In September I hosted a 10 day social media challenge to share more of ourselves with the people in our feeds. The whole point of this blog is to encourage one another to share our stuff: the big and the little, the shallow and the deep. So I came up with 10 prompts, and posted and answered each one for 10 days consecutively using the hashtag #10ThingsToTellYou.
I was secretly hopeful that a couple hundred people might jump in and participate, but by the end of the challenge there were over 5,000 posts of people responding to the prompts. It was so fun to do in real time, but lots of people have discovered the challenge after it was in full swing and so they did it at their own pace.
I don’t think it matters when or how you do it, just that you’re sharing! I would love it if you’d use the hashtag and/or tag me so I don’t miss your posts. You can screenshot any of the pink prompt images from this post to give your followers a heads up on what you’re doing.
Here are the prompts and my own answers:
I grew up in a small town in southern Oklahoma. I had two loving parents, an older sister and brother, and I was scared all the time.
It was the 1980’s in the Bible Belt, and I was in a very conservative family. Mental health wasn’t something we talked about, especially mental health in children. When I was three years old, I started pulling my hair out in clumps, leaving slick bald spots. I was panic-attack picky about food (now we know these are sensory issues), and had a lot of rituals and “superstitions” (we now call this OCD). In the second grade I had a cruel teacher, and my whole mouth broke out into canker sores. My tiny body was under stress all the time.
As a kid, I was convinced my anxiety (we didn’t use that word) was some kind of ESP. I knew something others didn’t. That’s why I was scared that my parents would die suddenly, the car would surely wreck, and “carpe diem” was a message sent to me directly from God because I was going to die any moment.
I clearly could have benefited from therapy or medication. On the other hand, my family and friends never made me feel like the weird one. I might have been seen as “quirky,” but I was surrounded by love. This lack of shame around my unusual behaviors made it easy for me to talk about my anxiety and has been such a benefit as an adult when sharing publicly about mental health.
That anxious child grew up into an anxious adult. But with knowledge and treatment, I was and am high-functioning. I am (mostly) sure-footed in the world, but there’s a lot going on inside all the time. A constant whir that never stops. This is how I am. This is how I grew up. ✨ #10ThingsToTellYou
DAY 2 of #10ThingsToTellYou: Someone who has influenced me. Look, I told y’all I was gonna cheat on this one, because I just have to. I’m answering this one twice, with a silly (true) influence, and then a more serious one in a bit.
Auntie Mame (the movie character from the Rosalind Russell version of the 1955 novel) and Phyllis Nefler (the fictional Los Angeles housewife portrayed by Shelley Long in the classic movie Troop Beverly Hills) played a bigger role in my consciousness than seems cool to admit.
They’re both over-the-top, outrageously dressed, loving to their friends and family and objectively SO MUCH EVERYTHING. When I saw these movies (around the same time), I was completely flabbergasted. In my life at that time, I didn’t even know this was a way to be. My accountant mom was the opposite of dramatic, and she wore navy power suits to work. All the women in my life were either very plain dressed or very tasteful (read: toned down classics). When I saw Mame and Phyllis - even as caricatures - something inside me said “There I am!!” That’s who I am in my heart, that’s who I want to BE. All that muchness spilling out.
Of course I didn’t appreciate the problematic issues with these characters or these stories. Both contain horrible stereotypes and money/class issues, and I see that now. But THEN it was all “I didn’t even know we could wear sequin bird dresses!!”
If you know me now in real life, probably this little tidbit comes as no surprise. But if you see me at the bus stop in sweats and no bra, know that in my heart I’m wearing a bejeweled robe and fuzzy slippers. ✨
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about where change begins, in the little inklings that touch a nerve that leads to something later. When I trace back specific plot points on my life, there is a definitive pause at my college freshman professor, J. Rufus Fears. Dr. Fears taught one of those enormous 300-people courses that fulfilled some basic history or humanities requirement. Hundreds of incoming 18-year-olds took his classes on Ancient Rome. I sat there in the early fall, young, on scholarship, in brand new sorority letters, and in the first class of the first semester he announced to everyone that “America will eventually fall. All great empires do.”
I was indignant. This was heresy and exactly what my parents had warned about in liberal and unpatriotic university professors. I was furious for weeks. The class rolled on studying the fall of Ancient Rome.
Three years later, Dr. Fears taught my senior capstone course, the final summation of my liberal arts Letters degree. It was a small class, probably less than 30 of us took it that semester, and papers and participation were required. The subject was leadership, and we took a deep dive on the men (all men) who Dr. Fears deemed the greatest leaders of all time: Caesar, Jesus, Abraham Lincoln, and Winston Churchill.
I’ve had some great teachers in my life, but I can see now that Dr. Rufus Fears is the one who taught me to THINK. Who taught me about the bigger picture of history, not just as a meaningless chain of events. I was intimidated by him, but his lessons captivated me. He opened my mind (slowly) that not everything I’d been taught was correct. He set me on an inquisitive path that my previous education hadn’t included.
J. Rufus Fears passed away in 2012, an enormous loss. You can listen to some of his lectures in The Great Courses. To him, I was one of thousands of small town blonde girls who traipsed through his class begrudgingly. To me, he shifted something forever in my brain.
