Living Joyfully

A friend of mine recently asked how I find time, energy, and motivation to do the things I do, and I tend to receive wonderful feedback about how the ways I choose to spend my time are inspirational or motivating.  This always makes me blush a lot, and while I am flattered, very basically these are just the things that bring ME joy.  I think the bigger takaway (and really the purpose of this blog) is that anyone can find the same kind of happiness, energy, and motivation, just by being honest with themselves about what brings them joy.  Continue Reading

Cultivating Empowerment: Challenge

January is typically the season for renewal, or at least, intended renewal.  We make promises to ourselves and others about how we are going to change, what we are going to accomplish, and for all intents and purposes, these promises are well-intended.  The issue arises though, as January drags on, we are swept into the hustle and bustle of our day to day lives – a series of schedules and habits which seem oblivious to our newfound plans.  As the promises we made to ourselves to eat healthier, workout more, or say no more often drift away, we are left with residual guilt, justified by the fact that life is just to crazy right now.  By February, we feel worse about our current situation than we did in December!  I don’t suffer from this affliction, fortunately, and this year I plan to help you escape it for good, too.

This blog is dedicated to things that bring me joy, and helping others procure it.  This year, I challenge you to follow me through this short series, getting down and dirty with your innermost hopes and dreams, and learning how to get what you want any time of the year.  I do not know what you might find at the end of your journey, but my hope is that you continue to find, and choose, happiness.

What is this series about?

I’m going to cut to the chase…if something about your life seems “off”, your body, mind and spirit is telling you something is amiss.  You deserve better than to feel off.  Much of this blog is dedicated to simple but critical strategies we often forget when setting things right, and being able to effectively be happy with yourself and the life you create is vital to your empowerment, your independence, and ultimately your happiness in outside relationships.

These are skills and mindsets that I carry with me constantly, and I recommend that you read through and think about what each challenge means to you.  Get lost in how it makes you feel, and try to figure out why it makes you feel that way.  Remember that we choose to take from situations what we choose to take.  You leave a situation or finish an article feeling a certain way, and what you choose to carry with you is a matter of perspective.  With that, I challenge you to find something positive or challenging in each post or mindset that speaks to you and carry it with you.

Your Challenge

We are typically so good at determining what others in our life are in need of.  Whether its a boss at work, our spouse or partner, or our kiddos, we are constantly monitoring their needs and tending to them.  Those of us who are particularly good at this tend to wind up in relationships that are extremely co-dependent, where our worth and identity is dependent on the degree to which we satisfy needs that aren’t ours.  This is a problem.  The problem doesn’t lie in our helping others, but in the fact that too often we let that assisting role define us, and instead of taking care of ourselves, we are seeking validation from others.  Not good.

This challenge is dedicated to looking inward and determining what you need. What goals you have, and what life you want.

Right now, or when you have a minute, close you eyes or otherwise get lost in the following question.  Try to do it without interruption, and if you need to make space for yourself, make it a priority (this is a skill you must master).  If the thought of having 5 or 10 minutes to yourself stresses you out, here are some suggestions, (but don’t get too comfortable…we WILL be addressing this issue later!)…

  • In the car
  • Before bed
  • While stirring pasta
  • Surfing Pinterest (my personal favorite)
  • etc. (you get the idea)

This is not a one-and-done exercise.  In fact, I recommend taking these moments throughout your week to reflect on just this series of questions:

Describe your ideal lifestyle.  What does it look like, what does it feel like?

Get in the habit of dreaming, something we sadly stop doing at some point.

In fact, if you have kids and they won’t leave you alone, make it a family affair.  We actually pose these kinds of “dream it” questions to our kiddos all the time.  Have them draw a picture or write a story.  Chances are they will have more fun with it, so take a lesson from them and dream big!  If you do have time to yourself, and you happen to be a Pintrester like me, you might find creating a secret board will help you review the kinds of things that seem to bring you joy.  Maybe you find you pin a lot of blue, a ton of farmscapes, family portraits, or funny memes.  Whatever the commonalities are, it will help bring realization to the things that bring your heart happiness.  Don’t focus too much on that now, though.  Just pin.

