Thank You Engaged & Inspired

I have some news and it is coming in the form of a fairly long story filled with a lot of feelings. Enjoy.

When I started Engaged & Inspired, it was driven by a deep purpose to make the wedding planning process easier, faster and less confusing for brides. I was overly honest on my blog, put my pricing on my website, took a lot of the fluff out of my process, didn’t charge as much as others because I simply didn’t have the same overhead costs, and at every turn did whatever I thought was best to make the process more efficient and in line with my purpose. It didn’t go over incredibly well in the industry but brides were loving it. I heard my fair share of advice about how I shouldn’t do something or how I should do something differently.  All that chatter didn't really phase me.  I was and still constantly get feedback that my website is the best they have seen, I make things so easy, etc. etc. etc. That purpose shined bright and was the driving force leading the way in those early years.

After achieving some traction, I think I got a little comfortable, took the blinders off and started looking up at what everyone else was doing. I noticed that the culture was shifting. Design was becoming everything and I felt like that pressure to have “the most beautiful wedding” was dictating a lot of decisions and causing a lot of stress for couples. There was just a fundamental shift with the rise of publications and the clout those features bring, perfectionism and showing your worth as a planner by the size of the budgets you were working with. I’m not saying design isn’t important, there is just a difference between comparing and deciding between 2 shades of blush ribbons and comparing, stressing over, going back and forth on, having a small panic attack and then deciding. Spoiler alert: everyone is

Instead of fighting for what I believed in and educating clients, I said nothing. By default, I become a very design heavy planner and contributed to that culture and the pressure. I began looking for outward approval and acceptance. Was I good enough? Did other people find my work pretty enough? Was I getting featured enough? I let magazine features, my social media following and other external factors define my idea of what I thought success meant. I started feeling a disconnect. I can't tell you how many times I've looked at wedding albums or features and felt completely empty inside.

I looked at my goals list for every year I had been in business and found that I had completed or surpassed every single one. Even those crazy goals you put on there and think “there is no way”. I had this misconception that if I hit those, I’d be happy. As it turns out, I was exhausted, numbing myself in a variety of ways, and definitely not happy.

I was working ALL the time doing 35+ events every year (entirely by myself for several years), missing weekends, missing milestones in my life and the lives of those around me, and was burning myself out faster than I realized.  After 3 years of intense self inquiry, reading over 100 books, a lot of therapy, a change in my lifestyle, business coaches, lots conversations with anyone who would “go there with me”, and about 85 blog posts that I wrote but never published because I felt self-induced pressure to keep up a certain appearance, I finally realized that I had swayed away from my original purpose long ago and there was simply no way to resurrect it.

I believe I have gained everything I was meant to through Engaged & Inspired and at this point, it is time to let it go and find a new calling. I always knew this day would come eventually, and though it has taken me a long time to gain the clarity I needed to make this decision, I feel so much peace just writing these words. I feel a tiny bit more myself again.

I’ve learned so much through the last 7 years and I’m incredibly grateful for the entire experience. I am a completely different person because of E&I, both as a businesswomen and as a human. I am incredibly proud of myself and the brand I have built. It has been my baby for so long, and though part of me is sad, I’m thankful that it brought me to a place where I could have the time and space I needed to realize and actualize my future goals with the confidence to do so.

So, what is next?

As far as Engaged & Inspired goes, I am looking at a few options to keep the brand going, and will continue to pursue those avenues. Nothing will change with current clients and things will continue to remain the same for a bit until we can comfortably transition over.

As far as my next move goes, honestly, I don’t know. Which scares the crap out of me. My current plan is to finish up the 2017 wedding season and execute the handful of events I have in 2018 while exploring various interests on the side. I have already started volunteering at a prison rehabilitation program, am training to work at a crisis hotline center, and continue to research and apply for opportunities as they come. I’ve pretty much ruled out getting a “real” job, unless it was at a smaller startup with a deeply social mission (something I am really craving right now), but who knows, that all might change too.

Right now I’m just trying to be ok with the unknown and see where it takes me. I’m going to start actually publishing a lot more of my writing, and do whatever I can to speak my truth, be honest about my actions, stand up for my beliefs and see who/what that type of energy attracts. I’ve bottled up so much for so long because I felt like I was not worthy of having or sharing my voice, but at this point, I am just ready to start living a life where my insides match my outsides and I feel like I’m in alignment with myself.

