It takes work to foster connection with people, and that often means taking care of myself so I’m better enabled to relate to those around me. I often share the intentions of my heart for the people around me, including the wonderful community I’ve found online.

Online Friendships: Mouse Clicks and Kindred Spirits

Gosh y’all, I couldn’t be more excited to host the incredible Megan Tietz from SortaCrunchy today!  She has inspired me in so many ways. I asked her to share with us today about something that has become very real in my life the last year – online friendships. Enjoy her post and don’t miss the giveaway of her BRAND NEW book at the end!!

By: Megan Tietz

At first, I was just a lurker.

I lurked on message boards for Weight Watchers and fans of The Bachelor and people who love cats. I loved reading the witty banter as it played out amongst the members of these discussion forums. I found myself sometimes laughing, sometimes in tears, but always interested in these friendships that formed in spaces where words were written instead of spoken.

In May of 2004, my shaking hands held a positive pregnancy test. My husband and I had been trying (albeit a little half-heartedly) for nine months. I had seen so many negative results that I think I started at that first positive test for an hour. When my mind finally focused on the reality of the situation, I raced to my computer and within five minutes, I found myself nervously treading the boards of a major parenting site.

We gathered by Estimated Due Date, and weeks before a doctor would confirm my pregnancy, I estimated that I was due in mid-January 2005. From my first click on that message board, I found myself completely sucked in. I was no longer a lurker, I was an active member of a large community of women joined by one single thread of shared interest – we would go through our pregnancies together.

As you might imagine, we mourned alongside those who lost the babies that brought them to that parenting forum. We prayed over those born frighteningly early – some survived and some did not. For many of us, our January due dates delivered brand new babies into our arms. And when we began sharing pictures of our sweet ones, a few voiced concerns about the very public nature of our gathering place, and so nearly 100 of us moved to a private message board – and that move, in a very real way, changed my life.

We talked about anything and everything under the sun in our private sanctuary on the web. Marriage problems, parenting concerns, what to fix for dinner that night … It was like a virtual coffee klatch where the conversation was often funny and always vibrant.

After a while, I noticed that I found myself nodding along with and agreeing to most everything that one of the other members shared. In everything from politics to faith to parenting to TV shows, I would agree with what she had said. In fact, it became something of a joke how often my response to a conversation thread would be “Ditto what Laura said!”

Message board posts turned to private emails. Private emails led to long phone calls. Through the magic of the internet, I had found an incredible friend, a kindred spirit who grew to be one of my closest, dearest friends years (and years!) before we were ever in the same breathing space. Laura and I seemed to be on parallel paths, and as we confided in each other more of our earliest experiences in parenting, it was like hearing my own story spoken in precise detail by someone else.

We spent a lot of time talking about all that we had wished we had known, all that we wished someone had told us in those earliest days of motherhood. And somehow, in the midst of those conversations, God began to grow in us a passion for a message that we ourselves had so longed to hear, a message of freedom and hope and inspiration for other new parents. In 2008, three years after we met on a message board and three years before we would meet in the flesh, Laura and I began writing a book together.

And as we began to share our vision and hope and dream for our book, we found ourselves answering the same question over and over: “Now, how do you two know each other?” It’s a question to be expected, of course, but I have to admit at first I felt a little shy in answering. We met, uh, online? For the first time, I had very real empathy for couples whose matchmaking stemmed from mouse clicks and keyboard taps rather than in blind dates and singles trips.

Some are puzzled by the close friendship Laura and I formed, miles away from each other and years before meeting face-to-face. Others, though, completely understand it because so many people are discovering that physical proximity and tangible presence are no longer requirements on which a friendship must be built!

What is the appeal of virtual friendships? I have to think that its remarkably similar to the appeal our parents and grandparents found in writing to pen pals. There is something precious and powerful about the written word. There is a certain intimacy in reading the words of another, and there is a sense of permanence in reading as opposed to hearing. Words can be read and re-read, thought about and lingered on and solidified. This is, of course, both good and bad, but in the realm of friendship, getting to know one another through our words offers us all the chance to speak from a safe place that which we might not have the boldness to utter from our mouths.

The picture above was taken at the end of an incredible weekend Laura and I got to spend together with our families here in my home. This was taken last fall, our first meeting a full six years after Laura and I first met online. And it was just as natural and easy as it would have been to invite my best friend from high school to spend time with us at home. Meeting a long-time online friend brings with it great anticipation and not just a little nervousness. And sure, sometimes people are a little different than the online persona they have built, but I have not once been disappointed after meeting in the flesh a person with whom my heart has connected in the online realm.

