what was it for?
Profit is great and necessary. But profit means nothing if we lose who we are. As for me and my business, we’re gonna take the hit every time. Anybody else in?
Here’s our manifesto:
What does integrity mean to you? Let me know in the comments!
Happy Freakin’ Friday to all my favorite people (if you’re reading this, you qualify)!
My life has been a crazy blur of moving into our new apartment in Tamarindo and lots of work stuff. Speaking of which, please go up and visit my brand new Work With Me tab on the upper righthand corner!
I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to a weekend break! BUT before I sign off, here are the things I’m LOVING right now – you just might love them too!
Favorite on Netflix:
We finished the fourth season of Dexter: the one that ends HORRIBLY! I have a love/hate relationship with that show. I mean, holy violence, Batman! I don’t think the writing is that great. And I cannot stand the characterization of Dexter’s sister, Deb. But I still watch it consistently with The Boyfriend. I don’t know why. I really don’t know. It’s not my favorite, I’m just blabbing.
Here’s my actual favorite: I’ve also been going back and forth between How To Get Away With Murder and The Good Wife. I’m not done with season 1 yet, but I’m thinking The Good Wife may be one of my new favs!!!
I’m fully capable of swooning over a good song. This one is swoony. There isn’t MUCH country music being played around our little town in Costa Rica, so I’ve been listening to country playlists quite a bit on Spotify.
I’ve started listening to The Suitcase Entrepreneur by Natalie Sisson – because, well, I’m an entrepreneur and I live out of a suitcase. Sometimes, it really is that simple. It has fabulous and engaging information on how to build a business while traveling the world and living a life of freedom. I highly recommend it!
Favorite Costa Rica Things:
I posted this photo to my Instagram recently because you simply had to see it! I am now a beach bum. I don’t check my clothes for clashing patterns before I head out for dinner. Why bother, folks, why bother? I live on the Pacific Ocean. I walk by monkeys hanging from trees when I go to yoga class and say, “Hey man, how’s it hanging?” – I talk to monkeys now. The least of my concern is how I dress.
But I thought I could spruce it up a little. So I took a shower yesterday, shaved, and even painted my nails. Everything in moderation. Including grungy beach-bum-ness, style, and talking to monkeys. Everything in moderation.
“You do not need anybody’s permission to live a creative life” – Elizabeth Gilbert (currently reading her book Big Magic, and it is, frankly, big and magical.)
I’ll see you all next week! Some post topics to look forward to:
1. Relationships are flipping hard work. And also adorable. Adorably flipping hard.
2. My church as in idea, not a building.
3. What it’s like to not have a car for the first time in your life.
I was 21 and set to go on a Mexican cruise when my mom went to a mental hospital. If during the first two decades of my life you mentioned that MY mother would detox at a mental institution, I would have laughed in your face. That detail didn’t fit inside my family’s narrative. We were the ideal, God-fearing, all-American, one son, one daughter, one dog, vacations to Disneyland, public servant father, and stay-at-home mother sort of family.
But mental illness doesn’t just come to those on the fringes. It doesn’t care what car you drive or which church you go to. It finds all kinds of people, even the best mothers in the world, the lovely ones. For my mom, anxiety and depression found her. And a dose of chronic pain. This mental hospital would be a safe place for this woman I love to withdraw from Hydrocodone and Xanax.
I went on that cruise while she detoxed and spent time with other struggling women. It was an odd, helpless moment in my life. When I got back, she had been released, but the effects of withdrawal hadn’t freed their grip on her small body. She was in torment. No words will ever describe the terror my mom went through. We sat on the couch together during this time and watched Something’s Gotta Give with Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton on repeat because it was the only thing that would offer brief moments of relief from the pain and intense mental assault she was experiencing. I call this time: Please God, Something’s Gotta Give.