DAY 3 of #10ThingsToTellYou: A thing that changed my worldview. ⭐️ The riots in Ferguson, Missouri following the death of Michael Brown changed my worldview. I am embarrassed that no event prior to that, nor any literature or history education, made me take serious notice of the racial divide in America until 2014.
It started for me with twitter, and that lead to following more people of color, reading, listening, actually HEARING their experience and perspective on American history and current culture and attitudes. I’d been in a bubble for so long, I didn’t think racism affected ME, I thought this was a problem for *other* people in *other* parts of the country and not something for a little white girl to get tangled up in.
I was wrong about that, and about a lot of things. Opening my eyes and brain to injustice led to a lot of inward and outward shifts. This changed who I decided to be a student of, how I voted, and how I viewed (and hoped for) my community, small and large.
These shifts led to the BIAS series on my podcast @smartestpersonintheroom with my smart, patient friend Yasmin Dunn. I don’t mean this post to be a self-promotion, but those conversations - first having them, then making them public - is part of a tidal wave of change in worldview.
There are a handful of things comparable to this in my life, travel and loss and creating a family. The goal, I think, is to stay open to HAVING a worldview change. 🌎
DAY 4 of #10ThingsToTellYou: I am strangely good at….First, a few of the discarded answers: I am strangely good at choosing the wrong line. (Seriously. Every time.) I am strangely good at holding on to things far longer than I should. Like, years longer. I am strangely good at reading and understanding group dynamics. I am strangely good at knowing what lip color should go with an outfit. I would like to believe I’m strangely good at driving, but my husband disputes that and anyway I’m kind of superstitious and worry that bolding proclaiming that means a wreck is imminent. (See Day #1’s answer for context.)
I’ve decided to go with something I’m strangely passionate about, which isn’t exactly the same as being good at it, but I think I AM good at it and a lot of people are not.
I’m strangely good at digital photo organization. I LOVE TO ORGANIZE PHOTOS. On my phone, on my computer, I have a whole system that includes backing up onto a hard drive and in the cloud. I love talking about it, I find doing it incredibly therapeutic, it makes me feel like I’m organizing my memories, or, really, my life. There in those photos.
When I hear someone complaining about their mess of digital photo-ness, I always get excited and bossy. It’s tempting for me to totally take over a friend’s phone and start deleting and organizing, but so far I’ve never actually done that. I feel like I could make this into a side business if I wanted to, because most people seem to be really underwater with all their digital photos. (See what I did there?)
I’m always the family member or friend on a trip who gathers the photos, organizes and edits, and then sends out a download link. It gives me such pleasure.
DAY 5 of #10ThingsToTellYou: I have mixed feelings about….the true crime genre. I have been reading true crime since I was a teenager, long before it blew up into the crazy industry it is now, back when it was super low-brow, cheap airport paperbacks, in the same intelligence category as bodice-ripper romance novels.
I memorized serial killers and every detail of high profile crimes, especially murder. I watched forensic files religiously, when it was the only thing like that out there. For years and years, I watched murder shows as a way to decompress, to calm down, to put me to sleep.
There’s a theory out there that women (in particular) are drawn to the true crime genre because in some bizarro way it makes us feel SAFER. (And does not make us *more scared* as one might think.) That because a lot of women live with low-grade fear of being assaulted or harmed at all times anyway, that watching/knowing about murder almost has a relief valve effect. Similar to why some people are drawn to sad things, so they can cry.
Being fascinated by someone else’s evil or misfortune has always been icky, but the explosion of victim exploitation is just gross. I say that while also admitting that I ENJOY true crime. I think it’s interesting anthropologically and the stories hold my attention in whatever form: book, documentary, podcast. It’s terrible to highlight the worst of humanity, and also I like consuming. Mixed feelings. ☠️
DAY 6 of #10ThingsToTellYou: Without question, the most defining moment of my life (so far) was moving to Los Angeles. I delineate my entire path between “before LA” and “after LA.”
It’s funny, I moved to California sight unseen and it wasn’t my first choice. I had studied abroad in England, and really wanted to get back there after college, but I had no idea how. It seemed a lot easier to stay stateside, but when a girl from Oklahoma stands in the dead center of the country and looks around, the two most far-flung places are NY or LA. I was too intimidated to go to NY.
I thought I’d only be in Los Angeles for a few years, just for my 20’s, and then I’d return home and marry a cute boy and have oodles of babies and start my “real” life. My mom says she always knew I was never coming back.
The more years that went by, the more my definition of “home” changed. I could write thousands of words about how LA changed everything, my whole soul and every single event for me that followed August 2001. Not just because I met a man and had his children, but because I created a place for myself. Something that wasn’t handed to me. Somewhere I wasn’t scared.
After 17 years, living in Los Angeles has become as much a part of me as growing up in Oklahoma. I may not always live here, but it will always be the city that taught me to breathe.
DAY 7 of the #10ThingsToTellYou challenge: A recent discovery I can’t stop talking about is the mind/body connection. I know, I know, this is as basic as talking to you about the law of gravity. But for me - who was never taught anything about this - who might have chalked it up to woo-woo-blah-blah anyway - understanding more about the way my mind and body are connected has been REVELATORY.