Meeting “in real life” (that’s such a funny phrase, isn’t it? My online life is just as real as my offline life) is a treasure and a treat, and yet I have to confess that some of my very best friends are people I’ve never even shared a phone call with. Via blog posts and comments, Facebook discussions and emails, my heart has grown impossibly and wonderfully intertwined with a tribe of friends who have met some of my deepest relationship needs. These sweet friends have cheered me on, listened to me vent, lit a fire under me, and I’ve never seen their eyes twinkle when they smile (though I imagine it often).

In a world where we can tweet at celebrities on Twitter, politely harass our politicians on Facebook, and share our genuine admiration of our favorite author in a comment on her blog, it seems that boundaries that once seemed so firm are now being dismantled, brick-by-brick. Relationships of all varieties are slowly evolving, and I am hooting and hollering in applause for this beautiful change. I can’t imagine my life without my beloved invisible friends.

And so, in a few short days, Laura and I will release our book into the world, the message that sprang from a message board and the friendship that was formed there. I’m so glad I found the courage to be more than just a lurker.

 

For six years, Megan Tietz has written about faith, family, and a life more natural at SortaCrunchy. She is the co-author of Spirit-Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby’s First Year. When she’s not checking in on her invisible friends, she’s hanging out with her two brown-eyed daughters and handsome husband in their home on the plains of western Oklahoma.

 

 

 

 

GIVEAWAY: Megan and Laura’s book, Spirit-Led Parentingis releasing on April 1st and is available for preorder right now! But, I have THREE copies to giveaway! Here are the giveaway details:

  • PRIZE: A Copy of Spirit-Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby’s First Year by Megan Tietz and Laura Oyer
  • TO ENTER: Subscribe to Every Breath I Take and comment below telling me how you do (NEW subscribers welcome!). Leave a separate comment for EACH way you connect with me – email (just click subscribe to new posts via email when you are commenting) or reader subscriber, Facebook fan, Twitter follower and/or weekly newsletter subscriber (Email subscribe@everybreathitake.com to sign up). That’s right, if you’re a super fan – you could get as many FOUR entries, but only if you leave four separate comments!
  • BONUS QUESTION: … Do you have any online friendships? Tell Megan and I about them with comment about how you subscribe.
  • GIVEAWAY CLOSES: Wednesday, March 28st at 11:59pm EDT
  • NUMBER OF WINNERS: THREE! (I’ll use Random.Org to choose the three winners.)
  • PRIZE SHIPS: The United States, the first week of April

GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED! Congrats to the winners (selected using random.org): Comment #28 (Kimberly), Comment #8 (Becca S), Comment #40 (Megan H)! Winners check your email inbox for details!

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked for this giveaway. I just think this book is going to be so powerful, and I want to thank (or welcome) members of the Every Breath I Take community! 

The Significance of the Insignificant

One of the most powerful lessons I’ve learned on my yoga mat is that there is great significance in the insignificant. Amazing changes can happen in my body with the smallest, subtlest changes. Simple acts like keeping a golf ball under my desk to roll my foot over, brushing my teeth with my left hand, or just doing one yoga pose, all add up to significant changes in my body.

We see the same thing with our diet. Something as “simple” as drinking one soda a day can have a profound impact on the body. But, so can eliminating one soda a day. These insignificant choices can literally improve or destroy our lives.

We pay a lot of attention to major life decisions – changing jobs, buying a house, starting a family. But, we mindlessly make choices everyday that shape our bodies, lives and even our relationships.

It may seem insignificant to look at my phone while I’m eating dinner with my friends, but it sends a telling message. When I simply stop the household task I’m doing to look into the eyes of the family member talking to me, our communication improves tenfold.

It really is the little things that matter. So, I’m choosing to be intentional about the insignificant.

What little changes have you made that have profoundly impacted your life and your relationships? I’d love to hear in the comments!

Tough Grace

 

I like to think I’m pretty good at extending grace. I didn’t get mad when I found a 15-month-old AE playing with toilet paper; I laughed. I rarely get frustrated or angered when others are late to an appointment. It’s pretty easy for me to forgive and forget when someone “puts their foot in their mouth” and says something offensive. And, I completely understand when friends don’t respond to emails, phone calls or text messages.

I was feeling pretty good about all the things I so easily forgive when I settled in for Viparita Karani (legs-up-the-wall pose) a few months ago. As I was practicing the inversion, my opinion of my grace-extension abilities turned upside down right along with my body.

I became aware of the fact that these are all pretty minor mistakes (most of which I regularly commit myself). They aren’t significant wrongs, they are minor infractions, and easily of forgiven.

