Life is full of ups and downs. Have you ever stopped to consider if either extreme is within your control?

I’ve lived long enough to know that I’ve lost some of my naiveness from younger years. I believe that life will naturally take its twists and turns and, the majority of the time, we are simply along for the ride.

Yes, we can choose to concentrate on development and eliminate distractions to put ourselves in the best position to learn and evolve. Yes, we can make time for and really listen to those around us in order to build better relationships. Yes, we can make daily choices in order to solidify better habitual patterns.

Yet life doesn’t always go according to one’s plan. You expect the fast ball. You get the curve.

So believing this to be true, I struggle sometimes with my conflicting desire to try to be in control of the uncontrollable.

I want to be seen as a top achiever, as having a firm grip on life, as being compassionate and present in the moment. I want to be seen as trustworthy and able to be relied upon. I hope by controlling “x” in my life, then “y” will naturally result.

The problem with wanting to be seen though is that you need to first answer the question, “Why do I want to be seen?”

There is a big difference between giving off the illusion of having what society deems is “it all” – prestige, power, influence, health, wealth, and happiness – versus what gives you a sense of purposefulness when you are alone with your thoughts. One is a facade, the other is truth.

Why do I want to be seen?

I want to be seen to know that I matter to others. To know that I am of value to them. To know that I make their life happier.

Fortunately for me, my scope of “others” is relatively small. My “others” are also generous in doling out their gratitude. My family in first place, friends and confidants second, creativity sharers third, and so on and so forth. Believing that God sees me in my truest form, I know I am trying to do right by Him too of course.

I believe I originally embraced blogging and other forms of social media sharing as a creative outlet. I love expressing myself through writing. Selfishly, it feels good to know that others find value in what I choose to write about.

However, the social media sharing world from when I first began back in 2009 has spiraled into what I can best describe as social sabotage in less than 10 years time.

I’ve seen people fight about posts and pictures. I’ve seen relationships I once thought were solid fall by the wayside. I’ve seen people needing to be right more than needing to be understood. I’ve seen people (young and old) not wanting to miss out online, while inadvertently ignoring what’s waiting for them to discover in real life.

And while I’ve been watching all of this unfold on screen, real life had a way of moving on in all of its inherent beauty. That’s the funny thing about life. It happens with or without you noticing sometimes.

I watched an episode of 60 Minutes recently that talked about people’s reliance on their smartphones and how Silicon Valley is engineering your phone, apps, and social media to get you hooked. Here’s a snip-it I highly encourage you to watch.

In this episode, Anderson Cooper interviewed former Google Design Ethicist Tristan Harris along with several other guests. Tristan left Google to lead a movement called Time Well Spent, with a mission of aligning technology with humanity.  I would also encourage you to read his most widely read essay How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds – from a Magician and Google’s Design Ethicist.

The information that Tristan shares in his interview as well as in his writing escalates that icky feeling I experience anytime I have my own nose buried in my phone or I see those whom I love doing the same.

My blog posts are fewer and farther between these days. And that is intentional.

I will continue to write. I still want to share (overshare?). I still want you to read what I have to say. I still want to hear from you.

But more important than any of those things, I want to start seeing more and being seen less.

Do you feel the same way?

What can we discover together, yet not feel compelled to share with each other?

Life is most breathtaking when it is unfiltered, with no clever captions, and uncontrolled.

Written by Heidi Woodard

I’ve learned to accept the fact that it’s ok to devote your best effort to life, even when you’re not so sure you’re doing any of it right.

This thought swirled through my brain when ordering less-than-stellar food from the lady behind the glass counter display at my local grocery store. A hodgepodge of fast, fatty edibles: one burrito, some fried chicken, one corn dog, green beans, chocolate pudding, and dinner rolls. In an attempt to save some semblance of my maternal self-esteem, I also picked up some tomatoes for my burrito and some navel oranges to peel for the kids. It all cancels out that way.

(Incidentally, the prepackaged green beans “tasted like stale hot dogs” according to my middle child, and his analogy wasn’t too far from the truth. Those ended up in the trash.)

“Yes,” I reassured my husband via text. “I went to the stupid store.”

My husband takes care of no less than 99.9 percent of our food shopping and preparation but that particular night, I was on my own.

