Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Miscellaneous thoughts (Part 12)

~ Forgiveness is easy when love is strong.

~ The only way to continue finding yourself is to continue losing yourself.

~ The people who truly love and care about you won't see you any differently when you have a meltdown, pitch a fit, say things you don't mean, or otherwise behave imperfectly. You don't have to apologize for or justify your need to vent and express your feelings, no matter how crazy or dramatic you sound in the heat of the moment. It's better to rant and rave and make an ass of yourself than sit in a room by yourself and let everything build up until you explode and do something stupid.

~ You deserve to receive, feel and experience genuine love, no matter how you go about getting it.

~ There is always a reason to stay alive.

~ I like to know where I stand with people. I don't have time for up and down, push and pull, or give and take relationships. If I constantly have to question how someone feels about me or whether or not they want me in their life, I'm better off without them.

~ When you have nothing, you have nothing to lose.

~ A breakdown can be a breakthrough, depending on how you choose to look at it.

~ When you're lacking strength, all you have to do is ask for it. From God. From your best friend. From your dog. From your grandmother. From your significant other. It's okay to say, "Today is not a good day. I feel weak. I don't feel like enough." Strength can be provided through a hug, some encouraging words, or simply a walk in the park. You don't need to leap over obstacles fearlessly and effortlessly. You just need to have the initiative to put one foot in front of the other.

~ If you're doing it for the money, you're doing it wrong. Yes, money is important. No, money is not everything.

~ If you can only find one thing worth living for, keep looking.

~ Never stop setting goals, even if the best goal you can come up with is, "Get out of bed."

<3 Madison  

Friday, November 14, 2014

Puzzle pieces of the human heart

Hello friends.

As I'm sure you've noticed, I've been super MIA lately. I know I always start off posts like that when I've been away for awhile and I know several of you tell me each time that it's okay and that creativity needs room to breathe, but I still feel weird and sort of empty about not posting as regularly as I used to. I used to update this blog 3-4 times per month, and now I'm lucky if I post half that much.

I don't know about you guys, but I'm one of those people who notices when a blogger I like stops posting as often or stops posting altogether. Although I understand, it doesn't change the fact that I feel disappointed and maybe even a little abandoned. The thought of making any of you feel that way really bothers me. I even tried writing a new post this week, but the words never came out quite right and I ended up deleting the whole thing.

The truth is, inspiration has been coming to me in different forms these days. I don't always feel the need to write an 8-paragraph post about how I'm feeling or what I'm thinking. Sometimes it's more of a fleeting thought or a picture in my head or a subtle moment of hope and clarity. While thinking of ways to share this type of inspiration without writing one-sentence blog posts, I came up with a new project idea. So without further ado, I would like to introduce you to my new side blog, Puzzle Pieces of the Human Heart. Yes, I am aware of the fact that I started a different side blog once and haven't posted to it in a year. (Hello More to Share, More to Learn.) However, that blog was pretty separate from this one in terms of the subject matter. I want Puzzle Pieces of the Human Heart to be something of an extension for this blog. I want it to have more of a community feel. I want it to be a place where I can share the things that inspire me and give me hope in bite-sized pieces. I want it to be the creative and emotional outlet I've been desperately seeking for over a year. 

I'm not looking for a huge following, but I hope some of you are still out there and decide to be a part of this project. I don't just want this to be my creative space. I want it to be yours too. I want to give you a voice, post your creations and ideas, share the things that inspire and heal you, and generally help you release the thoughts, feelings and stories that have been clogging up your soul.

With that said, I encourage you to take a look around. Read the about page and the submission guidelines. See if it all sounds like something you would like to get involved in.

Thank you endlessly for your support, and I hope to hear from you soon.

<3 Madison    

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Things you should not feel guilty about/apologize for

I have a bad habit of putting everyone else's feelings/desires before my own, which has led to a lot of unnecessary resentment, unhappiness, guilt and anxiety. We spend so much of our time caring about what other people think and how other people feel about our decisions, and I think it's time for a reality check: You have to live YOUR life, make YOUR decisions, and meet YOUR needs if you want to be content. Period. Failure to do so leads to depression, inner rage, and excessive worry---when instead, you could be out in the world doing whatever the hell you want, creating whatever the hell you want, and being whoever the hell you want. That's not to say you shouldn't be a good, generous person who helps and cares about others. It's simply to say that if you abandon yourself, you rob the world and the people in it of the person you really are. You become fake, robotic and bitter...And that is NOT who you really are.

Here are some things you need to stop feeling guilty about and apologizing for:

~ Saying no when the answer is truly no

~ Not doing something for the simple reason of not wanting to do it (This is slightly subjective; don't be an asshole)

~ Dreaming big and setting goals, no matter how scattered or unconventional

~ Taking a break

~ Not working while on vacation or spending time with loved ones

~ Ignoring a text or email when you don't feel inclined to write something worthwhile and meaningful in return

~ Asking for help

~ Being slightly socially inept and/or being an introvert

~ Treating your pets like children

~ Expressing an annoying and incoherent amount of joy (Example: Texting the phrase "ASDFGHJKL" to someone when they tell you something exciting)

~ Your feelings

~ Loving who and what you love

<3 Madison  

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Instead of quitting...

To quit or to get so angry at yourself for wanting to quit that you decide to work your ass off instead? That is the question.

Now that I have that cliche Hamlet reference out of the way, I quite literally asked myself that question in the middle of the night recently before finding myself on my laptop. Writing instead of sleeping. Taking notes instead of counting sheep. Reconsidering my entire path in life instead of relaxing and waiting for tomorrow.

I am bursting with ideas and potential that I rarely use. I am getting buried under apathy and a lack of self-confidence. And most of all, I am getting angry. I'm angry at the employers and potential employers who keep blowing me off. I'm angry at the friends, family members and peers who expect the world of me only to be let down time after time after time. I'm angry at the stereotypes and expectations surrounding writers---how if you haven't written a best-selling book or don't have a blog that gets millions of page views, you ain't shit. But underneath it all, I realize that I'm angry at myself. I'm angry at myself for not giving my talent room to breathe, for settling for less than what I'm worth, and for wanting to quit 5 million times per week. And I never do because I never can. 

So instead of quitting, I'm turning my entire life into one big writing assignment. Every situation I go through and every emotion I feel is going to be turned into an article or story. To hell with not having a specific person or publication to send it to. I'm going to re-read "Bird by Bird" by Anne Lamott. I'm going to get up in the middle of the night when I have a new idea, even when I'm tired or have to get up early the next morning. I'm going to say no whenever I want to say no and yes whenever I want to say yes. I'm going to stop selling my soul for pennies and dollar bills. I'm not going to be afraid of doing a shitty job the first time, and I'm going to realize that "perfect" doesn't exist. I'm going to let my passion and enthusiasm be greater than my level of experience or expertise.

I will always have days where all I want to do is stay on the couch all day. I'm certainly not immune to discouragement, which is a big fat "DUH" if you read this blog regularly. But the fact that I've felt like quitting so many times has ignited a fear in me that one day I really will---and then be subjected to a lifetime of unhappiness and failure because of it. I'm going to get so mad at myself for even wanting to quit that I fight back with every ounce of motivation I still have standing.

And I promise you I will get somewhere.  

<3 Madison

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Thoughts on social media (plus a week-long challenge)

Ah, social media. It's been spoken about countless times, so my ramblings might look like blobs of redundant nothingness through your computer (or smartphone) screens. But I still want to share my thoughts about it in my little corner of the Internet over here.

While social media has connected us in many wonderful ways, it has also disconnected us---not just from others, but from ourselves. I feel like I wouldn't even know who I am if it wasn't for this blog and the validation I receive through it. If I write a post and no one comments on it, I feel like an insignificant bore. If I post what I believe to be a witty or inspiring tweet or status update and nobody "likes" or "favorites" it, I become quite certain that everybody hates me. And I know I'm not alone in this.

When we don't get validation in real life, we try to find it on the Internet. When we STILL don't get it, we fall into a soul-sucking black hole. (I tend to exaggerate everything, but that observation sounds about right actually.) People resort to cyber-bullying and creating fake profiles and tricking people into downloading computer viruses and making it their goal in life to get "x" number of followers on *insert social media page here* by *insert date here* so they can have an excuse to celebrate or feel important---even though they have every damn right to celebrate for no reason whatsoever and would still be important if they lived in a box under a bridge. But no. People have to prove their worth by getting noticed on the Internet these days. It's like the world is screaming, "If you don't have a substantial social media following, then screw you."

