Tuesday, April 26, 2016

building my house

Lately it's been hard for me to get in touch with my Chrissyness.

In case you are not familiar with "ness", it's one of my favorite suffixes, ever, explained in the movie "You, Me & Dupree". Ok, so it's no "Shawshank Redemption" but it made me laugh and more importantly, made me feel. In the movie, the off the wall, unexpected hero Dupree is giving a motivational seminar where he shares: 

"Life may knock you down. Scratch that. It will knock you down. It'll kick you in the gut and knock you to the curb. But you can't let it rob you of your "ness." Now what's ness? It's your name plus ness."

But the truth is, we get the Ness knocked out of us all the time. Sometimes being a human is so hard. And our Ness is our everything. It's what makes us the wonderful and unique human we were meant to be! It's what makes us the fighter or lover or learner or friend or teacher that we are. We have an ability to completely underestimate our Ness--until it goes away. Then we feel the weight of that ache to feel like ourselves again. Oftentimes, our Ness escapes us and we don't even realize it at first.

While my Chrissyness has been MIA, I've been in close touch with my grumpiness. My tiredness. My angriness. My bitterness. My emptiness. And bad Ness loves to overstay their welcome.

My (desperately coveted) alone time has been to hide from the world, and hasn't left me feeling fully recharged.  And sometimes those kind of feelings just sneak right on in on you, in the middle of you just trying to live your life the best way you know how. 

It's easy to lose track of what's important. I lose track of who I want to be. How I want to do life. I want to be a Warrior. A capital M Mom, a writer, a friend and feeler who changes the world for my boys and anyone struggling with feeling different. But lately I've traded in my Warrior gigs to be a worrier. A worrier of the future, of the past, of the current, a worrier of my children, and my life.

Have you ever noticed how close Warrior and worrier are? Sometimes we just need to rearrange a couple of letters to reset our mind.

First, I had started to let go of some of my routines. The rituals we all rely on to make ourselves real. I usually wake up and drink lemon water with salt.

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I started doing this in January and I've only been sick once since. In previous years, I can usually depend on getting sick at least 3-4 times every Winter. There are a million benefits of this concoction and you can read all about HERE. And even if it's placebo effect- I'll take it. But lately, I just started thinking-What's the point? It takes too long. After I make it I then have to wash the knife aaaaaand the cutting board aaaaaaaand the juice squeezer thing. And for some reason all of that sounded endless and exhausting.

I try and treat my body well, because I expect it to do so many things for me. But when my Ness goes, I forgot that. Suddenly lemon water gets replaced with things like Skittles. At least the yellow ones are lemon flavored- right?

Usually on Monday through Friday I'm the best version of myself- on the weekend I like to take a break and eat whatever the heck I want. I work out five days a week for my brain. I eat healthy. But when you are a worrier, none of those things make much sense and take too much of a mental investment. Moaping and eating make way more sense. So instead, I ate some more sugar than usual. And skipped some workouts. And ate my feelings at night. 

My brain argued with my thoughts a lot. You need to go for a walk. Get outside. You will feel better. Don't eat that- you will feel worse. I argued back. Leave me alone. I need rest. I need to sit here and get lost in the television. I need some alone time. Worriers lie to themselves all the time. Whatever sounds easiest and best is what worrier suggests, because when you are using all that energy for worry, you don't have much energy left for the good stuff.

A couple of weeks ago I remembered- Wait- I want to be a Warrior. And although I couldn't fully remember why at the time, I still knew that was true. And to be a Warrior,  I have to take good care of me. It's really hard to make good choices when you are tired and sad and already on a bad choice making roll. So I started slow. One morning I woke up and squeezed my lemons for the first time in a couple of weeks. And it was a tiny bit exhausting and annoying. The first thing is always the hardest. And the second one too. Maybe even the third. But somewhere along the way, you lose track because you aren't keeping score anymore. That's how you know it's real. And then it all just got a little easier each day. I'm still working on choosing Warrior every day. I'm not perfect at it. I am however doing a great job for an imperfect human.

If you are lost, do one good thing. It may get you over the hump. Don't turn a bad moment into a forever.

I have a tendency to get lost in the output. The final creation. That's where my worth lies- when I can hold that perfect shiny project in my hands and watch the light flicker off it. I think, See here! Look at my shiny. Am I worthy now? Am I at least good enough? Do you love me? And if you say "No", I say I don't care about what you say, but I feel less inside. And if you say "Yes", well, I feel good for a second, but then I just don't believe you. So I am learning to enjoy the middle part more. To feel worthy from the love I pour into a single day, not the finished product at the end of a day or a month or a year. When you measure yourself by heart and intent, something little like drinking a little lemon juice makes a difference.

I want to share with you an excerpt from the book, "Chop Wood, Carry Water," by Joshua Medcalf. In it he shares the parable...

"...there once was a man named Kota who built some of the finest houses in all of Tokyo. His work became world famous due to his dedication to the process, his willingness to beat on his craft, and his relentless devotion to keep learning, even late into his career.

Eventually though, Kota grew tired of building homes for other people and he was ready to retire. He had been building homes for over thirty years, and he was ready to move on. He wanted to travel and spend lots of time with his grandkids.