Now, do not think that this series is going to be me telling you how to obtain these wild dreams.  Just because you dream of Tuscany does not mean you need to uproot your family to Italy to be happy.  This exercise is about self reflection and honing in on what kinds of things make you feel joy, and it is extremely important in establishing real goals, knowing what makes you happy, and learning the difference between feeling real joy and simply settling.

One warning I will make is not to simply jump to conclusions about what you think should make you happy.  This exercise is not about what you think the world thinks should make you happy.  This is about YOU.  If your mental escapes fail to depict family vacations and bright green salads, that is OK.  Everyone loves their family and everyone wants to be healthier; the purpose is to focus on those deep-seeded gems that bring joy to YOU, a unique person.

That is it for today.  This is a simple, but important task.  I will leave you with an affirmation –

You are worth the biggest dreams you have for yourself, and all the strength and ability you need to achieve them is already within you.


Six months ago, I sat on my bed, heart pounding, tears hidden behind fear and a relentless cognitive dissonance.  I was lost somewhere between repulsion, guilt, apathy and confusion while my husband stood in the doorway of our bedroom again, his red face twisted somehow with a look of both disgust and pleasure.  What are you going to do? It seemed to say. When I tried to reach for my phone, he took it.  When I asked if I could leave to use the bathroom, he told me to piss myselfYou can leave, go ahead, try…but you have to get by me first.  When I ran to the window to yell for help, he wrapped a single arm around my neck, picked me up, and slammed me, face down, onto the bed.  As I laid there on my stomach, I wailed.

He kept going on, about what I don’t remember.  Over and over in my head, I recited to myself the self-talk I had been practicing for the past few months, since I realized what was happening.  You are worth more than this.  You do not deserve this.  You need to leave; your life depends on it.  I knew that shortly after this incident, I would be subject to wifely duties, the fight would be over, and I could sleep.  Normalcy would return if I could stick it out until the morning.  The scariest part of this midnight violence was that I knew I would forget.  I knew I would make excuses for him, and I would justify why he did what he did.  I knew this, because it wasn’t the first time.

I received a call from the Court Administrator’s Office the day I wrote this post, just before stepping into a meeting.  My divorce was signed.  In the last 6 months, I have shattered every negative perception he ever made of me.  Every fear I had about my ability to survive without him, I have crushed.  I feel empowered and unstoppable, confident and proud.

The most tragic part of an abusive situation like this, is that victims love their abusers.  They are dedicated husbands, wives, girlfriends and boyfriends.  They are people passionate about wanting to fix everything and make things work because they honestly believe the issue is themselves.  Abusers condition victims to continue to feel this way, which is what makes leaving so hard, and abuse so easy.  I promised myself that when the divorce was over, I would do everything in my power to keep others from experiencing what I and so many others have.  I would help families and friends look for signs of domestic violence and abuse, and most importantly get information to victims in creative ways.  Abusers serve as master filters to their victims, because often it is not until victims realize their experience is not unique, that they see the reality of their situation.

This portion of the blog will serve as a repository for articles, interviews, and vignettes centered around awareness, healing, and support.  What I found in my research thus far, is that many people leave abusive environments and never look back or share stories.  In my fear to leave, I wanted to hear stories of successful women and read about their lives after they made the decision to no longer be a victim.  I will share my story openly, as well as use my experiences and the experiences of other contributors to illustrate concepts and raise awareness.

Much, much more to come.


I am not a licensed therapist or psychologist, but I am always available to help.  Consider me an automatic friend.  Please feel free to contact me (anonymously if you wish) for support and guidance.  Having been through this, I have a wealth of resources and scope that I have been sharing with others and want to share with you.  Frances Meres