One thing I pride myself on is not having a personal Facebook. About 98% of the people I know have one, but I know that I would much sooner gouge my eyes out with a fork than subject myself to the validation seeking, popularity contest, land of comparison that is Facebook. But even so, I still find myself falling into some of its traps through my Facebook blog page.

I've even heard that excessive social media use leads to a severe lack of empathy for others. And it's no wonder! Technology is turning us all into self-centered robots. Most people's biggest concerns of the day consist of someone calling them ugly on Instagram or unfollowing them on Twitter.

And I've noticed that I'm more myself on the Internet than in real life. Or maybe I'm actually less of myself. Either way, it sucks. No one should define their identity or self-worth through a blog or social media page. It's like a slow death of the human spirit. I can barely remember who I was before I started using the Internet and creating social media profiles. Can you?  

Here's my challenge: 

1. Do not check stats or pageviews for a week (or a month if you're feeling ballsy) if you have a blog or social media page that allows you to do so. If you want to take it a step further, never check them again (unless you have to for business purposes).  

2. Because Facebook is the worst social networking site in my opinion (sorry Facebook), no Facebook for a week (or a month if you're feeling ballsy). Turn off your notifications. Do not go on Facebook at all, even if you're not officially logged in to YOUR page. NO FACEBOOK PERIOD. (I bet a vast majority of you will fail at this one. I'm not trying to be mean, but I know that Facebook addiction is a real thing.) If you want to take it a step further, delete your Facebook altogether.   

3. Give three people a compliment in real life (or six people if you're feeling ballsy). If you want to take it a step further, tell three (or six) people who would least expect it---a co-worker you've barely spoken two words to, a stranger at the grocery store, or one of those telemarketers that everybody hates.  

4. No cell phones at the dinner table for a week (or a month if you're feeling ballsy). Even if you're not using it, don't let it sit by your dinner plate like a dying tomagotchi. Using it or not using it, taking your cell phone to the dinner table with you is rude. I've done it plenty of times before, but I always feel like an asshole when I do. No more. Put it away and try having an actual conversation with whoever you're eating dinner with. If you want to take it a step further, encourage your dinner mates to put theirs away too.  

If you do the challenge and would like to email me about it, my address is: MadisonSonnier[AT]gmail[DOT]com. Let's do it together starting NOW.

<3 Madison      

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


Do you ever randomly start thinking about an ancient flame, friend, or other person who was once a major part of your life, but is currently no part of it at all? I do. Sometimes it's a fleeting thought after hearing their favorite song on the radio or accidentally on purpose getting a glimpse of their profile picture on Facebook. Sometimes it's like someone tipped over the dirty laundry basket titled "old feelings" inside my soul and the contents of that basket begin to fester and contaminate and make me have dreams and thoughts about said person on an alarmingly consecutive basis.

Four years ago (FOUR YEARS), I had a very dramatic and upsetting fall-out with one of my best friends. (Dear people I know in real life who read this blog: Please don't ask me who this person is if you don't already know. That is irrelevant and my business.) Once upon a time, we were thick as thieves. We told each other everything (and I do mean EVERYTHING). We were there for each other unconditionally. She spent time with me because she wanted to, not because she felt obligated to. And she spent time with me without needing other people to be around to break the ice. She was like the sister I never had. I am a better, more open person for having had her in my life. But shit happened as shit often does, and we haven't seen or spoken to each other in four years. After the expected period of grief and anger, I moved on pretty smoothly. Bad feelings diminished. I felt healthier and happier. I rarely gave her a second thought, and whenever I did, feelings of rage and betrayal were no longer attached. I had moved on. I was happy.

So why has she been taking up so much of my mental space lately? Why do I find myself fantasizing about having a conversation with her? Sitting in the front seat of her car again? Having her number in my phone? Being in her wedding someday? It's not so much that I want or expect us to be best friends again. I just all of a sudden feel like she is a piece of unfinished business in my life. Sound familiar?

There is so much taboo surrounding the subject of thinking about or pining away for things from the past. "Move on," people say. "Things change. People come and go. Focus on the present!" While all of that may be true, I am not going to preach it here because it sounds too simplistic and verges on insulting. That's like losing your thumb and hearing someone say, "Welp...You don't really need that sucker anyway. Be grateful for all your other fingers." And no, I don't think this analogy is too far-fetched because I've actually heard people compare break-ups to losing a vital limb or body part. I can't say I've ever gone through a personal loss of that magnitude, but I can understand how someone would feel that way, based on the losses I have suffered and the knowledge of how awful it would be to lose people I currently have a strong emotional attachment to.

Loss and the feelings associated with it demand to be acknowledged, no matter how much time has passed. 

I can't tell if the feelings I'm currently having are because I want to reconcile a friendship that was never meant to end or simply because I need closure---to let her know that I forgive her and don't hate her and that I hope she can say the same about me.

But whatever the case, I think I'm just going to try to let it go. Closure is incredibly elusive, and a lot of people never get it. Not all endings need to be wrapped up in a pretty bow, and I believe you can forgive someone without directly contacting them. I think old feelings pop up to teach us something about ourselves, not the other person.

I believe that the fact that I haven't yet found "my people" is contributing to my desire to reach out to my old people---the people who were only meant to be my people for a little while, teach me a valuable lesson, and then be set free. Maybe that's all this is about. 

After reading this, you might still be tempted to contact people from your past. That's okay. It might even be beneficial. In spite of everything I just wrote, I might still reach out to my old friend if these feelings persist (although that is unlikely). But just brace yourself for the fact that contacting them could reopen old wounds, frustrate and bewilder you all over again, or kick you right back to square one of the healing process.

And if you decide to NOT reach out to them, then just feel your feelings with the comfort of the knowledge that they will pass once again. Shed new tears for old circumstances without shame or embarrassment. Figure out what your soul is trying to tell you by tipping over your dirty laundry baskets. Forgive yourself in addition to forgiving others.

You don't need closure from someone else. You need it from yourself.

<3 Madison      

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

12 things I learned from Christina Perri's Head or Heart show

In honor of Christina Perri's 28th birthday today, I wanted to share some things I learned/experienced from attending her Head or Heart show in Atlanta on April 30th with my mom. And if you are befuddled as to why this was a big deal for me, then you haven't read my eBook yet. I AM ON TO YOU.  

Anyway, I feel obligated to share the following monstrosity of a photo before I begin. (We were only allowed to take one photo, so I didn't have an opportunity to manipulate my face into a more attractive expression. Oh well.)

The following are things I learned both from the trip to Atlanta, the meet and greet, and the concert. I am writing this because I want to commemorate this event somehow. So if you're not a Christina Perri fan, I'm sorry. And go away. Just kidding. You can stay if you want. You might learn something.

1. It's okay to ask for help. 

After driving up and down the same road about 67 times, my mom and I finally stopped to ask a security guard for directions. He looked lost in thought and the task at hand, so we were afraid he would wave us along and not help, but that was not the case. He pointed us in the right direction, and we arrived at the venue in time. Speaking of the venue, we also had to call and ask THEM if it would be a problem if we were running a few minutes late for the meet and greet (which we were), but it was not. Had we not asked for guidance in those instances, we probably would have gotten hopelessly lost and missed the meet and greet altogether. Most people will be more than willing to help you as long as you are willing to ask them to. 

2. Hugs are important.

I love hugs, but often feel weird about giving or requesting them. But Christina hugged every single person that went through that meet and greet line, whether they asked/wanted her to or not. If you want to give somebody a hug, I say go for it unless the circumstances are completely inappropriate or creepy.   

3. All good things are worth waiting for.

My mom and I got to the venue a pretty good while before the show was set to start, which was a good thing and a bad thing. It was a good thing because we got an awesome spot (front row!) and a bad thing because we had to wait and wait and wait for the show to start. Being in a standing room only venue while not feeling super well (lady problems) can be a tedious experience. But Christina (and her opening act Birdy) put on an amazing show, so the standing and waiting was worth it. But it WAS nice to sit down when it was over...   