One day, Kota approached his boss, and turned in his two-week notice.

His boss said, “Kota, we are forever indebted to you for the magnificent work you have done for our company, and we are so grateful you have worked for us for so long. We do have one favor to ask of you though. Could you please build one more house? It is a very important house, for a very important client, and everyone in the company agreed it needs your magic touch!”

Kota was frustrated. He would have to cancel two trips and postpone his new life, all for one house. He told his boss that he needed a day to think about it. After talking it over with his wife, he gave in and decided he would build one more house. But he told his boss, “This is the very last one!”

But while Kota had agreed with his head to build this last house, his heart was no longer in it. He had always been very hands-on through the entire building process, always selecting the finest materials by hand and making sure every detail was diligently tended to.

But this house was different.

He viewed it more as an obligation than an opportunity. He delegated much of the work, and consequently a lot of things started slipping through the cracks. The house would be up to code, but as it started to come together, it was obvious that it lacked the “wow” factor that Kota’s other homes were known for.

Kota knew in his heart that this was far from his best work, but he was over it and ready to move on to the next phase of his life. The next phase was much more appealing and important to him.

“He went back to his boss, telling him, “I did what you asked. Now I am asking, one last time, for your blessing to retire.”

His boss said, “Thank you Kota! We just have one more thing!”

Now Kota was beginning to get really upset because he thought they were going to ask him to build another house.

His boss reached into his desk and pulled out a very small black box with a red ribbon tied around it. He handed the box to Kota, and said, “We are so grateful for you, Kota. This gift is a token of our appreciation.”

Kota pulled the ribbon, opening the box to discover a set of shiny new keys. His boss smiled, “The house is yours! You deserve it!

Immediately, his heart sank. Unbeknownst to Kota, the whole time he had been building his own house. If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have cared so much more. He would have only used the finest materials, and he would have overseen every detail and given it his all like he had always done. But now, it was too late."

Author Joshua Medcalf states,  “The only thing that is truly significant about today, or any other day, is who you become in the process. Each of us are building our own house. Sometimes you might think you are building for your school, your family, your company, or your team, but you are always building your own house… I hope you build wisely.”

You can read more about Medcalf's life changing work HERE.

When doing for others, when working a job we don't love, or interacting with people that challenge you- it's easy to want to withhold our greatest gifts- because maybe they don't deserve them. But it's better for your head, your heart and soul- to do and be your best you, no matter who you are dealing with. They may not deserve it- but you do.

Greyson tried for years to attempt the monkey bars. Hand over hand he practiced while Dad held his legs and cheered him along. I watched kids without autism, kids whose brain and body don't have communication issues do it with ease. I wondered if it would ever happen for Grey.

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And it did, because Grey is always willing to do the hard work. His Ness is always there. Even when it looks like it isn't. He's hard working and brave and thrives in a world that often feels like a foreign country to his mind and his body. 

Hard work takes hard work. There's no way around it. Great things don't happen while your hiding in your room. Great things don't happen when you give up on yourself and treat your body like crap. Great things don't happen when you eat your feelings or feel consumed by worry. Great things happen when you are willing to do the hard work. When you are willing to sacrifice. When you are willing to get blisters on the palm of your hands from doing the monkey all morning long- or are willing to experience whatever worse case scenario your particular story brings you.

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Life. It's up to you to choose how you look at things. How you talk about things. What sorts of things you think about. What you do with your time. Life is not circumstances. Life is inside us, guiding our eyes and our hearts and our words and our minds.

Do you choose to see the mud, or do you choose to take the blue sky in whatever form it finds you? I guess that depends on whose house you are building.



  1. I feel like my 'ness' is missing too. Struggling to get it back. I remind myself that as long as I'm still struggling, I haven't given up. I've eaten a lot of feelings, and slept away a lot of I dunno what. Gonna get myself together again though. Is a good story about building your house... will have to keep that in mind. Thanks Chrissy!! <3

    1. I still feel your Bayness and I treasure your comments.

  2. Thank you Chrissy, love from Emma xxx

  3. Beautiful post Chrissy - thank you for the gift of your perspective and writing!
    I'm sure it took work to write all of this - to take us with you on the journey - and I really appreciate you doing that work, even when you might not have felt like it. I am going to pick something I don't feel like doing and make myself do it today, inspired by you! Sending love your way.

  4. I just found this post again and felt like I needed to comment. I've been reading a lot of your old posts. We are getting ready to begin ABA therapy with my 4 year old, Teddy. We have been in speech therapy, OT, PT, and inclusive preschool for the last 2 years, but the autism diagnosis and the ABA therapy are new for us (a few months new now). As I read this post, Teddy was over my shoulder. He has been working hard at monkey bars (a new infatuation as a result of viewing American Ninja Warriors with his older brothers), but he's not there. He saw Greyson's photos and when we got to the photo of Greyson moving across the monkey bars without help, Teddy said, very dramatically, "oh my goodness." And as I read your comments about your Ness, I (silently) said the same thing. I finally realized why I've felt so unhinged through the last few months. With the diagnosis, my Ness left, or shifted, or shriveled or whatever, but its not strong. And I've done a really poor job of making myself do those things that make me feel better but seem hard all summer. So your comments hit home and are already helping. Thank you.