When I really feel wronged, when it really hurts, when someone infringes on my sense of entitlement; it is so much harder to let go and extend grace. But, the list of big mistakes I have made is long. I am entitled to nothing and yet abundantly blessed. And, I swim in an ocean of grace.

So, I am working to extend grace, especially when it’s tough, out of the abundance of grace that I have received.

Have you ever realized you aren’t as forgiving as you thought you were? What do you do to extend tough grace?

A Choice of Thought

One day last year, after a rough week, I was ready for some pampering. So, I dropped into a neighborhood nail salon for a simple manicure.

After scouring through the endless nail polish options, I picked OPI Salmon Sand (you can see it here). It is a light neutral shade.

After her unsuccessful attempts to sell me a pedicure or spa treatment, the nail technician took one look at the color I chose and said “Not good for you, this is a color for younger ladies – better for someone in her twenties or early thirties.”

OUCH! “I AM in my early thirties;” I wanted to shout! But, I am a people pleaser so I just followed her to the nail polish and watched as she picked out a color more suitable for a woman of my, ahem, maturity.

Upon leaving, I shared the story with my mom and husband, pledging to never return to that salon. I should have also pledged to never return to that conversation. Instead, I allowed her harsh words to echo over and over in my mind for days.

Before long, my thoughts were on a runaway train headed for disaster. “Do I really look much older than I am?” “Wonder what kind of wrinkle cream I should buy?” “Maybe I should research yoga poses for better skin.”

Thankfully, one thought hit me like a ton of bricks as it pulled that train to a screeching halt. “Why am I choosing to let this one person’s rather harsh words linger so long in my brain? I have a choice here – I can choose to think about something else!” So that I did!

So often I act like a victim to my thoughts. But that is a lie. The truth is – I have a choice of thought. If a thought isn’t helpful or productive, I can choose another one.

When my mind becomes a runaway train, I’m going to stop and choose my thoughts wisely!

Do you every feel like you’re stuck on a runaway train with your thoughts? How do you apply the brakes? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

People-Pleaser Syndrome

 “Becoming obsessed about what others think about you is the fastest way to forget what God thinks about you.”

 ~ Craig Groeschel

“You bet.”

“I’d be happy to.”

“No problem!”

If you had a transcript of my day, these phrases would appear frequently. I am a people-pleaser.

For example, I was recently at a large store (I won’t name names but everyone who works there wears a red shirt). As the cashier was scanning my purchases, she couldn’t locate the barcode on one of my items.

So, the kind lady turns to me and asks, “Can you please run and get another one? The tag I need is missing from this one.”

Everything in me wanted to firmly reply, “Please call for the price, or take my word that it’s $2.99.” Instead, I trudged back through the store (toddler in tow) to get a new one.

This is a small, albeit annoying, example. But, my people pleasing syndrome really gets me into trouble when I perceive a friend or loved one is upset with me. I am far from a perfect person, and I know I let people down. I’m not afraid to apologize and seek forgiveness.

Sometimes it’s not that simple. Maybe they’re upset about something that I’m not sorry for (how I parent, a belief I have, a stand I’ve taken, etc.). Or, maybe I am sorry, but they are not ready or able to extend grace and forgive my mistakes.

Sadly, my people-pleasing nature often causes me to compromise my values or stew over my inability to change another person’s heart or mind. And, when I’m people-pleasing, I am trying to control what someone else thinks of me. I can’t think of a bigger waste of time and energy.

So, when I face a flare-up of this unfortunate syndrome, I’m going to meditate on truth – the truth that God loves me for me, that He has covered me in grace and blessed me with family and friends who do the same.

Do you suffer from the people-pleaser syndrome? How do you treat it? I’d love to hear!

Thought Weeding

There’s a big announcement coming next month here at Every Breath I Take. I’m embarking on a new venture – one I hope will enrich your yoga practice and your life. I’ve been quietly working on this project for months, and I can hardly wait to tell you all about it!

But, a funny thing has happened now that I’m on the precipice of making my big announcement. As I have been working hard on this project, part of me has been quietly planting seeds of doubt. Now, the seeds have sprouted and weeds are growing everywhere in my mind!

“What if it’s a flop?”

“What if nobody cares?”

“What if I can’t do it?”

“What if they hate it?”

“What if they hate me?”

If not tended to, these weeds of doubt can overtake the garden of our minds. And, when our minds are overgrown with weeds, it’s really hard for things like love, kindness, courage and relationship to grow.

So, as I countdown to the big launch, I’m weeding. I’m yanking those thoughts right out. And I’m watering, feeding and nurturing the beautiful plants of excitement, anticipation, joy and trust.

What weeds are growing in your mind today? How are they inhibiting you? What can you do today to nurture the plants that grow the flowers of relationship?

