Know Thyself

Have you ever taken stock of who you are what makes you tick? While development is rapid and easy to see in our childhood years, we continue to evolve as human beings until the day we die. But as our biggest changes become more internal as we age (not speaking of cosmetic and aesthetic procedures, of course), it’s easy to think we reach a point of being who we are never diverging from where we are currently. While it may seem that way if you’re not paying close attention, you’d be surprised at what you discover when you pause to actually get into that.

The following is a series of questions I discovered on mistysansome.com. I’m taking the “quiz” and inviting you all along to read my responses. Feel free to copy the questions and use them as journal prompts or maybe icebreakers, or just something to do with friends and family. And I’d love it if you’d comment and start a conversation!

Alright! Let’s get to it!

What does your ideal day look like?

An ideal day–Sleeping in at a tropical beach location. I’d sleep in and wake when the sun got me, the attire for the day would be bathing suit and coverup. No makeup but sunscreen. After a simple breakfast I’d be in and out of the water all day, eat lunch on the beach, and sit in the breeze with a good book when not swimming or paddleboarding. I’d head back to my room around 4, shower and do hair and maybe take a nap. Then get ready for dinner, enjoy a nice leisurely evening, head to bed whenever I felt tired and repeat again the next day.

What did you want to be when you were younger?

I wanted to be a paleontologist.

Who are you most inspired by? Why?

I’m currently most inspired by women my age (in their 40s) who are pursuing new dreams, new passions, and being brave about it. I totally reject that notion that family and home are all that we’re meant to be passionate about for the duration of our lives. I think we live in seasons and we need to find the next thing to pursue in each one.

Who would you love to meet? What would you ask?

I’d love to meet Barack and Michelle Obama. I’d ask them to adopt me.

What habit would you most like to break? What habit would you most like to start?

I don’t know if this counts as a habit, but I wish I could be an early morning riser naturally. So, if I could, I’d like to start the habit of getting up really and getting my workout done then. I’ve done that before, but it’s been forced and caused me anxiety.

Think of a person you truly admire. What qualities do you like about that person?

Their kindness, persistance, strength, generosity, unflappability, confidence, and positivity.

How do you like to relax?

Swimming, reading, watching Outlander on Netflix.

When was the last time you did something you were afraid of?

A few months ago. This probably sounds weird, but updating my resume has been a major source of anxiety for me. Well I finally did it and it turned out better than I thought and now I feel good that I have it ready even if I have no current plans to use it.

What are you most proud of?

My children. My husband and I have been blessed. But we’ve also worked very hard and made hard decisions with them at times–things many of our peers would never do with their own kids. It’s been difficult and we’ve been questioned about our approaches, but the proof is in the pudding. We are grateful.

What are you most afraid of?

The death of my husband and children.

If life stopped today, what would you regret not doing?

Not speaking up and sticking up for people when I had the chance to.

Who would you like to connect (or reconnect) with? Why?

I’d like to reconnect with some of the kids I was friends with in elementary school. Just out of curiosity to see where life has taken them.

What qualities do you admire in others?

Honesty, kindness, empathy, positivity

What practical skills do you wish you had?

I wish I could pick up languages quickly and was a polyglot.

Imagine you’re in your 90s. What memories would you like to have? What stories do you want to tell?

The memories of my wedding day and how my husband and I fell in love, the pregnancies and births of my children, the summer of 92 and Scandinavia, all of our international travels, the little moments in my kid’s lives, and memories still be be made.

What is your favorite book/movie/song? Why?

I have so many. And they change constantly. I actually hate this question. My favorites in all those categories ebb and flow. But I’ll take a stab: book–don’t have one. I’ve enjoyed so many. movie: Sixteen Candles, Talladega Nights song: currently liking You by Troye Sivan, Regard, and Tate McCraye.

If you could make one change in the world, what would it be?

I’d destroy racism and prejudice.

What do you love to do for, or give to others (not an object – something from you personally)?

I love to listen to someone needing an ear and help them feel less alone. I love to encourage people and say something that makes them laugh in the middle of tears.

What excites you?

Right now–the idea of a nice vacation. Nothing planned, so not excited. 🙂

What do you wish you did more of?

Social activism

Pretend money is no object. What would you do?

Travel constantly, 5 star all the way. Hunker down in a beautiful suite and write books. I’d also love to run around and pay debts off for truly deserving people. Send kids to school. Give university educations to all who want them.