4. Lighten up, even if it's your job to be super serious.

A downside to being in the very front row at a concert is the Hitler-y security people that banish you to shame when you try to take photos. Because of this, my mom and I only got one photo and it was of the back of Birdy's head. I know that guy's job was to prevent people from filming/taking pictures of the concert, but I don't think it would have killed him to lighten up a bit and "pretend" he didn't see a few camera flashes. People are going to take pictures at concerts anyway, amiright? The next time you want to reprimand someone for doing something that isn't really that big of a deal, be cool and cut them a break instead. If nothing else, consider it an act of kindness.   

5. Put your entire heart into the things you're passionate about. 

I think you can tell when someone is truly passionate about something and not just going through the motions or doing what they're doing out of a sense of obligation. Christina was incredibly enthusiastic throughout her entire show and never once looked like she wasn't enjoying herself or wanted to get it over with. There was a powerful sense of abandon in her performances. She just let go, had a good time, and did the best she could. That's how we all should treat the things we love---and not just career related things.  

6. Don't be afraid to share your stories.

I love when artists share the stories behind some of their songs before they sing them at concerts. Christina did this with several of her songs, and some of the stories were pretty personal. But people paid attention, and people were moved because she told them in a way that people could relate to. I think we all have similar stories because we all sort of go through the same things. Sharing your stories (like I do through this blog) bridges the gap between you and "other people." Because believe it or not, those "other people" are actually a lot like you.   

7. Know that you are never alone. Ever. 

One of my favorite moments from the show was when Christina sang "I Believe," one of my favorite songs by her. It's a song about not being alone in what you're struggling with, and she cut the audience into three groups and made each group sing a certain lyric/mantra towards the end. And if you've heard the song, you know those lyrics/mantras are:

"This is not the end of me, this is the beginning."
"Hold on."
"I am still alive."

Doing this was a fun way to connect all the strangers in that audience to one another, and I'm willing to bet that every single person in that room was moved by that song because they could relate to it. If you've never heard it, I encourage you to go listen to it because I'm sure you will relate to it too. But the bottom line is that regardless of what you're feeling right now, somebody somewhere is feeling the exact same way. I can guaranteed it.      

8. Love openly and fearlessly.

If you're familiar with Christina Perri's music, you know she writes a lot of songs about love and relationships. As I wrote earlier, she shared some of her love (and heartbreak) stories during the show, and it became very clear to me that she falls hard, fast and fearlessly into love. Call me a hopeless romantic or an idealist, but I think that's the way it should be. It may mean having your heart broken more easily, but love is one of the most extraordinary things a person can experience, whether it lasts ten days or ten years. So love the people you love with your entire heart, and maybe one day you will find someone who loves you the exact same way.      

9. Fear is all in your head.

This is something I am constantly learning and relearning. One of the stories Christina shared during her show was about how she absolutely would NOT sing in front of a crowd when she was first starting out as a musician. She literally felt like she couldn't do it and would (and still does) get incredibly nervous before going on stage. She went on and on and on about how afraid she used to be and how much she held herself back, but just look at where she is today. She said she realized that her own head was the only thing standing between her and success. Once you get your own thoughts and beliefs under control (which is easier said than done, but totally possible), you will become a force to be reckoned with.  

10. The people you look up to struggle with the same things you do.  

One of the reasons I feel so drawn to Christina Perri is because she is unafraid to wear her heart on her sleeve and be open about her struggles, both past and present. Even her tweets are honest and authentic! I feel like she and I have shared (and continue to share) similar struggles because we're both very emotional people. Not only do I look up to her, I feel like I can genuinely relate to her. It's important to remind yourself that even if someone seems to have a glamorous life, they still have fears and insecurities just like the rest of us.  

11. Music brings people together. 

As cliche as it may sound, music is a huge connecting factor. Sometimes a single song can lift a weight off your shoulders in a way that nothing or nobody else can. And there's something really special about standing in a big venue with people you don't know, and yet they are people who are there for the same reasons you are. I definitely recommend listening to music daily and attending more concerts. Music is good for the soul.   

12. Enjoy the simple things.

I get really excited about the simplest of things, which is probably one of my favorite things about myself. As my mom and I were driving back from Atlanta, we got wonderful views of the Atlanta skyline. I LOVE city skylines, so this made me really happy (even though the traffic was a nightmare and gives my mom anxiety every time she thinks about it). Even if you live in a big city and see the skyline all the time, try to see it from a tourist perspective every now and then. Try to see EVERYTHING from the perspective of someone seeing it for the first time. You live in a beautiful world, so pay attention to it.

Thanks for reading!

<3 Madison     

Friday, August 15, 2014

Joining the depression/mental illness defense bandwagon

In the aftermath of Robin Williams' death (I AM SO SAD), I've seen a lot of people speaking out once again about the horrible stigmas associated with mental illnesses. I've heard about people lashing out at Robin Williams and referring to him as "selfish" and "a coward," among many other things I'm sure.

There are a lot of issues that need attention in this world, but I must say that this is one I am especially passionate about. People with mental illnesses get stereotyped and discriminated against like nobody's business, and I'm so tired of it. I guess I just wanted to join the bandwagon of people speaking out against this issue by briefly writing a few words to:

a) people suffering from mental illness
b) people who know/love someone suffering from mental illness

I also want to provide some resources that might be helpful and inspiring if you fall into either or both of those two categories.

If you are suffering from mental illness...

~ You are NOT a fundamentally flawed piece of insignificance and shame, which is probably what most people will lead you to believe with their thoughtless comments and actions. You are struggling with a very real, very valid issue. Your struggle is just as significant as someone with a terrible flu or a body that is broken in nine places. The status of your mental health is NOT YOUR FAULT and I understand that you can't just wake up in the morning and will yourself out of it. You matter. Your story matters. You are doing the best you can.

~ You are not alone. One in four people struggle with mental illness, and there is help available if you're one of those people. I will provide some resources below, but nothing beats professional consultations. Just remember that the first step is usually the hardest, but it's also the most important. For the longest time, I did not discuss my own struggles with mental health. To be honest, I STILL don't discuss them very much because we've been conditioned to believe that struggling with mental health makes us weak and that our problems aren't valid because they can't be seen with the naked eye. The fact of the matter is that some people may very well judge or misunderstand you. But for every person who does that, there are probably ten more who won't. So try to speak up (and I will too). Find people who understand. Find people who can help. But whatever you do, don't go at it alone. Don't be the next shocking suicide story because everyone thought you were totally fine and dandy when you were actually living in a mental hell.

~ It really does get better. I know that probably sounds like an annoying and infuriating cliche if you're depressed or mentally ill, but if you stop reminding yourself that things will get better (even if you don't always believe it), you will sink even further into that black void. You will not be like this forever. Your condition will improve, and I strongly believe in the hope and promise of a better, more fulfilled future. You do not have to give up. You do not have to kill yourself. There are so many ways out of your mental prison. They might be more tedious to get through, but they're there. I promise.      

If you know/love someone who is suffering from mental illness...

~ Do not try to "fix" them. Trying to fix someone with a mental health issue is the equivalent of giving someone with a gaping wound a band-aid. "THIS OUGHTA DO THE TRICK." No. It won't do the trick. If anything, it will make matters worse. Sure, some mental health issues are less serious than others and can probably be alleviated (or even cured) with some good old-fashioned self-help or other forms of self-therapy. I once dealt with some minor mental issues by myself and turned out okay. (See my eBook.) But most mental health issues are too great to be dealt with by non-professionals. Be there for your loved ones in any possible way that you can, but don't discourage professional therapy---ESPECIALLY if you suspect their life could be in danger.

~ Do not judge, stereotype or belittle them. Dealing with a mental health issue is hard enough as it is. It's even harder to talk about. If someone takes the brave step of opening up to you about an issue they are having only to be met with a barrage of cruel or ignorant comments, that is as detrimental to the personal growth process as someone pushing a baby who is trying to take his/her first steps. They will never want to open up to you (and probably anyone else) again. They will keep it all bottled up. And when they keep it all bottled up, tragic shit starts happening. When a loved one is trying to talk to you about something like this, you listen. You don't offer meaningless advice. You don't blame them or their life habits. You don't attack them. You don't make assumptions or ignorant comments based on a small amount of knowledge. You listen and be there for them unconditionally. You let them know that you love them just as they are and that you're willing to see them through their struggle. Anything less than that could be a tragic mistake.

