Making Things Happen

In early November of 2015, I had the privilege of attending the Making Things Happen conference in Chapel Hill, NC. Here is a bit of paraphrasing from the event description, because I can’t really say it much better.

This two-day conference, led by Lara Casey, author of Make it Happen, is designed to fire you up and set you on a powerful path. During the conference, led by Lara Casey, attendees dig deep, establish priorities, uncover a purposeful vision for their life and business, set goals, and discover how to make what matters most happen. Making Things Happen was founded on the idea that you have the choice to change your life. It was designed to fire people up to make bold decisions towards their best lives and empower them to step into their fears instead of away from them. Even those who have gone through the Making Things Happen experience have a hard time articulating it, but that’s okay – alums are encouraged to let their actions explain the powerful changes they’ve experienced! 

The conference was enlightening for me. It helped me figure things out in both my personal and professional life in ways I didn’t even think I needed. It helped me uncover what really matters to me, what matters most. And it gave me the wisdom and clarity to make “it” happen. “It” is something different and personal for everyone. For me, “it” became balance.

I’ve had a little over two months to digest everything I learned, and while I don’t plan to do a big long post about the conference, I do plan to incorporate bits and pieces into my posts here and there.

I went to Chapel Hill feeling so overwhelmed and exhausted. I left feeling purposeful and encouraged. I thought I went to figure out what to do in my career. I work from home full-time as a graphic designer and social media strategist for a government contractor out out the NoVA/DC area, which has never been my dream job but has provided a stable income for my family for the past four years. Since giving birth to Preston a year ago, I had come to resent my job for taking time away from Preston. I recently learned that I’ll more than likely be losing my job in the next 6 months or so because the contract I work on was not renewed with the government. It left me terrified and scared about not being able to contribute to our family’s income. I’ve always wanted to own my own business, but after I failed at my first freelance attempt several years ago and went into a bad depression, I’ve been scared to try again. I felt overwhelmed with what to do next. Everything has been piling up — chores, housework, work, fights with Joshua. At the conference, Lara shared a story about one morning when she yelled at her young daughter because she was so stressed out with work, and that was the first point in the conference when I broke down. I’ve done this, I’ve done this more than once. I’ve yelled at my sweet, sweet baby boy, for no reason other than being too stressed to handle whatever the situation was in a positive and intentional way. He never deserved that from me. I’m crying as I type this, because I hate that I’ve done it. I hate that I filled my tank with so much of what doesn’t matter that it took over what does matter.

::deep breath::

I know now that work and business are not my first priority. It’s my family. It’s my husband and my baby. They are my reasons for it all, and I want to make balance happen. I’ve been working on it everyday since leaving the conference, and I’ve already messed up several times. But as I also learned, sometimes your mess becomes your message. And my mess is becoming my message. Somehow, after setting my priority as family and giving myself permission to keep them at #1, everything else has been falling into place. I don’t understand it, and it’s crazy and messy and not totally how I pictured it, but it’s all happening.

I am so grateful to Lara Casey, to my breakout session leaders, and to the new friends I made in those two days for changing my life and giving me perspective and purpose.

// Photos by Callie Davis of Nancy Ray Photography

Size Does Matter, Right?

Get your mind out of the gutter, not that size! Your size. Your body size. Your clothing size. Big shoes generally mean you are a taller person. Big pants sizes generally mean you are a larger person. But does that matter? Of course it does… Or so I’ve been told.

I am so embarrassed by my size. I’m embarrassed because for me, it means that I’m eating my emotions, and you can see them. I’m embarrassed because I have an obvious, blatant, in-your-face and in-my-pants-size struggle that is visible to anyone I meet. “Hi, I’m Dani… Yes, I’m fat. Yes, I have issues. Yes, this is the first impression I make.”