What area of your life, right now, makes you feel the best? Which area makes you feel the worst? Why?

My marriage makes me feel the best. It’s really special–23 years in and it gets better and better. My husband is still my best friend and the person I’d choose to hang around with any day, over anyone else. Worst–Not that its bad, but I’m in the season of navigating the move from more parent to guiding friend with my children and it’s tough.

Let’s jump forward a year. What would you like to have achieved in the past year?

My two books have been published and selling well, my blog and podcasts have followings in the thousands and the Today show me has me on to discuss them all. HA!

What piece of advice would you give to five year old you? Sixteen year old you? Twenty-one year old you? Right now?

Five year old me: You are a not a bad child. You are beautiful, and your brown skin is amazing.

16-year-old me: Maybe don’t go in the desert with that Marine you just met… Also, high school is overrated. The best is yet to come. You are so much better than you think. The people telling you that you aren’t are lying fools.

21-year-old me: You are on the cusp of the best years to come. Don’t cry over these idiots. Your man is here. Hang in just a little bit longer. Everything is going to change for the better. You are going to know peace.

Right Now: God has given you so much, He’s not about to stop now. Ride every wave and enjoy it all. The next seasons of your life are going to be good!

How do you want to be remembered in life?

She was a kind soul. She made me laugh. She tried her best. She made things better. Her writing changed my life. I loved her appearance on the Today show. HAHA!

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading along! I’d love to know your answers to these questions for yourself. Leave me a comment or DM on Instagram @wilopower.

It’s Ok to Be Sad For as Long as You Need To

During the summer between my sophomore and junior year of college, I dated this guy that I fell hard for. It was a great summer. But when we returned to campus for Fall quarter, I was dumped at the end of our first week of classes. I was blindsided. He, I believe, saw some fresh new faces in his classes. Lest I sound like I’m still bitter 25 years later, I’m not. Things 100% turned out as they should for a few years after that, I married my soul mate, and what I thought was love with this other dude, was not once I met my husband and found out what real love was.

But back then, oh boy did it sting. I was never the type of girl who had lots of dates and lots of options. I truly didn’t enjoy the game that went along with being a single co-ed. All I ever wanted was my person. When one is 19-turning-20 in a relationship, it’s all too easy to get swept up in thinking about “the one.” What gets dangerous is when in your naiveté you don’t see the total picture, ignore the subtle warning, and especially in the context of being Christian, think you can pray all problems away. So, in retrospect, the dumping was God saving me from my foolishness and while it hurt, it was the right thing for me.

That said, I was gutted. At the start of a new quarter, now I had to hold it together on a small campus where bumping into him was highly likely and highly unwanted. I cried nearly every day for the first couple of weeks. I had never felt so low as I did then and it’s very true—first loves can be brutal.

I’d start to feel better about things and try to feign that I was cool when I’d see him. The reality was my stomach was in knots and my heart would be pounding out of my chest when we crossed paths. But I thought (foolishly so), that perhaps in creating a friendship and playing it very cool on the surface, he’d soon see what a dumb mistake he made in letting me go. Oh… I shuddered just writing that.

But then I’d see him talking to some girl and I’d be bummed all over again. It didn’t help that there no one else on campus to shift my attention to—no pleasant diversions to be found. I got to a point of normalcy for the most part, by winter break. Then we went on a trip overseas and I came back to find out he was dating someone! And kill me—she was in my Tuesday/Thursday 1 p.m. class! I found out because I saw them driving back to campus after lunch one of those days and then I noticed girlfriend was always late to class. Can you imagine trying to concentrate on the coursework then?

It tripped up my sadness—and anger now—all over again.

My family was sympathetic for about one week after the breakup. But when my tears kept going for weeks after, any compassion quickly soured to irritation and indifference. Thus, I made sure to shut down at home. It was not a safe place to feel my feels. My girlfriends were sweet and understanding through the more than eight months it took me to finally be over the whole thing, but I know I tried them.

The thing is, while it is hard for friends and family to deal with someone dealing with grief, sadness, and all that comes with it, the timetable of that is not their call to make. I dearly wished I could have shut off the hurt valve and rallied on to enjoy college life for whatever else it had to offer. But my soul was a sensitive one—especially at age 20—and it was as if I had no control over the waves that would wash over me.