Talk soon, bye for now.

Different Perspectives

A few years ago my world shook and I was forced to take a really good look at every facet of my life. Over the past 2 years I've been on a journey of self-discovery as marked by several different periods - depression, more depression, bargaining/trying to fix, intense anger, numbing, de-cluttering my environment, food and fitness, diving into my beliefs and feeling empty when I realize there wasn't much left to stand on, realizing I don't know what my values are, realizing I have no idea who I am independent of what I've been told to be my whole life, and slowly, very very slowly, starting from the very bottom and building up a foundation that I can once again stand on. And at every step, I doubt. I question. I think I'm wrong. I want to believe. I'm desperate to believe. So that is the back story. And as grim as it might sound (and believe me, it gets really hard sometimes), it has been one of the greatest adventures of my life. I'm very much wading through the messy middle of all of this, but the perspective that I bring with me through this phase of my life is that of discovery, of knowing we all believe different things, and knowing that is ok, and just trying to find a little more common ground and compassion among all the craziness. One day this will be my superpower, but right now it feels like anything but. Starting over isn't easy; I feel like I'm ten steps behind all the other people who have somehow figured it all out so much faster than I have. But that is the honest truth of where I am, and I'm content with that.

Recently I've had a lot of questions surrounding the concepts of what and when to believe, how/when/who to trust, and being wrong. I find myself in the middle of all these opposing ideas and conflicts, and in those moments, my thoughts float to these types of questions. I know it might all sound naive, and in many ways, I am very naive at the moment, but that is the feeling of not being able to trust yourself or anyone around you. It sucks, but I know in the end, I believe it is what is going to lead to my breakthrough.

I am constantly seeking new information, stories and perspectives to help me sort through all these topics. I love gaining a new perspective, hearing an opposing idea that moves me away from a fixed view, or gaining more knowledge around a given subject. The very best part of this whole process is finding different ideas, learning about people, trying on different views, and seeing the world through as many sides as possible.

The Power Of Doubt:

"And we hardly realize the human price we pay when we fail to question one brick, because we fear it might shake our whole foundation." Everything about this quote resonates with me and made me want to watch immediately. I keep coming back to this one again and again.

On Being Wrong:

"Trusting too much in the feeling of being on the correct side of anything can be very dangerous."

Every day I asked myself "What if I'm wrong? What if there is something I'm missing? What if I'm not seeing the whole picture? What if, what if, what if.". I see the importance of constantly checking yourself. I see the value in asking the tough questions, and allowing yourself to at least sit with it as an option. Questioning biases and digging deep enough to examine your truths can be extremely challenging, but also extremely powerful.

I haven't been able to write in a long time, and I miss it very much. So this is my less-than-perfect attempt at starting this back up. I've lost my voice and I'm ready to find it again, even if it isn't perfect. I'm not ready to share the details of my whole story publicly, but I need to find a way to move through it, and writing has always been that path for me. My hope is that one day this will all make sense (and that one day maybe I'll make sense of it all for myself).

WHOLE 30 - My Story

8 months ago I hit a point in my life that can only be described as my personal rock bottom. Among other things, I was binge eating, drinking too much too often, and generally trying really hard to act like everything was ok. My mental health was suffering and it was deeply affecting my personal life, my marriage, my friendships, and finally, it was starting to creep into my work. I saw Whole 30 as a way to control something in my life. Anything. I just needed something to hold on to.

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It all started on one of audio book binges when I discovered "Why We Get Fat". It was extremely eye-opening and changed many of my eating habits overnight. Then a friend recommended "It Starts With Food" (the Whole 30 book), and after reading it, I wanted to try it immediately. I didn't plan in advance or wait until I had a free social calendar. I read the book and I started the next day.