When the withdrawals started doing horrible things to her body, she couldn’t take it anymore and went back to a medical hospital. Desperate. I sat there with her for hours day after day. A nurse offered her a new medication for the intense nausea. Terrified of putting anything addictive into her body again, she looked to me to make the decision. Suddenly, our roles reversed. The woman who took such good care of me when I was sick, taught me how to tie my shoes and read works of literature, and guided me through my angsty teen years needed my help.
It wasn’t that she wasn’t strong. In fact, she was at her strongest. Xanax is the strongest, fastest acting Benzodiazepine there is – and Benzos are one of only two drugs with a withdrawal that can kill you. She was fighting for her life. Bravely. Choosing to stay alive and alert each minute instead of fading away. She went through hell and chose to keep walking.
She hadn’t wanted to be an addict. She didn’t nonchalantly plan for addiction while reading a novel one boring Tuesday afternoon. My mother was a fun lady who made our family casseroles, went to Bible studies, drank tea, and did crossword puzzles while watching Jeopardy.
But she also had chronic, debilitating migraines. I’m puzzled when I see people out and about complaining they currently have a “migraine.” I grew up with a woman whose migraines meant she had to hide in a pitch-black silent room with ice packs surrounding her head for hours. She needed pain relief, so doctors prescribed Hydrocodone. It only took the edge off.
Then she was really brave one day, a few years before the detox. She admitted to a doctor that she loved her life and her family, but felt anxious and depressed. That was probably an understatement. My mother suffered from untreated anxiety and depression through much of her life. Once we all understood that fact, it was easy to see how long she had been suffering. Her doctor gave her an anti-depressant and Xanax. My mom obeyed. Doctors always know best right?
I didn’t know my mom had anxiety when I was a little girl. To me, she was just the lady who played Seals and Croft’s “Summer Breeze” for living room dance parties. But as a woman looking back on my childhood, it is clear in a simple way. She was gripped by anxiety, saddened by depression. She wasn’t free to be herself. Each day that went by untreated, it got worse.
Some will argue, but I believe wholeheartedly that fear and shame-based faulty theologies of a demanding God only fed her anxiety and depression. When you think God is mad, you panic and do anything to please him. When women’s Bible studies teach you that good wives have to live THIS way or good moms have to be THAT way, anxiety builds. In the end, these teachings had more to do with fearful social expectations than they had to do with God, and they fed my mom’s chemical imbalances. All while she was trying to do the right thing.
This dogmatic teaching never told my mother that she was beloved as she was. They taught her she must be better and hide all the rusty parts. Only show the shiny parts. I think I like her rusty parts best.
She visited therapists who just wanted to sit on a couch and regurgitate her childhood again and again. It wasn’t helping. They weren’t teaching her how to cope today. The doctors gave her more Xanax. They were feeding her a drug that can kill you. (All while Marijuana was still illegal. I never understood that.) The medicine helped reduce physical and emotional pain. But she began having withdrawal symptoms while on still on the medication. Her body had become dependent on the amount she was taking and required more.
Of course, she didn’t realize that while it was happening. She only knew she had hit rock bottom and thought she was going to die. That’s when she asked my dad to drive her to the detox facility. The medication, pain, anxiety, and depression were overtaking her body. She was done: mentally, emotionally, spiritually done. But she refused to call it quits. I’m so glad she was brave enough to refuse to check out of our lives.
Eventually, the withdrawals eased. Months felt like decades. As the Hydrocodone left her body, she was shocked to discover that her migraines decreased each month. Without the Xanax, she was able to think clearly and find a therapist who gave her tools to help her function day-to-day. This therapist used Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)and taught her emotional regulation and mindfulness – how to be fully aware and present in each moment – and acceptance – of herself, her illness, her emotions. This woman taught my mother how to not just survive anxiety and depression, but how to thrive by owning her story and owning all the parts of herself. The DBT even helped her cope with the pain more effectively.