I did what I was supposed to do: stayed busy, focused on good friends, worked out, trying new things, etc. But deep down, I was very much still licking my wounds. When you think about the fact that our relationship was just months, I should have been feeling better rather quickly, right? Not so.

One of the sweetest encouragements given to me in those gloomy days (my junior year was a bust, y’all), was a note from my best friend’s mom. I still remember what she said in her flowery and beautiful penmanship. “Emotions will come in waves, give an ear to them as they come.” At the time, I didn’t fully grasp what that meant. I wanted to feel better. I didn’t want to hurt. I didn’t want anyone mad at me for being such a pile of Eeyore-level malaise all the time. But what she was trying to tell me was that to heal, you must ride out each wave of grief as it comes, but what you don’t realize is happening is that each wave is moving you forward.

I’ve reflected on that note so much since. We don’t have control over the sadness that ensues when we lose someone or something important to us. But we don’t need to fight the waves when they come. Allow them and let the feelings out as they need to. Give them an ear and let them wash through and out. You aren’t staying stagnant in your hurt, you are working your hurt out.

To family and friends that think someone is taking too long (in their opinion) for a person to “get over” whatever they are mourning, either support them with kindness or shut your mouth. While it is important to look out for our hurting people to make sure they are not going into darker depression or deeper issues (and if they are, help them get help), your most important role is to be a soft place on which to land for them. That’s all.

And if you are mourning a loss right now, keep taking steps forward at the pace that feels comfortable to you. Don’t fight your emotions, but give them the space they require, knowing that while the pain of loss will always be there, it does progressively get easier, and easier.

And you are not alone. 🙂

Photo by Luis Galvez on Unsplash

The Things You Shouldn’t Say

Eighth grade is a time of life I’d never revisit. That in-between period where everyone is going through puberty yet exhibiting its signs in various ways. It’s not pretty—well not for everyone. Of course, there are always the girls who seemed to blossom into young womanhood with ease, their bodies becoming lithe and womanly overnight, with clear skin and eyes that didn’t need glasses to see. Whatever they lacked naturally was made up with access to salons and the best stores.

For a girl such as myself, whose gift from the puberty fairies were extra layers of fat and unruly hair, thicker glasses, and zero access to the fashions I wished I could wear, the inequities of middle school womanhood were never more apparent than in the locker room. Yup, we all had to dress out for PE, changing from our school outfits to shorts and school-logo shirts.

You can tell how females feel about their bodies by the way they will change clothes in shared spaced such as a locker room. Those with nothing they wish to hide would strip off shirts and jeans, taking their time transitioning to PE attire while laughing and chatting in their underwear, which was decidedly more adult-looking than not. The rest of us would change clothes quickly and efficiently, taking special care to expose no part of the body to anyone as much as possible. At that age, you either had too much of something, not enough of what you wanted and a shared loathing of the unfairness of it all.

I didn’t grow up with female role models who paid attention to healthful eating and exercise. What I had been exposed to be many women who married and had babies and no longer looked like the women used to be. This was usually blamed on the marriage and the babies and accepted as the price one pays for the life they got. It was a cultural thing because our move to Southern California when I was 12 years old showed me a very different narrative. These girls who floated past puberty woes were the daughters of women who appeared to have floated past pregnancy and childbirth woes. My insecurities were only further inflamed.

But here’s what didn’t help—adults in my world who felt compelled to comment on what was none of their business—my body.

While trying on a junior bridesmaid’s dress, the bride brought over a size 5, which was too tight on me. She commented that her waist was 24 inches and how was it that at age 13, mine was not? Her fiancé walked by and saw me in the dress and said, “well, you know you need to lose weight, right?” But the more tragic part was the shame I felt, tainted with the foolish notion that it was my duty to answer them all and acknowledge that yes, I needed to lose weight.

I got chubbier and high school started. That summer I got a turquoise lace, tea-length formal dress on sale (hideous, but this was 1989). There was a family wedding in the fall, and I was excited to debut the monstrosity there. When I arrived at the wedding and greeted uncles and aunts I hadn’t seen since I was a child, whatever bubble of loveliness was popped when the relatives gave me the up and down and said, “What happened to you?” with looks of disappointment on their faces.