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I wasn't 100% compliant. I had a few dates on the calendar that I decided I would give an exception to AND I didn't stop putting cream in my coffee. There was no excuse aside from just being scared. I know this isn't Whole 30, and that was ok for me at that time in my journey. I don't regret it at all because I vowed to do an actual round when my schedule permitted it a bit more. I simply needed to start changing my life and for the moment, this was the best I could do. I wouldn't recommend this route as a first choice, unless you are about to explode (which I was). These were the results:

Non-Scale Victories:

  • Clearer Skin - I've always been acne-prone and still struggle with annoying skin but noticed 15 days in that my skin was smooth, I had no blemishes and the redness was drastically better. And it hasn't changed since, still totally clear!
  • Better Sleep- I used to get 12+ hours of sleep, wake up late, and still not have much energy. On Whole 30 I started noticing I was waking up earlier with more energy. Now I consistently wake up around 7am with a lot of energy and it lasts through the day. My sleep patterns have been so different, and I never even tried to change anything!
  • Way more energy - Like I'm talking so much energy to workout, get more done, take on hobbies, go walking and then some.
  • Excitement about life + things again - This one is a whole subject in and of itself. After a slump into some deep depression and anxiety related issues, I finally found a small glimpse at excitement for life again.
  • And the biggest of all (this might be TMI!) zero cramps. Once a month for the last 10 years I spent the day in bed throwing up every hour and take about 15 advils just to manage said pain. On Whole 30.....I felt nothing. NOTHING. Anything that can cure the torture of that wins big in my book.
  • Plus small victories including not craving carbs or sugar, losing weight, etc. 

My Before & After:

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After  6 weeks of psuedo-Whole 30 and a couple of completely off diet vacations, I started my second round of 100% compliant Whole 30 (goodbye cream in my coffee!) mid-May. My goal this time was 100% compliance and a full food reintroduction after the 30 days. 

I became obsessed with reading ingredients (I literally can not believe how many things have sugar in them!), I read and participate in many online forums, am constantly searching out new Whole 30 recipes, and even created a spreadsheet to track compliant brands, recipes, and just about everything else Whole 30. I've fully enveloped myself in clean eating, learned so much about myself, what works for my body and food in the process, and loved every minute of it. And the cream in the coffee? I haven't had regular cream ever since. 

I didn't have as much physical progress, but mentally, my entire relationship with food changed. I did a full re-introduction after this round and have a much better idea of what and how much of any food is good for my body. I've found some balance but am still very aware of exactly what I am eating. It is still hard sometimes, there are a million situations where it is easy to fall off course, but slowly I'm experiencing and learning from each one. The first round was what I needed at the time, but this round actually changed everything for me in terms of creating a lifestyle.

Before + After - Whole 30 Round 2:

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I get asked about about Whole 30 or food daily. Some people have been encouraging and others...well, I learned not to care what people think and just do what makes me feel good. Here are some of the things I've learned along the way:

1. Making the decision: This program has really worked  for me. It actually changed my life, and that is not an exaggeration. That being said, no amount of inspiration or progress pics could have made me do it before I was ready. You truly have to make the decision for yourself. I wasn't ready for a long time (I could never have imagined I'd EVER put my health first), until one day I was.

I was able to acknowledge my own reality, and only then was I ready to make actual changes to my diet and lifestyle with determination. The "one bite won't kill you" thought process is more detrimental than you might think and won't work with this program. That decision, the one to change your life, that is always always always the first step.

2. Read The Book: The first thing out of my mouth when someone asks me about it is "READ THE BOOK" (It Starts With Food). There is seriously no substitution for it. Without it I never would have understood WHY I was doing what I was doing. This is the biggest key to it all for me.

2. Community: I've actually learned not to talk about my progress because of the remarks, comments, eye-rolling,etc. that come when mentioning a diet. The judgement used to drive me nuts, but I've learned to tune that out and focus on making the best decisions for my body. I turned to blogs, facebook groups, and other online resources for help and inspiration.  I've found that friends/family can actually be incredibly unsupportive for whatever reason, but that might not be the case for everyone. Find whatever community works best for you

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3. Prepare! The best way to do Whole 30 is to make it work with your lifestyle. Keep things as simple as possible by finding easy recipes, sticking to the same salad every day (change up the dressing if you need a change), and prepare some on-the-go meals when needed. Before heading to the grocery store, do a little research on ingredients and prepare a list. Before going to a restaurant, look over the menu or call the restaurant. It can be very hard to "be that person" special ordering everything, but you are worth it.

