Let’s Talk Accountability

A frank discussion on how answering to someone can help you get your shit together.

Look. Accountability is a big buzz word for me. I was a part of a few groups in my early twenties where the lines between helping each other and invading each other’s privacy were regularly blurred. It was like opening the wound only to be chastised for having the cut in the first place. Needless to say, that’s not what I want for myself anymore.

But I do understand better than ever that my choices built my future. I write often about self love and self care. I live a pretty laid back life because I am a lucky woman married to a sweet man who asks only that I do what my body needs and my soul desires. For a long time the body needed sleep. It needed silence. The soul was superceded by the physical. So when I became well enough to indulge in things like massages and pedicures and manicures and shopping, I took those as the self care route that I deserved. I’m not saying it’s wrong to do those things. They’re just not things you build a life on.

When I started thinking about the future, I saw myself as a successful person living a successful life. I could see that for myself but couldn’t figure out how to get there. I’ve talked about finding what you want to do most, but today I’m talking about the dedication it takes to build a life around that decision.

It’s easy to forget that nothing happens by accident. My role models are people who worked incredibly hard for the things they have. I’m only just realizing that hard work is made up of a million little choices every day. It’s getting out of bed in time to exercise. It’s deciding to write this post today instead of tomorrow. It’s going to that event even though you’d rather watch Netflix. (I’m not talking about ignoring what your body needs. If you need a day of rest because your brain or your body isn’t working the way it should be, then take it). I’m talking about the times when we have the ability and the choice to do something good for ourselves and we ignore that in favor of the easier path.

Working for yourself can make accountability hard. You don’t really answer to anyone. Your only measure is the growth or lack thereof that you’re experiencing. But I like to think of the me five years from now as being the person I’m accountable to. I’m taking care of her by working hard today. I’m building a life that she’ll want to live and that I can live with today. I’m accountable to her and I’m accountable to the people who read my content and trust me to give them advice. I’m accountable to my husband who’s made sacrifices to give me a chance to be what I am today. I may not answer for every choice, but I answer for the accumalation of those choices. Accountability has to be about the direction you’re headed in life based on the decisions you are making. It is not a judgment of your character, but a promise to live up to who you are.

So how am I building accountability into my life? I’m taking myself seriously. I’m going to those events and believing that I am force to be reckoned with. I made myself an office that accomodates all of my needs at my desk. I audition for the roles that maybe seem out of reach. I email people every week to ask them if they want to work together. I act out the belief that I am capable of building the life that I want. When I make good decisions to further my career and better myself as a person, I’m telling myself that I’m worth that investment of time and effort.

You can build accountability into your life, too. Think of the people who want what’s best for you (not the people who just want things from you), and decide what kinds of decision would make them proud. Think of the you five years from now that will be living with your decisions from today. Know the difference between needed rest and laziness. Give yourself tangible goals to work toward. Let me know what you’re working on and I’ll check in with you!

How do you think of accountability? Does any of this resonate? Let me know!

Decide for Yourself Who You Will Be

Self determination is a pretty daunting task for a former Calvinist. It’s a joke, but I’m also very serious. I grew up with a road map for my life that while murky in the every day, felt set in concrete somewhere. I had this unwavering faith that every choice I made as long as it was made from a place of prayer would lead me to the right road. When I left the church, I said goodbye to that road. To those highways. To those rules and those speed limits. Have I worn the metaphor out, yet?

Three years ago my life fell apart. Everything I had built around myself no longer felt safe or even made sense to me. The pieces of myself left over after the collapse of a carefully crafted corporate life were parts I had buried beneath years of repressed sexuality and emotions and dreams. Recognizing those yearnings as whispers from my soul took time. Allowing them to be considered valid took longer. Acting on them at all took longer than that.

I had taken the easy way out for the big questions in my life. Who did I want to be? Well, easy. Whoever God created me to be. Read Proverbs 31 and that’s it. That’s who I’m going to be. I was going to work for the church because I liked people and helping them to heal. It didn’t matter that the work itself didn’t fulfill me. The end was the good. The results outweighed the consequences of giving parts of myself away to anyone who walked in the door. More often than not, I was a raw nerve carrying the weight of literal souls I needed to save from the pits of Hell. Evangelism meant my failures were damned. The crushing weight of a broken world made it hard to get out of bed in the morning, sure, but it also made life make sense. My happiness was secondary to the mission. Who I am did not merit deviation from the cause.

Through a complicated breakup that involved untangling decades of theological idealism and a reality created from philosophical naivete, I left the Southern Baptist Church incapable of recognizing things that brought me genuine joy instead of theoretical joy. I remember very clearly sitting in group one Wednesday morning and being asked what my hobbies were. I didn’t have any. I hadn’t played piano seriously in years outside of worship groups. I didn’t draw or paint. Working out was a function and not a release. When a therapist suggested I just do something for fun, it took me months to figure out how to do something that didn’t benefit anyone in any way (It ended up being a plant phase – it passed pretty quickly because I was a fair weather plant mom).

On top of that baggage I carried around an immune system issue that made me sick pretty much all of the time. I saw nine specialists in three years and once had thirteen vials of blood taken in the same day. I took the easy way out again and hid behind that illness for so long. I couldn’t make plans if I didn’t know what the future would look like. What if tomorrow was the day I found out I have cancer? What if I only have ten years to live? These were ony a couple of many serious questions I asked. It took me years of uncertainty to finally tell myself I was tired of being a half person. Who knows the future? No one. Yet people live passionately every day in the face of the unknown. I finally accepted that my circumstances didn’t give me an opt out ticket for being human. To be human is to create a life based only on faith in one thing or another. This time around the faith was just in myself.