I have a longer commute these days for my job. On good days, I’m on the road for a little over an hour. On bad days, more like 90 minutes. I drive three separate interstate systems to get where I’m going. Thank God for the free satellite radio subscription that came with my car.

I try to remember to enjoy the ride, even when I’m staring at brake lights. I have an office to travel to after all and I’ve known plenty of people who don’t share that luxury.

I knew this parenting phase, with three kids in three separate schools, would be crazy. If we didn’t have friends in the neighborhood to pitch in with rides, to help us stay organized, to take care of our kids with the same level of love and concern that they show their own, I don’t know how we would manage.

I knew I’d have to forfeit the idea of being the perfect manager, the most attentive mother, the most affectionate wife, the most inspirational coach, the most reliable friend… all the while keeping myself in peak physical and psychological shape.

I can’t possibly do all of that.

But what I CAN do is wake up grateful for having woken up each morning. 🙂

I CAN let the people I see every day know that I care…about a shared goal, a meaningful experience, and a common chapter we are all living together.

I CAN recognize that the ones who rely on me the most don’t feel let down.

I CAN appreciate the here and now while also looking forward to the future.

I CAN forgive myself for falling short at times.

As an avid fan of reading authentic authors, I don’t think I’ve found better inspiration on how to live life happily without imposing unrealistic expectations on myself than Rachel Stafford over at HandsFreeMama.com.

If you’ve ever felt overly distracted and not entirely in tune with what you should be most focused on in life (especially if you have an influence on little ones, whether your own children or others who look up to you), take two seconds to subscribe via email to get Rachel’s posts in your inbox.

I have had my own readers tell me they can relate to what I write about and I hope this post is no exception.

If you tell me you’ve got life all figured out and have never doubted yourself, I’ll tell you I’m a top chef. Stale hot dogs and all.

Written by Heidi Woodard

I have been attempting to soak up the unusually warm temps as of late by walking.

My walks used to be filled with pets and little people, but more often than not nowadays, I walk with only my thoughts keeping me company.

My thoughts and, because I like to chat, other people I discover along the way.

To the older couple sitting on the bench together: Although I only met eyes with the husband while the wife lovingly tended to their dog on her lap, I am glad you smiled and waved back. I realize you didn’t see me at first while I watched you both looking at each other and talking about what I’d like to believe were days gone by. Living with growing confusion and disdain around how so many people have their noses in their phones and are so distracted. Wondering how everyone could voluntarily ignore such beauty all around them because they are too preoccupied with keeping track of how others are capturing their moments online.

But not you. You were choosing to remain focused on what was important, WHO was important, together. And I simply thought that was awesome.

To the young couple walking every which direction following one child while simultaneously pushing your baby around in a stroller: Oh do I remember those walks. Way back when, I can’t say I was too fond of those walks. Because there was more wandering than walking. More whining than appreciating. More sweating than soaking in the sun.

Today, however, I felt a tinge of sadness while watching you. Knowing that my children weren’t stressing me out on my walk because, well, they weren’t with me on my walk. Yes, had I asked any of them to, they would have accompanied dear old mom, but there would be no wandering off to play in the creek or swing on the weeping willow branches because they are growing out of such things.

What do the parenting experts say? You are doing something right if you feel like your kid can make solid independent choices without you. What they don’t tell you in any parents’ guide is that seeing your child make independent choices doesn’t always make your heart swell with pride. Sometimes that realization makes your heart ache for days gone by. Days when you pushed the inconsolable baby in the stroller while chasing down a wild toddler.

To the neighborhood kid who always says hi and acts wiser and friendlier than most adults: I love the fact that you warmly welcome conversation. I am amazed by your life’s journey even at the tender age of 11. As the son of an airman, you’ve seen far more of this world than I have. You acknowledged how different it is to live in the Midwest rather than on the coast. It makes me smile to hear how you are looking forward to playing catcher this summer and why you like that position more than pitching, and how you’ll be painting your nails in neon so your guy can see the right signals.

I hope you enjoyed the movie you were so anxious to see this afternoon. And I wish you luck this baseball season.

To the strangers on my walk today, don’t be a stranger.

Written by Heidi Woodard