If you watch The Biggest Loser or Extreme Weight Loss or any of those reality-style weight loss TV shows, which of course I’m addicted to, you know there are often deeper rooted issues than just eating too much food. A lot of people think that fat people are just fat because they are lazy and don’t care about themselves. And maybe some are. But more often than not, there are a lot of layers to that onion. ;-)

There has not been any one significant event in my life that affected me and made me eat more than I should, but I do struggle with depression. I don’t deal with stress very well, and there are a lot of stressful things in my life that I don’t handle the most gracefully. I’ve battled with depression since I was in high school, and definitely in college. I’ve seen therapists, I’ve been on medications. I’m not proud of it, but I’m also not hiding it… Or hiding behind it. Everyone struggles. It’s life. It’s okay. I could have been dealt a lot worse of a hand.

I started putting on weight my senior year of college, after the stress of school, finals, my portfolio, applying for jobs, becoming financially independent, etc. Then, after I met Joshua, there were the deployments. The first wasn’t too terrible; we got by. But the second… It was terrible. I used to walk back and forth in front of the family room bay window, looking up and down the street for the black unmarked government car. I was terrified. Every week it was a new casualty or more time without hearing from Josh. He told me before he left not to expect him to come home, and it was bad. It messed with my head and my heart. But again, we got by. Also during this time, my parents separated (and later divorced). After that, it was my failed freelance business. Unhappiness in my career. Moving far, far away from my close-knit family and missing them constantly, every day, even right now. Then it was the gluten allergy, the low Vitamin D, the borderline hypothyroidism, and of course the ugly depression peeking through every now and again. I put on the weight rather quickly. I just kept growing. Bigger. And bigger. And bigger. And I felt more and more out of control. And then we moved to North Carolina.

I was a target of bullying because of my size. It’s funny the way highs and lows work sometimes… It happened at my lowest emotionally while I weighed my highest. A couple of new friends thought it would be the right thing to do to tell me what was being said about me by people I had not even met in person. It crushed me. To this day, I will never forget the comments that were made or the people who said them. I will never forget how badly it hurt, or how ashamed I felt. How embarrassed. How alone. I’ve since forgiven them and moved past it, but you know how that is. You still can’t forget when someone hurts you like that. Especially when they never apologized.

So this is what I want to say. The next time you are about to make a nasty comment or snide remark — even to yourself, because we’ve all probably done it at some point in time, as I know I have — just think first. That person could be depressed. That person could be struggling. That person could be homesick. That person could be hanging on by a thread. She could be needing a friend. She could be needing support, without judgement, or someone to talk to. She could just need for you to not make comments about her size, or not to judge her so harshly before you even meet her. She could need you to see past the surface. She could need help.

I needed help. It took me much too long to open myself to accept it.

Every day is a battle with food for me. I don’t know why I’m like this or what’s wrong with me. I was raised in a healthy household and my parents and brother are not overweight or obese. Just me. I was. I am.

Which brings me to another point: What NOT to say to someone who is LOSING weight. Here are some examples of bad ideas:

  • How much do you weigh now?
  • What was your highest weight?
  • What is your goal weight?

Just don’t ask “numbers” at all, unless she offers them to you. By the way, what’s your weight? What’s the highest YOU’VE weighed?

More bad ideas:

  • I don’t believe in the type of diet you’re following.
  • Do you even have that much to lose?
  • I bet we weigh the same now.
  • I think the diet you’re on is too expensive.
  • I think the diet you’re on is too restrictive.
  • I would NEVER do that.
  • Aren’t you afraid you’re going to gain it all back?
  • I just won’t believe your diet works until I see the results.
  • You’re going to look anorexic at your goal weight.

No, friends… Just, no. Want to know what you can say?

  • Good for you!
  • Wow, you really have willpower!
  • Get it, girl.
  • I’m proud of you.
  • Let’s go shopping!
  • Keep it up.

Otherwise, give a genuine compliment, or… Just say nothing at all. Positive and supportive comments are all that are necessary. No one wants to hear about your cousin’s sister’s best friend’s co-worker that tried the exact same thing to lose weight, and it didn’t work. Or it did work, but she gained it all back.

Yeah, size matters. But other things matter more.

I struggle. But I’m happy. I’m trying. I’m fighting. I’m winning.