At the beginning of every week I spend a little time working on a weekly meal plan, taking a look at the calendar to see which days I need to prepare extra for (tons of meetings, not at home, etc.). I don't stick to it completely, but it helps to have something to fall back on. Planning is so important in the success of this program, don't underestimate how much it can help!

4. You Can Do It: Don't underestimate yourself. You have full control over the decisions that you make. It is 30 days, it isn't that hard. Change your thought process, stop making excuses and just start. Oh and check that "one bite won't kill you" attitude at the door and commit 100%. Restart if you eat something you aren't supposed to, do the re-intro. It is worth it.

My Go-To Foods:

Breakfast: Every morning I have 2 scrambled eggs and about a 1/2 cup of breakfast sausage (I make my own - this recipe is delish!). To help with my vegetable intake, I have raw carrots/cucumbers on the side. (I never liked eating anything before noon so this whole eat breakfast thing is HUGE for me.) If you are one of those people that can eat dinner for breakfast or have leftovers, this is a great way to switch things up a bit.

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Lunch: Salad. Salad. Salad. I prep the basics of my salads at the beginning of the week (lettuce, cut carrots, cucumber, and green beans) and place the tupperware in the fridge for the week. At lunch I cut up whatever leftover meat I have or grill a chicken breast, cut up some avocado and a little fruit and top it with TesseMae's Lemonette dressing and a little salt! Easy. Sometimes I will have dinner leftovers for lunch, but for the most part it is salad central!

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Dinner: This is where things vary most. I have a Pinterest board of recipes and I now spend some time finding, prepping and making completely new recipes at least twice a week. But if I am short on time, didn't prep properly, etc. I BBQ or grill some sort of meat, steam veggies and call it a day! I have watched a couple YouTube videos on how to grill, some simple stove techniques, etc. which has helped improve my cooking game. Since I have to eat this food every day, I might as well stop overcooking things!

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DISHES: Chicken with Masala Spices, green beans + sliced cucumber | Roasted Salmon with steamed Brussels sprouts + salad | Chicken Piccata with steamed Brussels sprouts

Some Favorites: 

Here are some of my favorite online resources, recipes, and staple items that helped me with Whole 30. Everyone has different tastes so it is wroth doing a little research of your own to at least find some recipes that sound interesting. There is a ton of great inspiration out there that will help make Whole 30 anything but boring!

Online Resources:

  • Lazy Girl's Guide to Whole 30
  • The Official "Can I Have" List
  • Mealmade - Paleo Meal Delivery in SF. They list the ingredients for each item making it easy to find what meals are and are not compliant.
  • Spreadsheet of compliant brands, etc. - You must still read labels to confirm. This list is meant to point you in the right direction.
  • Tasteful - An app that highlights the best restaurants for any given diet, as well as recommendations for the best diet friendly dishes!
  • Use Google as a research if you don't know if something is compliant - I still do this daily!

Dinners:

Staples:

Currently...

For the past 16 months I've been dealing with some situations that have tested me like never before. I've tried keeping it together, I've tried acting normal, and drafted about 50 blog posts about how I *really* feel because I couldn't keep it in quite like I thought I could. Feelings of defeat, anger, blame blah blah blah. Those posts will seemingly never see the light of day, but they helped me realize and work through some particularly hard times. Over the course of the past year I've experienced too many encounters with depression. I'm in head all the time, which is not only hard, but incredibly exhausting. Seriously. Exhausting. It is so hard for me to understand how I feel and ever harder to try to explain it to other people, especially people who have never felt this way (so most of the time I think I'm weird or crazy or that there is something seriously wrong with me). I know my triggers, but I've realized it isn't as much about the situation as it is about where my mind instantly goes when the situation arises.

I have no more mental energy and/or space to do this any longer. I have had just about enough. I know I'm not "fine". But for the first time I really feel like I know that. I'm not trying to trick myself  and just letting myself feel how I feel. Recognizing all of these real feelings (as opposed to the popular and ever-damaging approach of acting normal and sweeping all the feelings under the rug) has allowed me to come to terms with what I can't change, and shift that focus on what I can. Me.