~ Educate yourself. There are oodles upon oodles of resources about depression and mental health out there, so if you have little knowledge of these issues or think they're not that big of a deal, I suggest you get busy. Do some Googling. Crack open some books. Talk to some mental health professionals. The more you understand, the better you can deal when someone you know or love is struggling to maintain their mental well-being. Knowledge is power in this case, so suck up as much of it as you can.

Helpful and inspiring resources

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

TWLOHA (my favorite organization): http://twloha.com/home

Another great organization: http://www.bringchange2mind.org/

Awesome blog post #1: http://keltiecolleen.buzznet.com/photos/strugglingwithdepres/

Awesome blog post #2: http://sarahbessey.com/depression-fault/

Awesome blog post #3: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2011/10/adventures-in-depression.html

Awesome blog post #4: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2013/05/depression-part-two.html

One of my favorite movies ever is "Silver Linings Playbook," and it sheds a thought-provoking light on mental illness. I recommend buying the DVD and watching the special feature titled "Silver Linings Playbook: The Movie That Became a Movement." I couldn't find it online, but it's definitely worth watching if you struggle with depression (of any kind, of any severity) or any other mental health issue that makes you feel as if you're not an important part of the world. http://www.amazon.com/Silver-Linings-Playbook-Bradley-Cooper/dp/B00A81MV3U/

An online hub for all things mental health: http://psychcentral.com/

Please take care of yourself. You are so important.

<3 Madison

p.s. I am not a mental health expert, and nothing I say on this blog should substitute professional guidance. These are simply my views and opinions on the subject.


Monday, July 28, 2014

10 more things to remind yourself on a daily basis

My article 10 Things to Remind Yourself on a Daily Basis is one of the most popular articles I've ever written and probably brought many of you to this little blog of mine. That, and my Tiny Buddha articles. Especially this one. (Shameless plug central)

I think it's good to remind yourself of what really matters every day, especially the bad/stressful days when you feel a lot like this.

Although sequels are rarely better than the originals, I would nonetheless like to present you with 10 MORE things to remind yourself on a daily basis in case you're looking for an extra pick-me-up this week:

1. Make sure you're meeting your needs, however big or small. 

A reader recently wrote to me to tell me that she was feeling overwhelmed with the responsibility of meeting both her own needs and the needs of loved ones who were depending on her. I want to be clear about the fact that we all have responsibilities and should look after our loved ones (something I haven't adequately emphasized in the past). The trick is to find balance. Balance is everything. While I don't support throwing your responsibilities to the wayside and thinking in terms of me, me, me, it's still important to regularly check in with yourself to make sure your needs are being met. That might mean setting boundaries. That might mean taking a vacation. That might mean writing down your priorities in order of importance. Whatever it means for you, make sure your needs are being met, however big or small. All your needs are important.  

2. Try to be nice.

In case you haven't already noticed, people can be pretty rude to each other. In fact, my last two posts had passive aggressive undertones that I'm not very proud of. Why do we have to be so snarky and cruel towards each other, whether directly or indirectly? I've recently realized that "killing with kindness" is way more satisfying than fighting fire with even more fire. People can't hold kindness against you, so just be nice.    

3. You don't have to justify your feelings. 

For the twelve billionth time, you feel what you feel for a reason. We all experience situations differently, and everyone processes emotions in their own way. If you're upset about something that someone else thinks you don't have a right to be upset about, don't waste your time or breath trying to justify your feelings to that person. You feel what you feel, and you wouldn't be feeling it if you didn't have a reason. Period.

4. Success does not equal happiness. 

I read a really great post recently, and I'd like to pass it along: http://www.hollywoodhousewife.com/2014/07/chasing-achievement.html. Being successful will not necessarily make you happy. If you're chasing achievement and equating your self-worth with how successful you are, you will likely feel more miserable and empty than happy. Trust me. I would know.

5. Know the difference between what's worth fighting for and what isn't. 

What are you currently fighting for in your life? Is it truly worth it? Is it worth it to fight for that relationship that makes you feel like a shell of a human? Nope. Is it worth it to fight for that dream that fills you with a sense of meaning? Yep. If you're working too hard for too much, something's gotta go.  

6. You can do whatever you want. 

You are in charge of the actions you take on a day-to-day basis. If you want to read a book, read a book. If you want to take a road trip, take a road trip. If you want to adopt a dog, adopt a dog. Where there's a will, there's a way.      

7. Breaks are not optional; they're essential.

It is important to take breaks when you need them. It has actually taken me a week to write this blog post for various reasons. Had I not taken a break, I probably would've hated it and not published it at all. Your mental, physical and emotional well-being comes first. Always.  

8. Nurture your internal environment.

We all have an internal environment, and it's important to tend to it in the same way you would tend to a garden. Make sure you spend plenty of time cultivating your creativity, being alone, and engaging in activities that nurture your mind, heart and soul.    

9. Put in what you want to get out.

In other words, give what you want to receive. (I'm working on this one.) If you want love, give it. If you want a friend, be one. If you want results, earn them.   

10. Love is needed most when it's hard to get and/or give. 

This is a big one, which is why I saved it for last. You need love the most when you feel you deserve it the least, and the people who are the hardest to love are the ones who need it the most.

Have a great week!

<3 Madison  

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

My aversion to blaming and shaming as a motivational technique

As someone who has suffered from soul-crushing feelings of depression and self-hatred, I can't tell you how fired up I get about people who blame, shame and ridicule others in an attempt to light an unstoppable fire under their arse.

These people have an extreme superiority complex and think they're the bee's knees because of what they've accomplished. They look down on people who have accomplished less. They practically laugh in the face of common, severe, and very human problems such as depression and lack of self-confidence. These are real problems that cannot be fixed with a super lengthy and excessive speech or article about how we're wasting our lives away and need to get off our asses and make something of ourselves.

I've never been a fan of blaming and shaming as a motivational technique. That might work for some people, but it doesn't work for me. You never know what someone else is going through. There are people in the world who have a hard enough time getting out of bed in the morning, much less accomplishing something big and note-worthy. There are people in the world who take the slightest form of criticism as a sweeping and harsh judgment of their character (because it's how they're wired). There are people in the world who are still struggling to find themselves and pave their paths, and when these pretentious assholes (excuse me) dump gallons of shame on them for not having their shit together yet, it's quite detrimental to the already excruciating process of growing up and figuring out who they are/what they want as a human being.

And who are these people to blame and shame anyway? What do they know? What gives them the right to sit behind their computer screens and preach to the choir about people who aren't working hard enough or being good enough? Don't they have anything better to do than make people feel worse about themselves when they already feel bad enough?

Clearly, this is a touchy and personal subject for me. I apologize if it sounds like I'm yelling at you or something. But if you're a blamer/shamer, I encourage you to stop and think about the message you're sending out. Does shaming other people make you feel big and important, or are you genuinely trying to help? (You're not, my friend.) Did blaming and shaming work wonders on you, and are you trying to work wonders on others? (You're not, my friend.) If you had no money, no status, no success, no external validation, and no material belongings to your name, who would you be? Would you still feel impassioned by telling your massive success story and berating people who don't have a similar one? I encourage you to consider all these questions if reading this post made you angry because you do everything I described in it.

On the other hand, if you're nodding your head or saying, "AMEN SISTA," then you probably understand where I'm coming from and also feel fed up by the horribly demeaning "motivational techniques" we see popping up everywhere. So I encourage YOU to just ignore them. If you can tell that a video or article is going to ruin your day within the first ten seconds of watching/reading it, don't finish watching/reading it. Gravitate towards the resources that inspire and uplift you. If you want to rant about everything that doesn't, be my guest. (I obviously did!!!) But when you're done ranting, work on surrounding yourself with the things that DO light a fire under your arse and inspire you to be a better person.

We are all doing the best we can. I truly believe (and feel inspired by) that notion. Every person and every situation in life is different. Some people are going to be more successful than others, and that's okay. Good for you, and keep up the awesome work. Just don't go around rubbing it in everybody's face like you're the Queen of Sheba.  

