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Hello, Internet.

I am a very different person from the one who wrote this almost three months ago. At the time I decided to take a break, I was feeling wretched. Last year was actually very difficult for many reasons. The end of the year was particularly bad, with one horrible thing happening after another. I was burnt out, sad, tired, stressed, unhappy, and unsatisfied. I wanted to quit being a photographer. I couldn’t stand to be in my own skin. All I saw was everything I wasn’t accomplishing. What I was doing, I wasn’t doing very well. I was completely divided, unfocused, and doing absolutely nothing with my whole heart. I moved from one thing to another, trying to find satisfaction by following my impulses instead of fulfilling my real needs.

In my past, when something happened that made me sad, stressed, or want to give up….I checked out. Or I would decide to pamper myself by doing something that was “against the rules” or frivolous. Like loading up on carbs or sugar while spending the afternoon on the couch watching TV, or spending money. Exactly NONE of these things fulfill me or heal me. They only drain me even more. I realized that I had to make a change. First was just taking the break. I knew I needed to focus on myself and I could only do that alone. Then, I had to make the move from pampering myself…to nurturing myself.

What’s the difference? There does seem to be a fine line, but think about this: You are having a rough day, so you want to give yourself a treat. You DESERVE a treat – your day is total crap! So, you get a pedicure or you buy a new pair of shoes or you check out in front of the television or you EAT your treat. The moment passes, and what are you left with? Do you feel energized? Do you feel good about yourself? Or did you simply follow an impulse that ended up being empty and meaningless in the end?

Nurturing means you look at the moment and you take care of yourself. You pay attention and see what is going on. You experiment with different things that are fulfilling for you. Then, you understand what you need and you give it to yourself in those moments of stress, sadness, or exhaustion. That means, after a bad day, you don’t reach for a bag of cookies. Instead, you make your big healthy salad and you feel so good about yourself because you gave your body something it NEEDED. Learning what you need isn’t easy – and won’t be the same for everyone. A lot of times we totally avoid what we need because it is hard. It takes energy to create energy.

This new way of thinking came through for me because I had such a dramatic cleanse. A cleanse from things that waste my time and make me feel unworthy and artificial. I have had, in the past, a big part of my life revolving around a computer. It all started because I wanted a job. I wanted a purpose. I didn’t know what my purpose was. I wanted to work from home. I wanted to meet people. I wanted to take in information.

So, this whole internet presence of mine was born, and it took off, and I didn’t handle it well. I avoided reality. I dove into social media. I connected with amazing people and not so amazing people. I went from blog to blog to blog, getting lost in the internet. You know when you suddenly look up and realize a lot of time has passed and you meant to have Googled a recipe and instead you spent the last hour reading about some person building a tree fort in their backyard in South Dakota and you are like, “Um. What the hellllllllllll am I doing?!” That is me to the max. To. The. Max.

I suppose I should say, I don’t handle it well, because we are in the present here. But we are working on it. With this break, I have reached a balance with work and personal time that I am fiercely protective over. I have immersed myself in living, which is exactly what I needed. I have had some light bulb moments. Much of my brain has shifted and seen things in a new light. All relating to my core person and what my purpose is. I almost feel like a totally brand new blogger, so unsure am I about where to focus and what to do here. This post has taken weeks to write. All stops and starts.

My two main changes have been these:

I once pampered and now I nurture.

I once used my computer time as a way to avoid my reality and immerse myself into an entirely different one. Now, all that I want is my reality  Рmy real, limited, fantastically beautiful and relentless life. Instead of using my computer time as a relief, I now see it as work, and I want to finish as quickly and efficiently as possible.

So – how do I nurture myself?

I know I am on the right track when these things are happening: I take care of myself. I eat foods that are good for me. I take care of my home and I don’t let small tasks pile up. I cook healthy meals for my children and send them to school with homemade lunches. I spend quality time with my family exploring nature and trying new things. I allow time for spontaneous delight.

These last three months have been one long experiment in nurturing for me, and here is what I did:

I am changing the way my house runs. Making my home an inspiring, calming place. Making sure everything HAS it’s place, and if not, out it goes. There are only two rooms I have not completed, but they are next up. I have cleared bags and bags out of closets. I have sold huge pieces of furniture that have clogged up my garage for years. I cleared and planted in my backyard, and have a plan for how to make it something I can work on creatively, yet simply. I am a collector of beautiful things found while thrifting/flea marketing/garage sale-ing. The problem with that comes when my garage starts looking like a thrift store and I hoard my treasures instead of putting them to use. Guess what, a bi-product of avoiding life is hoarding.