TAKING BREAKS:

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I have found that some of my current relationships are triggers for unwanted feelings. It isn't that I think anyone is purposely trying to harm me (or honestly that I blame any of them whatsoever), but I've realized I'm just not strong enough for it. I know that people are doing the best they can, or doing what they think is right, but ultimately, it is pushing me further and further down due to feeling misunderstood, therefore alone, therefore depressed (all my own feelings to control). So I'm taking breaks and taking myself out of those situations for the time being. The block feature on my phone has become my favorite thing. It sounds harsh, but I'm not just blocking people to prove a point or be childish. I just realized that while in this state, it is incredibly important that I block out any potential negativity until I'm strong enough to take that on and deal with it. It is the most incredibly freeing thing I've done to date.

READING:

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I have been using Audible for a while now but over the past 4 months I've been on hyper-drive. This week alone I've completed "The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking" "The Happiness Project" and "Better Than Before". I've discovered the subjects I really enjoy (minimalism, de-cluttering, happiness, meditation, and my current favorite category, forming habits) and have had so much fun diving into all types of books to learn various philosophies and process a ton of different ideas. "Why We Get Fat" and a whole bunch of health-related books are next on the list. (I'm excited to clean up my health a bit. I know that will help a ton too).

These books have helped me more than I could ever express. My entire outlook changes daily as I discover and try the various methods, then adapt the pieces I like to my daily routine. It has been amazing.

CANDLES:

I realize this seems like the most bizarre happiness provoking item, but it is my current number one! I've received a bajillion candles as gifts over the years, and I never understood the appeal of them. A few weeks ago I decided to light one and let me just say, I instantly fell in love. I light my little collection of candles first thing every morning to get my day started on the right foot. It feels like such a luxury. Who knew that such a simple jar could make you feel so good.

DE-CLUTTERING:

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After reading "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" I've been obsessed. I've always de-cluttered as a way to cope with stress, but this book took that up a notch. It also helped to occupy my time and occupy my mental energy enough to get out of a few funks (incredibly helpful during some of my darker months).

Along with the stuff, I've let go of those feelings and desires that my home has to be something out of a magazine with a bunch of props and baskets with throw pillows in them. I appreciate the style, don't get my wrong, but I don't want a house that can't be lived in. For years I tried to create that perfect house with the right amount of styled vignettes, and this book single-handedly changed everything for me. I understand myself and the type of environment I thrive in perfectly now.

WORK:

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For the first half of my off-season (November-January) I was burnt-out, questioning myself, and honestly went through a period of just wanting to quit all together. I didn't hate it, I just wanted some time off. Some time to process and deal with everything after an incredibly long year. Turns out all that did was leave me alone with my thoughts long enough to become incredibly angry all the time. In February I started having to work more and had my first wedding of the season a couple weeks ago. Turns out the thing I was missing all along was work! I need to be creative, to be busy, to be working with people, to be doing something to get out of my own head. I absolutely love what I do and I was letting everything get in the way and bring it down.

One thing I did realize is that I need a bit more "balance". For the past few years I've been an "all work" kind of person, and that isn't sustainable. But giving up all together was the wrong solution to the problem. My new focus is balance. That will allow me to do more of what I love without getting so burnt out. Luckily wedding season has started back up and I've never been so excited to get started.

IN CONCLUSION:

I'm a couple weeks in, and I feel the change. I have no idea if anyone sees it, but I don't care. I feel it. And I've waited a long time to feel this way again. I know things are fragile and I have to build up my tolerance and ability to deal with all the things I can't change, but I'm ok. I'm doing better. And for now, that is enough.

And. Now. This.

And Now This is a culmination, a follow up, and a response to failures and successes. It is more me than I've ever been. It means more to me than anything I've ever done. It is real life. It is, in many ways the finale, and yet it is just the beginning.

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It is a place to peel back the curtain on inspiration and take a closer look. It is about learning from the stories of those 4-year-over-night-successes, not comparing yourself to them. It is a place for growth and conversation but not for judgement. It is about going for it without letting your better judgement get in the way.

"And Now This" means just what it sounds like, which is why is the perfect name for this venture. It is open ended, it is anything, it is everything. It is about new stages, new starts, new chapters. It is about moving on and moving forward. It isn't a niche, it isn't a topic, it is real life. That beautiful real life. It is about success, and growth, and learning, and inspiring  your everyday life.

So here we are. The beginning. Here's to new chapters. To starting something. To using your failures as the stepping stones to your next success.

Here's to going for it.