We are all in the same boat. We are all human. We are all fighting the same battles. So let's stand beside each other instead of above each other, yes?

<3 Madison            

Friday, July 4, 2014

On feeling left out

Not to sound like a whiny victim (which means I'm about to sound like just that), but throughout my life, I've repeatedly struggled with getting and/or feeling left out, excluded, ostracized, overlooked, swept aside, ignored...You get the idea.

I don't generally see or hear very many people talking about the deep emotional scarring that comes with feeling like you don't belong anywhere. As a perpetual outcast, I feel the need to be a voice for all the other perpetual outcasts of the world...The outcasts who Google things like "I get left out of everything" at 2 in the morning while squinting at the results on their screen through red, puffy eyes...And then not finding anything better than a wikihow article that tells them to just get out and talk to people. (GEE, IF ONLY I HAD THOUGHT OF THAT.)

My ongoing experiences with exclusion go way back to elementary school. There was a girl in my class named LeeAnn (NAMEBOMB) and I really wanted to be her friend. That's it. I wanted to play kickball with her at recess and be invited to her secret club house meetings and talk about last night's math homework with her. I had a simple craving for her companionship, and I don't think I was weird or pushy about it at all. But alas, she confronted me one day and basically told me that she wanted to be my friend, but just didn't want me hanging around her all the time. Then she never spoke to me (or acted like a friend to me) again. BAM. RIGHT IN THE SELF-ESTEEM. And similar incidents have been taking place in my life ever since---being the third (or fourth or fifth or sixth) wheel while hanging out with a group of people, being the person who walks either in front of or behind two other people on the sidewalk, contributing something awesome or witty to a conversation only to get drowned out by someone cooler or ignored altogether, not getting invited to things...The list goes on and on and on.

The constant ostracization I've suffered has almost completely prevented me from trying to get close to people at all. If I get the slightest nugget of an inkling that someone doesn't want me in their life, I keep my distance. Or worse yet, I let resentment build up in my soul like a flesh-eating virus if I really wish they would like me and they don't seem to.

Being left out and forgotten hurts, even if you're not as ridiculously sensitive as me. No one wants to feel like the ugly duckling, waddling in the background and trying to keep up. It sucks. And it's okay for it to suck. I totally get it.

If you're currently suffering from a "nobody seems to like me" hangover, the following words of potential comfort are for you...From one fellow outcast to another:

~ Make room for the people in your life who DON'T treat you like you're nothing...even if you can only think of a couple. A couple of true friends are worth more than a million fake ones. Spend as much time with those people as you possibly can, and they will fill in the gaps that those other people will never be able to. Also, Internet friends totally count. But real life friends are better because they can hug you and hold your purse while you go into a bathroom stall that doesn't have a purse holder. (EVERY WOMEN'S BATHROOM STALL NEEDS A FREAKING PURSE HOLDER, AMIRIGHT?)

~ You have permission to bitch and moan a little, as long as you don't make bitching and moaning your trademark. I try really hard not to bitch because most people have better things to do than listen to someone bitch. But a true friend will let you bitch all you want and still validate your right to bitch about whatever you're bitching about. So the next time someone excludes you from something for the umpteenth time, feel free to bitch your little heart out. It's good for you.

~ It is okay to be angry, sad or lonely in the same way it would be okay to say "ouch" if someone punched you in the face. Being left out is like a metaphorical, emotional punch in the face anyway, so ignore all the bullshit articles and books that tell you to stay positive or choose joy when all you feel like doing is throwing darts at a picture of the person who repeatedly snubs your attempts at companionship. Do whatever YOU need to do to feel better. Go for a run until your lungs feel like they're about to explode. Write an angry letter and then delete it. Go out with a friend and vent about how horrible people can be to each other. Go to the beach by yourself and watch the waves. Eat a giant bowl of chocolate ice cream and watch re-runs of your favorite show. Grieving a friendship or relationship that never was and never will be is exactly the same as grieving a friendship or relationship that has died or faded. Feelings of rejection, anger, sadness and loneliness come along with both of those situations, do they not? So don't berate yourself for feeling whatever it is you feel. Your feelings are valid and acceptable.    

~ You can always talk to me if you're suffering through anything that has been discussed in this post. I will understand. I will let you bitch to me. I might even bitch to you and tell you about all the stuff that inspired this post---stuff that I refuse to passively aggressively blog about because I don't want to be THAT person. Believe it or not, there are people out there who will understand you and include you, and I try really hard to be one of those people. YOU MATTER TO ME.

<3 Madison

p.s. Happy birthday, America. xx

Monday, June 2, 2014

What I want

I want to be seen, heard, acknowledged and loved for who I truly am.

I want to do something to make my existence mean something and not just use the excuse that simply being alive is enough.

I want to run through the pouring rain without the fear of getting soaked.

I want to see everyone I love accomplish their wildest dreams.

I want to see the world beyond my own backyard.

I want to stop tying my sense of self-worth to validation from others.

I want to expose myself to heavy things and extraordinary things because those are the only two things I know how to write about.

I want to replace jealousy with gratitude and anger with compassion.

I want to read books and watch movies and eat potato chips whenever I feel like it.

I want to stop feeling inadequate just because I haven't achieved as much as the person sitting next to me.

I want to trust my path, even when it's dark, treacherous, or leads to a dead end.

I want to stop feeling invisible and treating others like they're invisible.

I want to go on the Internet without seeing comments full of rage and hatred.

I want to witness equality for everyone on the face of the planet once and for all.

I want to treat my emotional well-being like the sacred and fragile thing that it is.

I want to prove someone wrong when they tell me I can't or won't do something.

I want to deem myself worthy of the love and kindness I receive through this blog and in real life.

I want to fall madly in love with as many things as possible.

I want to value and encourage the creativity and underrated art in myself and others.  

I want to find a way back to myself every time I get lost or lose sight of the beauty and privilege of having a beating heart in my chest.

What do you want?

<3 Madison

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

17 quotes about feeling different, finding your place in the world, and discovering your self-worth

Sometimes I feel glaringly different from most people, which makes it nearly impossible to find people who truly "get" me.

Sometimes I feel incredibly lost, confused and scared and don't really know where I belong anymore.

Sometimes I feel perplexed over why my existence makes a real difference in the world.

If you can relate to any of the above statements, maybe the following 17 quotes will comfort you as much as they have comforted me:

1. "The point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer." ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

2. "You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anyone." ~ Maya Angelou

3. "More important than the quest for certainty is the quest for clarity." ~ Francois Gautier

4. "What sets you apart can sometimes feel like a burden, and it's not. A lot of the time, it's what makes you great." ~ Emma Stone

5. "You have to leave the city of your comfort zone and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover is yourself." ~ Alan Alda

6. "If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away." ~ Henry David Thoreau

7. "I believe if I knew where I was going, I'd lose my way." ~ Christina Perri

8. "You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop." ~ Rumi

9. "We grew up learning to cheer on the underdog because we see ourselves in them." ~ Shane Koyczan

10. "To be nobody but yourself in a world doing its best to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle any human being can fight." ~ E.E. Cummings

11. "What a gloomy thing, not to know the address of one's soul." ~ Victor Hugo

12. "I don't entirely approve of some of the things I have done, or am, or have been. But I'm me. God knows, I'm me." ~ Elizabeth Taylor

13. "I'm a creep. I'm a weirdo. What the hell am I doing here? I don't belong here." ~ Radiohead

14. "You have to be the bravest person in the world to go out every day, being yourself when no one likes who you are." ~ Matthew Dicks

15. "I don't believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive." ~ Joseph Campbell

16. "Nobody can say anything better than you can, because you have your own story to tell, your own life to live, and your own lens through which you see the world." ~ Ashlee Gadd

17. "It's okay to not know where you're going. For some people, direction is a vision, a plan, an exact idea of where they want to go and how. I admire those people, but I'm not one of them. Rarely in my life have I known exactly what would fulfill me in the future." ~ Lori Deschene

<3 Madison

Monday, May 5, 2014

Rough patch

I haven't really let on to you guys because I have a habit of wanting everything in my life to seem at least adequately "together," but I've been trudging through a rather treacherous rough patch in my professional life lately.