I did a whole 6-part series on the Mind/Body connection on my podcast @smartestpersonintheroom last fall, but I’ve been interested in the subject since I started Pilates nearly three years ago. I was so disconnected from my own body after a lifetime of anxiety and stress and shutting down emotions and then growing and birthing babies in a body that was too weak. Whole muscle groups were completely numb, and I didn’t even know it, because I didn’t know you were supposed to tune in to your body so closely.
For most of my life, my body was a means to an end, simply a vessel. It was the brain and heart that mattered, you were only supposed to take care of your body in order to stay alive, or out of sheer vanity. I didn’t get how your body is connected to your brain and your metaphorical heart. I didn’t realize that my body was talking to me all the time. That my annoying chest rash flared up when I was anxious. That my fragile ankles were out of sync with my crooked hips and my wonky shoulder.
If we’re friends in real life, I’ve probably brought this up 100 times. Going through grief? How is this manifesting in your body? Your skin looks bad? I might force you into a heart to heart.
Now, noticing and being AWARE of the connection has not made me a sudden health guru. I still hit the drive thru a lot (a lot). I still hold in emotions too much and still get migraines and my skin tells a new story every day. But paying attention has changed a lot for me, in my anxiety, mindfulness, sex life, rest. Understanding the problem doesn’t give you an instant solution, but this is one of those things I’m going to study and be curious about for the rest of my life. Because as long as we’re here, we’ve got a body. And it’s a walking map of our brain.
DAY 8 of #10ThingsToTellYou: Something I’m struggling with right now is….my husband’s work.
Here is something I don’t write much about, because if you don’t know our family in real life, I fear my words could be misunderstood. But the whole point of this challenge is to be both vulnerable and authentic, and this tug-of-war is what keeps me up at night.
For over a year, @gorillaflicks has been working on two movies and multiple tv shows. It has kept him away for months at a time, and on long work days when he’s in town. One of the projects has been the biggest of his career, and he has poured himself into making it amazing. I am so proud of what he does and grateful for the way his hard work provides generously for our family.
And also, there are struggles related to having a very successful partner. Their work always comes first. Sometimes before family, and always before my own. Our lifestyle is possible because of his work, and his work is possible because I’m at home taking care of everything else. It’s a simple equation, with an innate inequality.
If I was on the outside of this marriage, I might think the trade offs seem fair. It’s a dynamic as old as the institution itself. Inside this marriage, I struggle with it mightily. He is so far ahead of me, it feels like I could never catch up. An hour of my time will never cost an hour of his. It’s not just about money, but it is about worth.
I love, admire, and respect Jeff more than anyone else on the planet. He knows I am writing this today. Maybe this is a thing whispered about among spouses - I do have friends in similar enough situations that we can talk about it - but I don’t see people saying much about this publicly. I understand why, it’s tricky. But if I had read these words from someone earlier in my marriage, I might have better understood my cycle of resentment, guilt, frustration, and surrender.
Of the 10 Things I’m Telling You, this is the most tender. ❤️
DAY 9 of #10ThingsToTellYou: My magical reset button(s) are time alone, sleep, and a massage. Preferably in that order, but more often the first two are (somewhat) immediately accessible and I have to plan for the massage.
I’m chatty and social, but I’m also deeply an introvert. I desperately need time alone. And not just 30 minutes (although I’ll take what I can get), but like large chunks of time when I don’t have to interact with anyone. Not even social media, not even the dog. Parenting makes that difficult, so it’s no surprise that I’ve had various degrees of mental health issues (anxiety, primarily) since having kids. As they grow into more independence, this part of motherhood has gotten easier.
If I can get a few hours alone, with my book and a Dr. Pepper, you will see a happier person emerge. Suddenly I love everyone again.
When I'm pretty out of whack, I feel it in my whole body. A massage works WONDERS. I could go on and on about this (please see DAY #7), but the combination of deep tissue body work, being naked, aromatherapy, it is the true magical reset for me. Lately I haven’t been doing this enough. Time and cost keep me from scheduling the appointment. A few years ago when I was having a hard time, I got on a schedule of massages every two weeks. I treated it like therapy and it was.
Once a year (usually for Mother’s Day) I go to a hotel alone for the weekend. I will hit all of my resets during this time and it is like a Grand Slam.
In 3 months, will you ask me about writing a book? I’ve always wanted to. But the timing, or my ability, or the ideas, they haven’t always floated in the same direction. But I’ve been inspired in the last year or so by the conversations we’ve been having on @smartestpersonintheroom, and in person with friends, and here online. So I want to buckle down and commit to writing all the things I really want to tell you, stories I’ve never told. And maybe my telling will encourage your telling. And on and on.
All day I didn’t really want to write this final post. But finishing that prompt sentence any other way would be less than truthful. So I’m closing it out as honest as I started.
Thanks for following along and participating in this challenge. It reinforced my belief that a lot of us want to go deeper in our conversations, and are willing to show up to make that happen. Happy weekend, friends.