Lessons from a Hot Pan

Last year, I wanted my beloved husband to feel just that on Valentine’s Day. So, I took to the kitchen. I made cupcakes, whipped sweet potatoes, green beans and steakhouse steaks.

I was doing well, channeling my inner Barefoot Contessa. Then I carelessly grabbed the handle of a pan that had been in the oven with my bare hand. I knew immediately that it was a pretty bad burn. I ran my hand under cold water and put ice and burn gel on it right away.

But, as I lay in bed that night, I couldn’t relax for sleep at all. The burn was just throbbing. I tossed and turned, trying various positions for my hand and arm to relieve the pain, but nothing worked.

So, I allowed myself to really feel the pain. I used words to describe it. I gave it my full, undivided attention. I wasn’t thinking about what it would feel like tomorrow or the next day. I wasn’t thinking about how it happened or what the burn may look like in a day, week or year. I was just fully and completely aware of the pain I was experiencing in that moment.

Suddenly, I noticed that another sensation overtaking my body – exhaustion. Shortly thereafter, I was sound asleep.

So often, I find myself doing everything I can to avoid feeling the pain of life and relationship. Maybe I overanalyze the source of the pain. Sometimes, I hopelessly try to hurry the pain along by attempting to time travel with a slew of “what if” thoughts. Sometimes, I just try to numb out all together. Very rarely do I simply soak in the pain.

But, I’m beginning to learn that allowing myself to really feel the pain is the first step towards healing and moving on.

Do you relate? I’d love to hear!

Sweet Surrender

I’ve already established that I love and still routinely watch reruns of the television show Friends. But, I have thus far neglected to mention that I share Monica Geller’s competitive streak. (If you need a refresher, here it is at its finest. By the way, AE’s hair responds to humidity the same way as Monica’s!)

My “winners and losers” mindset builds a lot more fences than it does bridges. I spend a great deal of physical and emotional energy resisting. When I devote all of my resources to defending my ideas, wishes and beliefs, I often find myself isolated and alone.

The only way to change this habit is to practice the art of surrender, to learn the power in yielding. I expected it to be painful, to feel like losing. But, I’ve found quite the opposite to be true.

When I soften, when I let go, relationships deepen and thrive. When I relinquish my need to be right, I discover new truth. The act of surrendering has built bridges to people and places that have greatly enhanced my life.

I haven’t mastered the art of surrender, but I have tasted the sweetness of it. So, I’m committed to quieting my inner Monica and embracing the power of surrender.

Have you tasted the sweetness of surrender? What have you gained from yielding and letting go? I’d love to hear!

* Image found here.

What Are You Committed To?

It’s mid-January! How are you doing with your resolutions and goals for 2012? I’m trying hard to remember that every breath is an opportunity to change. Yet somehow, that awareness does not always translate into action.

And, I’ve come up with a good excuse for my inaction – there are only 24 hours in the day. I can’t possibly do everything I want and need to do.

But, every time I say “I do not have enough time,” I am really saying, “I am not making time.” It’s sobering to realize we all have the same 24 hours in each day. I’m don’t have any less time than you.

How I fill my 24 hours is a reflection of what I’m committed to. As I reflect upon the early days of January, I see some faith, family, health and professional commitments. But, I also see that I’m pretty committed to my favorite television shows and websites.

When I’m tempted to say I don’t have enough time, I’m going to stop and ask myself, “What am I committed to?” I’m hoping that will help me wisely use my 24 hours.

Do you ever feel got shortchanged in the hours in the day paycheck? I’d love to hear how you keep focused on your priorities!

A Decade of Love

This is a little late. (There has been sickness. There is has been exhaustion – AE is still not sleeping!) But, I’m so excited about this milestone.

Last week, Derek and I celebrated TEN years of marriage! Happy Anniversary, Honey!

As I reflect back, I’m so grateful for all the Kodak moments. When I see the funny-face and thumbs-up bonanza that is ten years of pictures, I just crack up. We have had oh so many wonderful belly laughs.

I’m also thankful for something about the moments where no pictures were taken. We have endured the depths of sadness. We have let go of dreams. But, we have never let pain drive a wedge between us. Instead, we have faced it, arm in arm, together.

Sure, we have had disagreements. But, at least once a week Derek asks me a question that demonstrates his respect and love. (You’re going to be blown away by how romantic it is!)

“Do you have a few minutes to brainstorm something with me?” (I don’t know why it hasn’t been used in a hit romantic comedy yet?!)

Seriously though, he doesn’t just ask the question. He listens to my thoughts. He incorporates my ideas. He thanks me for my input. That one question shows me that he values me. I can’t think of anything more romantic!

Here’s to many more decades together!