I've been thinking a lot about the long-term, which is something I rarely do. It's okay to live in the moment and take life day by day. In fact, it's pretty essential for me. But I think it's also important to at least consider the long-term repercussions of your big decisions, whether it's choosing a career, a life partner, a house, a new city to live in, etc. And the more I think about the long-term repercussions of my career choice, the more daunted and discouraged I feel. At the rate I'm going and with the extremely unfortunate lack of motivation and experience I have under my belt, I can't help but envision a future of working four jobs I hate while doing my freelance work on the side IF I even feel like it.

I wonder if I've had my head in the clouds this whole time. I knew being a freelance writer wouldn't be impossible, but I didn't think it would SEEM so impossible at times. When I get discouraged, I basically want to hide under my covers and check out from the rest of the world. It's awful. Picking myself up and deciding to keep going every day just doesn't even feel like an option sometimes. I WANT to keep writing, but I'm seriously starting to wonder if writing alone is going to cut it when not having a stable career is no longer acceptable. I've been working another little job on the side, and while it's nice to have more money to play with, it still doesn't give me the financial independence I long for.

It's like I've lost sight of my reasons for wanting to be a writer in the first place, and I can only remind myself of those reasons so many times before they start to sound like an annoying and meaningless broken record. I've worked for free. I've worked for less money than I make at my other job, and my other job is twenty times easier (What's wrong with that picture, my fellow creatives?) I lack the social skills and self-esteem to network and promote myself. I've gotten lazy. I've gotten confused. I've gotten lost. I have epic epiphanies about following my true path and then completely forget which path I'm on two weeks later. I write down goals, intentions, insights, and reasons for continuing to do what I do and then let them all collect dust. It's this constant push/pull, up/down, wonderful/awful process, and I just flat out don't feel good enough to manage it without breaking into hives or crying. What if I'm NOT good enough? What if freelancing isn't for me? What if I have to start all over and rebuild my little work life from the ground up? If I can't be a writer, I don't really want to be anything.

I was honestly going to try my best to end this post on a positive note. I was going to write myself a letter or offer advice to people who were going through the same thing. But now that I have all these unfiltered thoughts out in front of me, contradicting them would feel like forced bullshit. And I don't ever want to feed you guys forced bullshit. I try my best to be inspiring and offer as much hope as I can because it's the number one reason I do what I do, but sometimes I just don't have the answers. I don't expect you to have the answers either.

I'm not going to give up or stop writing, you guys. But I am going to stop thinking that I somehow deserve the success I don't even know how to earn anymore. I am going to try to find myself again because the only way to find yourself is to lose yourself....over and over and over.

<3 Madison  


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Miscellaneous thoughts (Part 11): Love and friendship edition

~ Some people will never give you what you want. "Expectations are the root of all heartache," a quote wisely spoken by William Shakespeare. You can always ask for what you want, but you still open yourself up to the possibility that you may not get it. You eventually come to realize that you can live without more attention, an apology, respect, adoration, or whatever it is you're longing to receive from someone else.

~ I once heard someone say that it takes courage to stand up for the love you really deserve. Courage. I had never thought about that word. I always thought it took self-awareness, self-respect, and self-love to do that (and it does). But yes, it also takes courage. A lot of people run full speed in the opposite direction when presented with the opportunity to actually be involved in something real. Being treated well feels so alien to them that they run back into the arms of the person who treats them like crap. Why? Because being treated like crap never really leads anywhere, and that feels safe to some people. They know they can come and go as they please and not have to face the responsibility of a real relationship. But you might be surprised by how much joy and fulfillment you can feel by giving the person who adores and respects you a chance.

~ Grief doesn't have an expiration date. Don't listen to people who tell you to "move on" when you're hurting. You might even randomly start hurting months or years after you thought you'd moved on for good. Pain needs to be felt, so just feel it.

~ Holding grudges poisons your soul and gives you back problems (for real). Let go. Forgive. Choose love.

~ Trust your instincts about people. If you have a bad feeling, stay away. If you have a good feeling, freaking go for it.

~ Leave the past in the past. Don't stalk your exes on Facebook to "see how they're doing." Don't badmouth someone who did something that pissed you off three years ago. Look at who you have standing right in front of you. Appreciate the present.

~ I like the idea of keeping your private life private. Don't give people too much to formulate an opinion on. Your relationship is yours and yours alone. Gossiping about your partner and giving away too many details takes the magic out of "you and me" and turns it into "you, me, and everyone else."

~ Feelings of inadequacy are normal in a relationship, but they don't actually mean that you're inadequate. Challenge your insecurities, and pull them up by their roots.

~ When you feel torn over whether or not to trust your head or your heart, consider trusting both. The voice of reason and the voice of desire can both teach us something.

~ Thoughtfulness really does count. Do thoughtful things for the people you love, and remember to give what you hope to receive. (I'm still working on this one.)

~ Love is so much more than the words you say. Love can be spoken through a long hug, a kiss on the hand, a smile, a greeting card, a random act of kindness---The list goes on and on.

~ It's okay to feel like half of a whole when you're separated from a loved one. Popular wisdom suggests that you don't need anyone and that you should feel whole right by yourself, but I somewhat disagree. It is normal human behavior to need a shoulder to lean on, an ear to listen, and a person to help you feel like more of who you are by simply being by your side. Needing someone doesn't make you crazy. We are born with the instinct and desire to mate with others and form emotional attachments.  

~ Sometimes people will do and say things that make you angry and then manipulate you into thinking that you have no right to be. They will make you feel as though you should be happy for them, or that you should mind your own business, or that you should get over yourself, etc. But here's the thing: If you're angry, it's for a reason. There's always a root. You can either find the root and solve the conflict or choose to no longer associate with the people who make you angry.    

~ Good friends are super hard to come by. Good friends that actually stick around over a long-term period of time are even harder. If you have someone in your life who makes an effort, cares about your well-being and happiness, doesn't talk shit behind your back, knows you better than you know yourself, and makes you feel like you can do and be anything, you have a damn good friend. Treat them like royalty because genuine, loyal friends deserve a gold medal.

~ Some people say that choosing to be single for an extended period of time is like a spiritual awakening. They take the time to learn how to love and care for themselves before they love and care for somebody else. Embrace the joys of being single until someone worth giving that up for comes along.

<3 Madison

Monday, April 7, 2014

Once young, always young

I was emailing back and forth with one of my reader friends over the weekend when he said something that really jumped out at me.

"Once young, always young."

We were talking about the weirdness and swiftness of getting older (I just turned 22, he just turned 23), and I asked him if he felt like an adult yet. I expected him to say something like, "Of course! I mean, I'm 23. It's about time I start feeling like an adult. Don't you??"

I guess I have this weird assumption that everyone on the face of the planet that is past the age of 21 (except me) feels and acts like a fully functioning adult...Silly, silly me.

Being young and being taken care of is what we know from the moment we're thrust into the world. We're born with the instinct to rely on people and screw up and be vulnerable/innocent. Growing up is probably the hardest transition anyone can make (even for the people who make it look easy).

We are going to learn, re-learn, and make the same mistakes over and over again. We are going to want people to hold our hands, reassure us, and take care of us when we're sick, sad or confused. We are going to call our mothers and grandmothers for cooking advice and rant and complain about things we "should" be able to handle on our own. We are going to experience feelings of insecurity, vulnerability, fear and loneliness. We are going to get excited about ice cream and Disneyland and old Nickelodeon cartoons. We are going to forget how to spell "necessarily." We are going to Google the difference between a mutual fund, a bond, and a stock investment.

I'm starting to think that none of us ever really "grow up." Growing up is equivalent to aging (obviously). It continues to happen whether we like it or not, and it never stops. We age and age until we die. Just like we're never done aging, we're never done growing up. I continually make the mistake of thinking that being a grown-up is a destination I have to reach by a certain age. It's not. There are people in their 50s and 60s that struggle with the exact same things I do.

We may grow, change and transform over the years, but we're still essentially the same person we came into the world as. Maybe we're all little kids on the inside---little kids longing for love, attention, guidance and stability.

And I suppose growing up doesn't mean you have to be a grown-up.

<3 Madison  


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Feeling like a victim

I have a habit of feeling like a victim of my life circumstances, whether big or small. I always hear about how you should take responsibility for everything that happens to you, and while that can be insightful advice at times, I must say that sometimes it makes me pretty grumpy.