I don’t think that medicine is the root of all evil by any means. I am not a doctor or therapist, but I do know some people need medication. In fact, my mom stayed on one safe antidepressant. But I think we can do better in supporting those with mental illness beyond medication:
1. Most importantly, we can support those with mental illness by not denying that they have a real medical condition. If one more person says, “You don’t have depression, you just need to find your joy,” or “You don’t have anxiety, you’re just wound up,” I may lose my shit. Nobody denies that cancer patients have cancer or that diabetics need insulin. Why do we treat people with mental illness like they just need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and deal with it?
Lesson #1: Mental illness is real. Educate yourself. Also, the archaic narrative of “People with mental illness are weak” is old and ignorant. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Show compassion. Learn and grow.
2. Almost as importantly, we need to know the difference between feeling depressed or anxious and having depression and anxiety. People will tell my mom things like, “I felt depressed a few years back and started a workout regimen. Worked like a charm,” or “I’ve only felt anxious once or twice in my life. I really try to relax.” As if the person with anxiety hadn’t thought about “just relaxing” before!
The best way I can describe the difference is this: If you get bronchitis one winter and have trouble breathing for a few days, you cannot compare yourself to an asthmatic who has had a life of breathing treatments and scary trips to the hospital because their lungs don’t function properly. Lesson #2: Everybody experiences feeling depressed or anxious, but that IN NO WAY means you know what it’s like to have Major Depressive Disorder or Generalized Anxiety Disorder or other mental illnesses.
Possibly the thing that scares me the most about my mother’s anxiety and depression is the fact that I see traces of it in myself. I feel the overwhelming panic crawl into my chest; I feel the lack of motivation hit me at the oddest moments. We are intimately connected, my mother and I. Her blood runs through my veins. See, I’ve been telling you a part of her story (and it is only a part of a complex, beautiful story), but it’s my story too. Maybe I’m a little rusty too. I think I like the rusty parts best.
But my mother gave me a gift: she walked through hell already. She taught me how to be courageous when all you want to do is give up. She taught me how to express my emotions even when I want to hide. She taught me that you could have mental illness and still THRIVE, not merely survive.
The road has been long for my precious mother. She is the healthiest she’s been in her entire life. Of course there are still rough patches. That’s life. When we look back we will see splotches of blood, puddles of tears, and hills we barely got over. There’s no perfect ending with a pretty little bow on top. This isn’t “5 Ways to Kick Depression and Anxiety to the Curb.” This is “Life is so hard, but we get through it together.”
What is it like to have a parent with mental illness? Hard sometimes, and scary. But beautiful too. I’ve received the rare opportunity to see my mother as a human being, not simply a mom. “Mother” is her role, not her identity. The person she really is – well, she’s a mixture of rusty and shiny.
But I think I like her rusty parts best.
Perfectly shiny is TOTALLY overrated.
Please share my mother’s story on social media to help bring awareness of mental illness, not as some idea that we like to analyze, but as a story. A common story that touches the lives of at least 1 in 5 adults in the US. Let’s work together to de-stigmatize mental illness and lock arms in support of those we love and those we too often forget about. Or, perhaps, her story will help somebody not feel so alone.
Here’s what I read over the month of September! P.S. I’m determined to read one business book a month to blossom my skills, but didn’t love the one I chose for September. I would LOVE to see your business-related book recommendations in the comments! Thanks, friends! – Tay xo
Her research combined with her relatable storytelling helps her readers learn what to do when they’ve fallen and how to get back up! If we’re being vulnerable and daring greatly, we will fall down, but we don’t want to stay down.
I can’t rave about this book enough. I believe every human being needs to read all three of Brené’s books. They’re vitally important to living wholehearted lives full of bravery & free of shame!
I think Liane Moriarty is a great storyteller of women. I’ve read The Husband’s Secret, which I also thought was great. She tells interesting, easy-to-read stories about the intersection of women’s lives. And I love them.
In this novel, Alice wakes up from a head bump and can’t remember the last ten years of her life. To her, she’s the newly-married, newly-pregnant, young, carefree, happy 20-something. But the life she wakes up to has gone way off course. And for the life of her, she doesn’t know what happened.
This is a simple read, enjoyable, easy – but that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in depth and insight! How do we let our lives and our loves slip away from us?