I am changing the way we eat. I have done it slowly and thoughtfully because I don’t want to shock my kids into not eating anything. Starting by cooking meals at home four to five days a week, with a lot of their regular favorites, but made with hidden tweaks. I switched almost everything white to brown, and added in a LOT of plants to our diet. I make a green smoothie every day, and a few of them will drink it with me. Right now I am focused on teaching them to choose nutrition over empty calories, watch their sugar intake, and eat as many things that grow out of the ground that they can in a day.

I am changing how we spend time together. I threw down the long arm of the law and banned any and all screen time for kids Monday through Thursday. This means zero TV, movies, computer (except for homework), video games, iPad, etc. It was really hard on them at first, but the changes I have seen in my house have been amazing. UH MAZE ING. I want to devote a blog post to our transition, so I will be writing more about this later.

I took a long break from work during this time and I will honestly say that I am nervous adding it back in. I didn’t pick up my Canon for two months. I took all my photos with my iPhone. I feel like a newbie. My nerves are fried, like I am off to my very first photo shoot all over again. After feeling burnt out and uninspired at the end of last year, this is actually a good feeling. It’s like butterflies. And who doesn’t love butterflies? With my upcoming re-brand I feel like things are going to fall into place for me online, a place I haven’t felt totally comfortable in for a long time.

I have been neurotic and depressed and scatterbrained for most of the time I’ve been alive. When your head is a mess, so is everything else in your life. When I turned 30, I could see that, and I didn’t want to live that way anymore. I got myself a therapist. Since then, I have worked on changing. I turned 35 last year, so this work has been going on for five very long years. I think the changes are finally becoming normal to me. A new kind of normal. I just feel…different. I am a calmer, more self aware, more grown up version of myself.

I know this is only the beginning for me. I know I will fall back into my old ways. I know things will get rough, and I will have to revisit what is nurturing for me. I know I will constantly remain vigilant. And I have to. Because I want to.

A friend of mine has gone through a similar journey alongside me, and one day a long time ago I came home to a message on my answering machine from her, pleading in a joking way, “I don’t know how to do this. I just want to turn a corner, Tara. Please! Somebody, anybody! Just let me turn a f***ing corner!”

We laughed about it then, and we still laugh about it now. That damn corner. Previously unattainable.

The thing is, I think I might have found it.

If you are still looking, leaning against the wall and struggling endlessly in the dark, reaching your hands out, stretching, praying hoping waiting for that corner to show up – it will.

Just don’t give up.

-Tara

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267 Comments

  1. I so needed to read this. It felt like I was reading what my brain/body has been trying to say but didn’t know how.

    Thank you Tara. I want to be where you are at now. How do you start? WHERE do you start? I feel so scatterbrained I am a mess. I like order and just can’t find it anywhere.

  2. So many of us are on the same journey…no matter our age, lifestyle, careers..and no matter if we appear to have it all together. We all have our struggles and our journeys. Thanks for being brave enough to share yours. You’ve helped all of us feel like we are normal. I’m a bit older than you (46) and have one less child (3)…and I have ebbs and flows of feeling like I’m holding it together. And it never seems to be everything all at once. I over schedule myself a lot, I sometimes let my kids get it absorbed too much in social media (mine are a bit older than yours though and didn’t grow up with it as a constant)…all I can do though is set a good example for them. But I do feel like things run much more smoothly when I’m taking care of myself. As my husband likes to say..”Happy Wife, Happy Life.” We are the anchors, captains, and steerers of our families and we have to keep ourselves on course. Take care of you and the rest will fall into place. Bravo, the best of luck, cheers and way to go!

  3. Like many others, I can totally related. Our lives can so quickly get bogged down by “stuff” and “noise.” Some of the things on our seasonal Bucket List (that I make with the kids) include things like blow bubbles. Laugh. Picnic. Movie night at home. Because I want them to always cherish the simple things. The fact that we don’t need everything we think we do at Target. We’re always a work in progress. Last month, after seeing how many times we go through the drive-thru in a month (I was tracking spending) to just get a drink because we just can’t wait another five minutes to get home, we gave up drive-thrus. Something so silly, yet so big. Always a work in progress…

  4. Tara, I liked your post. I can relate as well. I’m in the middle of a similar experience in my marriage. The thing I’m realizing though is that just changing my behavior never lasts. The undercurrent of my behavior always sucks me right back down eventually. True change can only happen when I understand what fuels the kind of behavior in me that I don’t like, when I ask the question, why am I so broken? I believe I am broken because my relationship with God is broken. And Jesus is the only one who can fix that. That may sound canned, or even trite – but I believe that is the root of all our frantic-doing-trying-to-find-meaning-and-ourselves-and-still-failing…patterns. The fix can only be found in the One who came to fix it.