I prefer a slightly different approach to feelings of failure or victimization.

Get angry.
Be hurt.
Eat Zebra cakes.
Think about giving up.
Decide to keep going.

Rinse and repeat with each sucky situation in life.

It is true that while we can't control what happens to us, we can control how we respond to it. But that doesn't mean that we should plaster on a "happy trooper" face when we actually feel like spitting in a belligerent person's juice or posting a lengthy, annoyed rant on Facebook (and I advise against actually doing either of those things, but it's okay to feel like it sometimes).

Life isn't fair. People will rip you off, employers will change their minds, friends will leave, mother nature will shit storm on your plans, strangers will judge you, people with seemingly less talent will succeed more than you...The list goes on.

It's okay to feel like a victim sometimes. It's okay to get upset when life takes a hard and unexpected left. It's okay to feel like throwing in the towel twelve times a day.

I guess I'm just tired of feeling bad about feeling bad.

<3 Madison    

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


I've been having some super unsettling dreams lately---not going to school naked, falling off a cliff, or being chased by a serial rapist and/or murderer unsettling, but unsettling in a more realistic way. I've been having dreams that are making me hyper-aware of my insecurities, flaws, and basically everything that I frequently find myself ignoring and deflecting---dreams that open up that little box in the darkest corner of my subconscious and let the contents of that little box go nuts inside my brain while I'm in my most vulnerable state.

It's an awful way to start your day. Who wants to wake up with a heart or mind full of anger, depression or fear? When you wake up with those feelings, they have a way of following you around and butting into your day-to-day routines and interactions.

"It was just a dream," most people will say. But what if your dreams have glimmers of truth?

Maybe you had a dream about your significant other breaking up with you, and you wake up with the reminder that you don't feel good enough for him or her.

Maybe you had a dream about your father throwing insults at you, and you wake up with the knowledge that he already does and will more than likely continue to do so.

Maybe you had a dream about a bully threatening you, and you wake up with the fear that threats probably aren't too far behind the bullying.

Maybe you had a dream about being fired from your job, and you wake up with your already existing feelings of professional inadequacy.

I'm actually really fascinated by these types of dreams. It's like our brain, heart or soul is trying to talk to us about the one thing we choose to ignore and distract ourselves from. It's like the back contents of our mind shoot to the front the second we put our guard down. It's like a little cry for help, a planting of a seed the size of an invisible elephant, or maybe just a cruel little reminder of what we feel the greatest fear and insecurity towards in our lives.

Either way, I think it's time to start paying attention while I'm awake.

<3 Madison      

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Miscellaneous thoughts (Part 10)

~ While I don't think it's a good idea to be too busy to have time for yourself and others, I am starting to understand the value of hard work and busyness and why it is so appealing to so many people. Being busy keeps you out of your head, gives you something to feel good and productive about, and makes you appreciate your downtime more. Therefore, I am making a conscious effort to stay a little busier.

~ I read the following quote in a blog post the other day and it really jumped out at me: "Have you ever noticed how after a long walk, a good visit with a friend, or a great yoga class, you feel really pretty? And when things are super stressful and terrible, our clothes don't fit and we hate our hair?" What happens in our external environment can greatly affect how we feel and what we believe about ourselves. Do you really think you're a worthless loser, or did you just have a bad day? Do you really believe nobody loves you, or are you just upset about the stranger who gave you a dirty look at Starbucks? Challenge your negative beliefs the next time they pop up. Chances are, you're just feeling really stressed or having a bad day. Negative thoughts and emotions are fleeting. Don't give them so much power.

~ Some things just aren't fair. You have every right to piss and moan about it, but it still won't change the fact that some things just aren't fair. But if you need someone to complain to, I'm here.

~ You can't change certain people, but you can change the way you react to them and the role you allow them to play in your life.

~ If something seems too good to be true, it might be. I'm not going to say that's always the case because it certainly isn't. Sometimes things are really wonderful and there's no catch at all. But if something seems really, really, really too good to be true, be careful and don't get too excited.

~ Listen to "I Believe" by Christina Perri the next time you feel like giving up on something important. It is quite possibly the most inspiring and lyrically powerful song I've ever heard in my life. We all need something to turn to when times are tough.

~ The best remedy for uncertainty is staying present. Don't focus on what may or may not happen 5 minutes, 5 hours, 5 days, 5 weeks, 5 months, or 5 years from now. Focus on what is happening right now and how you choose to respond to it.

<3 Madison      

Monday, February 24, 2014

My manifesto

"Manifesto" is a pretty word. It sounds so empowering and official. Given that I generally have a lot on my mind at one time and don't always feel like narrowing those things down to one specific thing, a manifesto seems like an appropriate thing for me to write. It will be like my "miscellaneous thoughts" posts, only bigger and better.

But first, an introduction to what inspired it:

Being in my early twenties is one of the easiest and hardest things in the world. I can be young and take it easy, but there's still a lot of pressure to grow up and learn how to stand on my own two feet. It's an adjustment period. It's a growth period. It's a time of learning about myself. It's a time of navigating the battlefield of head vs. heart. It's a time of helping people through my experiences and letting other people help me through theirs. I'm both a kid and an adult through the eyes of others. I've experienced soul singing bliss and debilitating self-doubt.

I have a feeling 2014 is going to be one of the best and most challenging years of my life. I am turning 22. I am traveling more. I am finally reaching for a few of my wildest dreams. I am trying to be a better friend. I am trying to choose love and trust over fear and uncertainty. I am asking myself some tough questions about life, love, money and work. I am trying to remind myself for the umpteenth time that change is the only constant in life and that I will never learn and grow without it. I am rediscovering the meaning of balance. I've started caring less and less what people think of me, which used to seem like an unfathomable feat. I've been doing a better job at keeping my intentions clear and eliminating the word "should" from my vocabulary. My heart has softened, and my skin has toughened.

So without further ado, here is my 2014/early twenties/Journey of a Soul Searcher manifesto:

I propose to stay true to my passions in life, even if it means being behind my friends, having anxiety attacks when I look at my income, or sacrificing what I want for what I can tolerate.

I propose to be patient and let my journey unfold naturally.

I propose to always consider myself as equal to everyone else.

I propose to work on keeping my priorities straight.

I propose to dedicate more time and energy to building my career each day.

I propose to connect with bloggers, readers and clients more often and not just when I have a request for them.

I propose to follow and work for my dreams instead of just writing them down and waiting for them to come knocking at my door.

I propose to get serious about personal finance and nurture my relationship with money.

I propose to keep this blog authentic and write it for the same reasons I've always written it.

I propose to try new things.

I propose to keep my heart and head open.

I propose to do the things I want or need to do without always feeling the need to justify my reasons for wanting or needing to do them.

I propose to choose happiness over popularity.

I propose to stop placing age limits and timelines on my goals and accomplishments.

I propose to understand and help other people understand that there is no end point in life until we die. There is no destination. We are never finished becoming who we are.

<3 Madison      

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

7 ways to motivate yourself when you're running on empty

To be honest, I sort of pulled this post idea out of thin air because I started to feel guilty about the fact that we're nearly halfway through February and I haven't blogged since January.

I generally hear from a lot of people who are seeking motivation and encouragement to follow their dreams or simply get through their week without wallowing in self-hatred or ruining their relationships with others. I understand that need for motivation and encouragement because I frequently seek it myself.

Although I'm certainly no expert on motivational techniques, the following ideas usually work for me when I feel like sitting around and doing nothing all day:

1. Make a conscious decision to show up for yourself.

You don't have to be super perfect or super successful at whatever you're doing, whether it's writing an article or planning a trip. All you have to do is be willing to show up, regardless of the results you cultivate. If you don't show up for yourself, nothing will happen. If you do, you'll get somewhere. It might not be exactly where you want to be, but it's better than nothing.

2. Read this. (Shameless plug)

I wrote this post a year ago. Today's topic reminded me of it.

3. Take a break.

Don't overwhelm yourself. If your brain is fried or you feel like slamming your face against a brick wall, it's time to take a break. It's okay to step away from whatever you're doing long enough to eat, bathe, take a walk, or watch a few episodes of your favorite show. Chances are, you will feel more refreshed when you return.