For some insane reason, Aimee Bender doesn’t get much recognition outside literary communities. Those studying to get their various English degrees read her and love her, but she’s yet to come into the attention of the mainstream. It’s their loss. She’s magnificent.
I heard Aimee Bender speak in Las Vegas. She speaks with the same magical quality that she writes. Her work takes some deep truth about humanity and displays it in a simple and unusual way.
In this novel, the protagonist can taste the emotions of the person who makes her food. It’s brilliant.
This is probably the only Rob Bell book out there that I’d not give a full 5 stars. Rob Bell is one of my favorite people/speakers/writers/podcasters.
But my evaluation is not entirely fair. Drops Like Stars was originally created to be an inspirational coffee table book on creativity. If I had it in that format, I probably would have enjoyed it more.
Drop Like Stars is short and sweet. Rob encourages all people to pursue their creativity in his typical Rob Bell way. I was inspired, not awestruck. Normally he leaves me awestruck.
The E-Myth came recommended to me, but I wouldn’t really recommend it to anyone else. It definitely did not meet my expectations.
There were a few concepts that I found value in – especially the discussion on the Technician (the person who specializes in a skill) a Manager (the person who oversees everything), and an Entrepreneur (the person who envisions everything) – and how in small business, owners have to often wear all three hats.
But I really hated the format of the book. There was a cheesy “real-life” dialogue between the author and a small business owner. It just didn’t do it for me.
I’ve been posting cool travel pictures to Instagram lately. #travel #travelblog
Mostly because I’ve had some really cool experiences over the past month of living in Costa Rica. I’ve gone swimming in the Pacific Ocean most days, watched incredible sunsets, held an octopus, eaten delicious local food, watched dolphins a few feet away, met some awesome people, and started communicating in a different language.
Best part? I’ve done that ALL while working from home, doing what I love. Taking breaks when I need them, exploring when I want to.
But that’s only a part of the story!! A great, exciting, dreamy, large part – but still only a part.
When we look on travel instagram accounts, we often miss out on another side of the story. The not-so-perfect side. If I posted Instagram photos of what it’s really been like to live in a new country in Central America, the FULL story, I would have to include these:
Photo 1: Enter big-ass tarantula and scorpion that welcomed us on our first night here. You would see me standing on our bed, jumping up and down, pointing at a massive spider right by The Boyfriend’s foot, and uttering a guttural “AUGHHH! AUGHHH!”
Photo 2: Enter a boyfriend and girlfriend living in a studio apartment and working from home together. We are very close these days. Very, very, very close. You would see us picking fights about really serious things of monumental importance like dinner.
Photo 3: Enter sweat. I mean just so much flipping sweat. Sweat pouring from sweat. I’m not talking about my manly man. I’m talking about me. You would see sweat all over the place. Not like hot, steamy, glowing sexpot sweat. Droplets fall from me.
Photo #4: Enter the disappearing internet. Normally, Costa Rican internet is strong and capable, like a good horse. But sometimes it enjoys the “Pura Vida” lifestyle and takes a vacation during storms. You would see us bored out of our minds pursuing archaic pastimes like playing cards and actually conversing.
Photo #5: Enter toilet paper in trashcans. Not new toilet paper, loved ones. Used. Used by me. It just sits there and collects. You would see me learning not to care that my bodily secretions sit in the bathroom that my boyfriend uses too.
Photo #6: Enter bug bites up and down my legs. For some reason all the bugs in Costa Rica love me, but for some reason my body really does not love their bites. They swell into large, hot, bright red lumps of pain and scratching. You would see plenty of expert level avoiding mosquitoes like the plague.
As you can see, a life of travel is not always as glamorous as you see on social media. It’s not so much that the greatness isn’t so great. It’s that there’s also moments that are weird, gross, stressful, and awkward. Is it worth it? Um…yes.
Because of this:
What are your hashtags looking like these days? Leave a comment below and let me know! I always love hearing from all of you