Those experiences and my teenage desire to be someone different from I was, got me motivated. I got serious about improving myself halfway through 9th grade and started doing aerobics classes I’d tape on VHS off of ESPN. When you are young, it doesn’t take too much to kick your body into great shape, and before long all sorts of people made comments about my body again. But this time, the flattery filled a hole that had been dug by the cruelty. And it wasn’t long before my sense of worth became completely propped up by someone else’s approval of my body.

Then I had my first baby, and the pregnancy weight didn’t fly off. Again, relatives and even casual friends made comments about how large I had become. About how I’d need to commit myself to work harder to look better. And I took it, smiling through humiliation, yet seething and hurt on the inside.

How was this anyone’s dang business?

In South Asian culture, there is this very unfortunate phenomenon where pretty much anyone, but especially if they are related to you, feels perfectly entitled to comment, even ask for explanations, about one’s weight gain. Those same people will clamor all over you like ants on an unsupervised slice of watermelon at a summer picnic when you lose weight and, in their eyes, are now acceptable. All of it is wrong.

All I choose to say is this: If you have ever told someone to lose weight or fix themselves up, shame on you. If you are a parent or other adult meant to love and support a person who was verbally assaulted with such unkindness and did nothing about it, shame on you.

And if you’ve been on the receiving end of this BS, know this. Those people who dared to make hurtful comments about something that is none of their ever-loving business are the ones with problems beyond your care or control. And if the ones entrusted to do better by you stood by while you were hurt, they were the ones with the problem.

I was enough then. I am enough now. You were enough then. You are enough now.

Photo by Dayne Topkin on Unsplash

One Year Office-Free!

A year ago, my husband and I got word from our daughter in college in California that classes were going 100% virtual for the rest of the school year due to what was quickly becoming a public health crisis. I was starting to get very nervous about her being so far away from us as at that point, no one knew what we were in for, let alone what to do about it. She was going to come home for spring break anyway, but we didn’t want her out there alone any longer than she had to be.

All around us we were hearing of students studying abroad being sent home and parents like us making quick travel plans to get their kids to them as quickly as possible. We didn’t miss a beat and got her on the next flight back. My son’s district called a two-week stop to school as well. So, with the kids safely in the nest, my husband I felt better even if our work situations were up in the air.

Leaving the office at the end of that week, I packed my laptop and chargers, some paper files, and my notebook, just in case we got the word that we’d be taking a work-from-home period for a few weeks, as we’d discussed might happen. Well, the work-from-home situation was called and this week marks one year of living that telecommuting life. Of course, what was supposed to be a few weeks turned into one year of online learning for the kids (my daughter has returned to campus but still taking classes virtually, while my son will begin the last two months of his senior year in a hybrid setting next week), and getting my job done in the same room I sleep, exercise, and veg in.

We’ve all learned a lot through the last year, so here are 10 things I’ve appreciated from this very unexpected and strange turn of events.

  1. I don’t need an office to accomplish and increase my work. My laptop and notebook are all I’ve needed.
  2. As a self-proclaimed girly-girl, daily makeup wearing is overrated. (But who am I kidding, I’ll still put some on when we eventually head back).
  3. When one has to wear a mask most of the time, lipstick is completely unnecessary and dare I say it, foolish.
  4. While seeing people in the flesh is nice, Zoom has been a bit nicer. Our team has communicated and collaborated more than when we worked in person.
  5. Living in a virtual context has allowed me to attend all kinds of events, readings, and seminars that I would never have been able to otherwise.
  6. The pandemic and the virtual life reconnected my high school senior year squad of BFFs. I hadn’t spoken to some of them in 20 years. Now we “meet” up monthly. That’s been an unexpected blessing.
  7. Telehealth Therapy—a lot of us have needed it, my family included, and healthcare companies and practitioners have it super accessible now.
  8. Zooming to different churches. I’ve enjoyed tuning in to some of my favorite California congregations instead of my usual local church. It’s been refreshing and affirming.
  9. More time—for lots of things. This past year my Indian food cooking game has grown exponentially, I’m averaging reading one book a week, I’ve written a children’s book, launched this blog, am working on another book project, and am dipping my toes into the world of podcasting.
  10. We’ve explored more of our area than ever before through “Drive and Eats.” We find a new and highly rated take-out spot (up to an hour away), order online en route, pick up and eat in the car (it’s still cold here).

We’re not completely out of the woods yet, and I’m all for remaining prudent with mask-wearing and social distancing with the unvaccinated, at least for a bit longer, but like spring blossoms, there are signs of hope poking through.