  5. Amazing, inspirational blog post… This was just what I needed as I sit here wasting hours away at work reading a stranger’s blog. :) I have started limiting “electronics” time for my son at home during the week, and would ultimately LOVE to eliminate it completely during weeknights. It’s such a time sucker. Before you know it, you’re eating frozen meals or fast food every night, and don’t even have real quality time with your family. I’m glad the changes are working for you. Thank you for posting this and inspiring the rest of us.

  6. Love how open you are about your struggles, there are so many of us in the same situation.

    When you have free time, check out Brene Brown’s book “the gift of imperfection.” It’s a wonderful read on how we should embrace who we are and nurture the imperfections of us. It made me think of you and your “perfectly imperfect” tabs. :D

  7. I heart you Tara!!! so raw honest and wonderful, thank you for every last drop and you will be replenished and spilling over the brim on your journey, another season:-))

    xx’s from Ct

  8. I am sitting(thousands of miles away) reading this with a lump in my throat. I am getting you 100%, what an inspiration! You know what, at 45 I, as well as my family, NEED to turn that corner. Thank you so very much for sharing, love from Cape Town xx

  9. I, too, have been waiting for you to come back. Can hardly believe that you seem to have been going through just what I have been dealing with over these past few months – a lot of hard things…and a lot of renewal. I really appreciate your sharing your story – I am really looking forward to hearing more.

    Also, after reading all these comments, it strikes me that you not only have a fantastic blog, but you have some a ton of great readers! They have lifted me up too, so thanks for making a place for all of us to come.

  10. I have missed you so, T. I took in every word of this and just marvelled at how good you sound and it made me smile. There were several zingers in there that hit me like a bolt of lightening. I have changes to make and my own corner to seek and find. I love you. And I’m glad you’re nurturing YOU. xo.

  11. It’s amazing how words that belong to someone else can hit home, so very hard. I am in a similar place, striving for purpose, for meaning, for a relationship between our ‘little’ family of six that works. Sigh. I am inspired, hopeful, and encouraged by your efforts. Onward!

  12. This was such a beautiful piece of life to read. Thank You for sharing your experience and your wise thoughts and for nurturing us at the same time as you nurture yourself. I’ve been slowly working on getting to that corner and at 39 I think I can see that sweet lil’ sucker! ;-) Thanks again. ox

  13. This post you wrote is about ME. I have come to a breaking point over the last 2 months and am trying to figure out what to do. This post made me cry and I wanted to thank you for sharing your feelings, it is SO helpful to know that I’m not crazy and others feel this way. I have been living my entire life disconnected and I still haven’t figured it out but I am trying.

  14. the tears are flowing. ive been drowning too. i was looking at your work wondering if i will ever have it together like you. then i read this post. the internet is tricky because everything is stylized and perfectly lit. you feel like if your life is not an constant perfect blog post you are a failure. thank you for sharing your story so we can remember that things are not always as they seem.

  15. Crying. I could have written most of this blog post. Well, except for the change part. I need to do it. I feel like it is impossible. You are an inspiration. I want my life back. Thank you for this post. Xoxo

  16. I clicked over because I recognized the beach scenes in your photos, I’m in the general area…but I had to comment that this post really encouraged me. I started describing myself as “scattered” the last 6 years or so- and it depresses me. I could relate to so much of what you wrote here. I’m starting to wonder if maybe I have A.D.D. -I go off of tangents when online, too.

    anyways, you really inspired me with the time you took off and the many changes you actually jumped in and did. Way to go, you! I am more a thinker, not a do-er, but I am going to try to jump in and actually change things up. Thanks for this. :)

  17. I had to read this post bits at a time… it overwhelmed me… because I understand it too much. I am sitting at a dirty kitchen table, up too late again, pinning on pinterest a life I want to be living. I want to read the post again (and maybe again and again) and hope that the part of my brain that doesnt want me to progress will let go and die and let me finally move past this big ass block of discouraging paralysis. Best wishes on your journey. Thank you for sharing this!

  18. I never comment here but I had to say something about this post. Thank you. Thank you for being open and honest and real. I have felt this way for about a year now and no matter how much I talk to myself and resolve to shake myself out of it, it just isn’t happening. You have inspired me to try a bit harder, to not panic. It is so simple but means so much just to read that someone has had this struggle and found their way out. Thank you.

  19. Thank you for this. Seriously, thank you.
    I am trying to find the corner and turn it – I need to turn that corner – need to.
    Your post was honest and inspiring. You touched on so many things that directly relate to my life and the changes I want to make. The word that keeps popping into my head is ‘nurture’ – love the idea of nurturing myself, my family, my home etc. etc. So good.
    I think I can do this.
    Thank you.
    xo

  20. wow, fantastic post Tara! You are working towards progress, and I applaud your honesty and courage and self-awareness. I think we all feel this way sometimes, it’s wonderful you noticed it and are working on you. Hugs!

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