4. Turn off all distractions.

Turn off your phone. Turn off the TV. Turn off your music. Stop reading the pointless celebrity gossip stories that are trending on Yahoo. Stop checking your Twitter and Facebook every five minutes. If you're trying to get something done, distractions will make it nearly impossible.     

5. Start small. 

If you're feeling overwhelmed by a task or conflict, remember to start small. You're not Superman (or Wonder Woman). Take baby steps, and don't expect yourself to accomplish everything in one fell swoop.   

6. Check in with yourself.  

If you have zero motivation to do something, it's a good idea to ask yourself why you're even doing it. There are some things you simply don't have to do. The next time you're stressing out over a lack of motivation to do something, ask yourself, "Is this something that absolutely has to be done?" If the answer is no, don't do it. What a relief!

7. Be okay with not being okay. 

You will have days where you just hate everything and feel uncomfortably discouraged. There's no magic formula or cure for these days. We all have them sometimes. If you beat yourself up for having a bad day, you will only feel worse. Sometimes all you need is a little self-compassion and a reminder that tomorrow might be better.

<3 Madison

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Choosing what resonates with you

As an avid Internet user/blog reader/people pleaser, I get fed a lot of information and a lot of opinions on a daily basis. I try to look for the truth is almost everything I hear, which is a terrible habit now that I think about it. Sometimes I'll hear something that makes me feel really uncomfortable or insecure. My head will say, "Well that has to be true. A professional/a more prominent member of the blogosphere/your mother/a famous person said it." And then my gut will say, "No no no, I disagree, I disagree. This doesn't feel right!" And yet I still adopt other people's beliefs as my own until I don't know what I believe anymore.

We all have views, opinions and beliefs about things. It doesn't necessarily mean that anyone is right or wrong. I've been trying to make more of an effort to really decide what resonates with me versus what doesn't. If I don't stay true to my own views, I tend to lose myself. I become a mindless follower of everyone else. I lie to myself. I get terribly confused and terribly frustrated.

So from this day forward, I propose that each of you choose the views, opinions and beliefs that resonate with you. It's okay if your best friend, partner, grandmother, or goldfish disagrees with you. They have their way of life, and you have yours.

Some people may believe that you have to do something big in order to matter. Others may believe that simply being alive and happy is enough, regardless of what you do or don't do.

Some people may believe in saying yes more often. Others may believe in saying no more often.

Some people may believe in playing the field and dating lots of different people. Others may believe in playing for keeps or not playing at all.

Some people may believe in living off of green juice and kale chips. Others may believe in giving yourself permission to indulge in cupcakes and tater tots.

Some people may believe that feeling beautiful means wearing hair extensions and fake eyelashes. Others may believe that feeling beautiful means throwing their hair back in a bun and being okay with their aversion to make-up.

Some people may believe in constantly fixing themselves. Others may believe in accepting themselves just as they are at any given moment.

Some people may believe in following a traditional path in life. Others may believe in marching to the beat of a different drum.

Whatever your beliefs, views or opinions, own them. You don't have to stray from your path just because a seemingly cooler/more experienced person says you should.

Cheers to being yourself...unapologetically.

<3 Madison


Monday, January 20, 2014

Identity crisis

I rather impulsively posted the following status update on Facebook the other day:

"Guys, I'm having an identity crisis.

I've been working through a book of exercises for 20-somethings for the past month, and I just finished reading a section about disentangling who you are from what you do. But I've noticed multiple times that when I take away my title as "writer," I literally have no idea who I am or why I matter to the world.

Does anybody else struggle with this? Do you tie the entire meaning of your existence to what you do?


It's true. Ever since I started writing, I've felt a sense of meaning and purpose in my life. I would think, "This is what I am meant to do. This is what makes me important in the world, even if it makes me just a little bit more important than I used to be."

The book I've been reading has really encouraged me to peel back a lot of layers in my life. It has led to a lot of self-discovery, not all of it very comforting. One of my latest realizations is that I have been tying a large chunk of my identity to my job for a long time. When I'm not working or not working on something I enjoy, I feel worthless. When I describe myself, the things I like about myself, and the things I enjoy doing, most of those things have something to do with my ability to create. While this isn't necessarily a terrible thing (because it's good to do something you can feel good and passionate about), it's detrimental to my self-esteem. If I'm not a writer, I don't really know who I am. It's unsettling.

The book I'm referring to (20 Something, 20 Everything) asked the following questions in an exercise about separating who you are from what you do:

1. Do you think a job can make you feel better about yourself? Will it (or does it) validate you?

2. Do you think you must have a career in order to feel successful?

3. Do you feel embarrassed when someone asks you what you do for a living? Are you ashamed of what you do?

4. Do you think people would think more of you if you had a better job?

5. Do you think your life would be better if you had a job you loved?

6. Do you ever feel worthless because you do not think you are doing something important?

I answered "yes" or "sometimes" to every single question. Ever since I got out of high school, I've been driven by the need to do something. When my writing finally started to take off and I started landing gigs here and there, it validated me as a human. And even though I enjoy what I do (most of the time), I still don't feel established enough. I don't make enough money. I don't have enough notoriety in the world of writers. I haven't succeeded at something big or super note-worthy. I'm always wanting more and feeling embarrassed and less than when I don't live up to expectations. Therefore, I tie my identity and self-worth to how much I do.

And despite knowing that this is an unhealthy mentality, I can't seem to break it. No matter how many times I am reminded that I am worthy simply for existing, I just don't feel important unless I'm doing something productive and meaningful.

Sometimes I can't help but ask myself if I've really grown much at all. I tied my sense of self-worth to what I did (or didn't do) after high school, and I've recently realized that I'm still doing it now. Sure, I found something I'm passionate about that gives me a sense of meaning, but if I'm not doing or succeeding at that something, I still judge myself---just like I did 4 years ago.

Maybe it will take a lot of time and self-awareness to break this awful habit of mine. Maybe it will take going on a vacation and vowing not to touch my laptop while I'm away. Maybe it will take a lot more internal searching and a lot less external searching (like asking complete strangers to validate me and tell me who I am on Facebook).

Who are you when you're not doing anything? Who are you when no one is watching?

<3 Madison     

Friday, January 17, 2014

Miscellaneous thoughts (Part 9)

~ How many times can you struggle with the same exact thing before you're not socially allowed to struggle with it anymore?

~ Wonderful things will happen if you genuinely believe that wonderful things will happen---and that you deserve those things.

~ Rejection is vary rarely about you.

~ Overanalyzation creates problems that never existed in the first place.

~ Love will come to you. It may not come in the way or the time that you hope or expect, but it will come.

~ Are you following the trends or following your heart?

~ I can't seem to stop tying my sense of self-worth to what I do. No matter how many times people say being is more important than doing, I just don't feel like that's the case in modern society. We seem to only be defined and judged by the things we do. I'm confused.

~ The joy of living your own life and doing your own thing is greater than the discomfort of stepping on a few toes along the way.

~ Being a "grown-up" has more to do with your attitude and level of productivity than your external accomplishments.

~ Replace the word "should" with the word "could."

<3 Madison

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A hopeful new year

Happy New Year, friends. Today is my annual day of feeling both hopeful and dreadful about my life and where it's going. It's a day of what ifs and self-doubt. But it's also a day of gratitude and excitement. I've already gone from feeling cranky to happy to melancholy to gratified, and it's only noon.

Despite my mixed feelings, I try to start each new year on a positive note. I try to hold on to feelings of hope and excitement.

Here are my hopes for you (and myself) this year:

I hope you always remember to remind yourself that you're not alone. Whatever you're going through or feeling right now, I absolutely guaranteed you that somebody somewhere is going through or feeling the exact same thing.

I hope you choose love over and over and over again.

I hope you make and achieve goals because you want to and not because you have someone to impress or something to prove.

I hope you pay attention to your priorities and do your best to nurture them, even though life is busy, demanding and complicated at times.

I hope all your dreams come true.

I hope you work hard to keep your head above the water when all you want to do is allow yourself to drown.

I hope you choose kindness over revenge.

I hope you take care of yourself.  

I hope you give yourself a chance.

I hope you realize that trying is success within itself---even if you try and fail.

I hope you learn to differentiate "should" from "want to."

I hope you take each day as it comes and realize that this very moment is the only thing you need to focus on.

<3 Madison