These days I still don’t know what makes me sick so often. I may go to a pulmonary specialist next. I may just decide that I just have what I deem Jane Austen syndrome. I’m one of those less mentioned, waifish sisters with a delicate constitution as women are wont to have. Whatever way I choose to go with that aspect of my daily life, it’s secondary to the essential question. Who do I want to be? Doesn’t having faith in yourself mean knowing thyself? How do we order our lives if we don’t know what we want from them?

So lately I’ve been writing down the things I want to be. I want to be strong. I want to be the kind of person people see the best of themselves in. I want to be an actress. I want to be a creator. I want to be compassionate. I want to be an advocate for those who need a voice. I want to be present in my life and in charge of its trajectory (as much as any of us can be in a chaotic world). No one told me they wanted these things from me. They are just the parts of myself I love the most, the traits in others I admire the most and the paths that give me joy. True, experienced joy and satisfaction.

Maybe my path isn’t as concrete as it once felt. But knowing who I want to be and building my life around gives me guideposts I yearned for when the world felt too chaotic. Is this making me stronger? Am I learning what I need to be an advocate? Did I apply to any auditions last week? How am I practicing being in the moment? They aren’t questions to badger myself with or bring myself down. They’re just markers to hold myself accountable for a life that makes me happy when I slip into old habits or let other’s expectations dictate my actions.

So what about you? What or who have you let dictate who you are? Is it making you happy? Decide for yourself who you want to be. And then be that person with faith and dedication. We only get the one life and the one person to be.

Getting Past the Woo: How to Check In with your Body, Mind and Soul

What does it mean to check in with your body, mind and soul?

I woke up in the middle of the night to a realization that I wasn’t getting back to sleep any time soon. It happens pretty frequently to me. So I decided to a meditative practice where I check in on myself a little at a time. That’s really all it is when we ask ourselves what we need. It’s just a question and answer game. How are my ankles feeling? How are my calves?… How are my hips? How is my stomach? Etc… I like to work my way from toe to head, bringing each part of my body into focus a little bit at a time.

The same can be done for our minds. What kind of thoughts am I having? Is it easy for me to stay focused? Do I have a headache or feeling fuzzy at the edges of my thoughts? Asking our brain for these answers can give us a peak into how our mind is operating.

The soul is maybe the place where I lose a lot of the more pragmatic people reading this post. But please don’t write off your feelings and your core values so quickly. The soul can mean different things to different people. Whatever you’d like to think of it as – spiritual, functional, ethereal, separated – there are ways for you to ask questions that get to the bottom of the stirrings in your being.

The Body

I’ve described the way that I take stock of my body. I go muscle group by muscle group, almost like a body scan. Most of the time we get back the answer, “fine” (or hopefully we do). When we get back an answer that’s off, the exercise evolves into asking our body what it needs to repair. Here are my examples for you to think about.

My thighs and hip flexors are really tight – tomorrow I’ll stretch better before I go for my run.

My stomach feels heavy and uncomfortable – I’ve been eating a lot of complex carbs, sugars and dairy. Tomorrow I’ll give my body more nutrients and avoid the foods that cause inflammation for me. (These are different for everybody – don’t get stuck on “good or bad” foods).

My neck and spine feel immobile and uncomfortable – I have an appointment with my chiropractor tomorrow.

These are just examples to get you started on your own check in. I like to do this during meditation in corpse pose, just because it gives me a lot of freedom to wiggle and concentrate on each individual part of the body.

The Mind

I’ve given some sample questions above, but what do we do about the answers when it comes to our mind? As helpless as it can feel, if there is anything I’ve learned in my own mental health journey it is that we have power over our brains. We can’t change the chemical imbalances through strength of will, but we can help our brain functions better. Here are some examples:

My thoughts feel cluttered and it’s hard to concentrate on one – tomorrow I’ll journal to help get some of them out on the page, and I’ll clean our room because it’s cluttered. (Other options include talking to someone to externally process or making a to-do list).

My head aches and feels a little fuzzy – tomorrow I’ll use a combination of essential oils and clearing my diet of inflammatory foods to help my brain function a little more clearly. I’ll also take my antidepressants to help boost the chemicals that fight sluggishness.

Clearly identifying what’s going on with our mind helps us understand how we can exercise control despite our limitations. To me, that’s really empowering.

The Soul

Our soul, the place where our feelings and desires are generated (again, I reiterate that this can be envisioned in any way that makes sense for your world view), is another part of our life that dictates how well we function in the world. Identifying feelings that keep popping up like hopelessness, anxiety, contentment, anger, etc. is a way for us to check in with how well we are managing those feelings. Here are some examples for me:

I’ve been feeling restless – tomorrow I will edit pictures and follow a bit more of a routine to help me feel grounded in my life.

I’ve been feeling a lot of anxiety – tomorow I will do as many things from my to-do list as I can so that I feel more control over my life.

These questions and solutions step past the hokey idea of our soul and give practical solutions for affecting our moods and feelings.

The Bottom Line

There will always be things in our life that we cannot control. Jobs, family emergencies and other outside influences shape our lives. These questions and this exercise just helps us to get a grip on the positive steps we can take to help our body, mind and soul find harmony with each other and function at our best. Check in with yourself and ask what you can do. Do these ideas help you start down a path to healing?