Despite a lot of sadness and suffering, surely there have been some good moments sprinkled here and there. What are they for you?  

Photo by Mikayla Mallek on Unsplash

Pure as Purel

Purity culture is a term that refers to a movement, if you will, born of the 90s in evangelical Christian circles, though certainly not limited to them. This movement, which completely ignores LGBTQ individuals, took special aim at trying to return girls and young women to the days where females were judged good or bad based on chastity. Plainly put, the job of a good female was to remain a virgin until her wedding night, and during her growing up years to maintain modesty and decorum in dress and behavior at all times. Now this is also something most patriarchal cultures outside of religion hold at a high premium—a daughter whose marriageability is dependent on her “unsullied” past and innocence in the ways of sexuality.

In the United States, many Christian denominations take purity culture to all kinds of levels—father/daughter balls where a young girl publicly pledges the keeping of her virginity until marriage, to her father in exchange for a purity ring to be surrendered on her wedding day (a bit creepy if you ask me). There were books (who remembers I Kissed Dating Goodbye? Yeah, that author has rethought that project since), conferences (where teens who’d done the deed cried in public confessions in sports arenas), pacts between groups of young girls in their church youth classes, purity pledge cards, etc.

Essentially, purity culture taught girls that chastity before marriage was a holy ideal that was to be valued above everything else. EVERYTHING else.

Is it bad to remain a virgin until marriage? No, of course not. The truth is, going that route is 100% effective in preventing unwanted pregnancy, contracting SDIs, and saving oneself emotional and self-worth issues (especially for those not mature enough to handle a sexual relationship). However, that idea isn’t as commonly accepted as it once was, thus society has indeed moved the goal posts. And it’s because of that shift that purity culture was born, but here’s how it does damage.

  1. Purity culture puts an unfair amount of responsibility on the female alone. On a foundational level, it asserts that the female body exists solely to please a man. Thus, a young woman is pretty much a temptress whose physical beauty and “parts” for lack of a better word, must be guarded at risk of bringing shame upon herself, her family, and her faith, should she “slip.” The role of the male in all this places them as nothing more than hungry fiends ready to pounce, and a “good” girl is always in defense mode.
  2. It breeds a crushing atmosphere of guilt, shame, and fear; almost certainly guaranteeing hypocrisy and disillusionment.
  3. It places all sense of self-worth on sexuality and virginity, so that if those things are compromised, a person amounts to nothing. Anyone heard the chewed-up piece of gum analogy? Lots of young women even today have been shown a lovely, fresh piece of gum. But when the gum is chewed and spat out, they are asked if anyone would want that used gum. Girls who have sex before marriage are chewed pieces of gum.
  4. It warps a person’s concept of being loved and valued by God just as they are, and in an ironic way, blames God. How? For a group of people who believe firmly in the flawless creation of humanity by a master designer God, the female body appears to be a problem. In its beauty and alluring nature, God, it turns out, made something no more than a troublesome, loaded weapon.
  5. Purity culture provides fertile ground for low self-esteem and mental health issues. When shame, guilt, and fear are primary motivators all connected to a physical body, how exactly are young women (and men) supposed to transform into well-adjusted marriage partners with healthy attitudes toward sexuality?
  6. It can push forward a completely warped version of the female body to the point where girls are so ashamed of what is natural, they will not seek medical help for issues that arise.
  7. It can actually feed into rape culture, by causing a young person to feel that their actions or dress sent “messages” that got them what they “deserved.” Wearing a short skirt? She asked for it. This goes dangerously further in that a young person may feel so ashamed of their perceived failure they stay silent, failing to see sexual assault for what it really is: an act of violence and dominance by a sick person.

I think many parents can agree on wanting their children to remain safe from disease, feel emotionally secure and confident, and enter parenthood on their own terms at the time that is right for them according to their personal values. But what is so important is to teach kids to see that the responsibility for treating oneself with the utmost respect lies on both boys and girls, however they identify. Full autonomy over their bodies is their right. And right up there with that is the need to reinforce the truth that the beauty a person possess’ inside and out can’t be removed by losing one’s “purity.”

It is a tough world out there. And we do well to be careful, discerning, and smart in our decisions. But there are better ways to help young people make smart choices for themselves that do that don’t meld fear mongering with emotional, spiritual, and mental manipulation.