Dear Natalie: Walking on dirt really?

Ask Natalie Banner

By Natalie McCarthy

Dear Natalie,

What made you even want to get out there?

Love (sort of, sometimes),

Yourself

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Dear Me,

It’s too much.

You go to work every day. Most days, you venture out with a hopeful heart, and some days, you are tired. You are privileged to see the best and worst of humanity, the struggle and the joy, the decades – generations, often – of trauma and heartbreak, ended with one brave person who decides to make a change. You realize to witness this is a gift, one you probably haven’t earned, but one to which you’re willing to apply yourself.

You come home from work every day. You have a family, a beautiful family with parents who love you and brothers who are the best lifelong friends you could ask for, and a husband and two cats in a warm house full of music, food, and artwork. Your neighbors sometimes drunkenly stumble onto your porch and engage you in a too-long conversation, but they always leave you in a better mood than when they found you, and they always let you borrow their snow shovel.

It’s a good life. I mean, it’s all beautiful, but yo, it’s sometimes just too much.

After your first year of marriage, several years into your clinical practice, you’re overwhelmed. You look back at your adult life and you see all the directions in which you’ve been pulled: Get all-star grades. Be the best graduate intern this hospital has ever seen – and make the decisions of a seasoned professional, even though you’re still figuring out how to thumb through the diagnostic manual. Fit thirty hours of work into twenty; this will allow you four hours of sleep, and be sure to awake refreshed and wide-eyed. Plan the best wedding. The best. The wedding to end all weddings. Save money by making the centerpieces, invitations, and favors yourself, even though you do not consider yourself a particularly crafty chick. Be thrilled to shop for dresses, even though strange, elder-woman shop clerks awkwardly view you in various states of undress. Listen to people’s stories of violence, sexual assault, combat, spousal abuse, drug use, poverty, near-starvation, and all manner of medical crisis – and listen with an open heart. Do not turn away. But do not carry it with you, because look, holding onto all that ick will beat the heck out of your sanity. Go home and have the energy for your loved ones that they deserve. After listening to people all day, listen to your family and your friends. Be available. Keep your arms wide open for them, always. Never lose patience, and good golly, never look tired. If you could lose ten to twenty pounds, apply false lashes like a pro, and freshen up your wardrobe, too, that would be great.

Dear Natalie Walking on dirt really
I may or may not have made this. I can’t remember.

 

It seemed the more connected I got, the less connected I felt, and a sense of failure weighed more heavily on my chest. “I need something,” I said aloud one day, in the center of my dining room. I said it to no one. I said it to myself, mostly. Did I then think about walking on dirt really?

 

Dear Natalie Walking on dirt really
You know I eventually chose these over heels, right? 

 

I can’t remember what made me pick hiking. I remember suggesting the idea to my husband, and off we went to the forest, an hour’s drive from our urban home. On the way out of town, we stopped and bought a few water bottles and a couple of $5 backpacks. The quality of the pack I got was barely decent enough to withstand a primary school kid’s books for one semester, let alone the year of hiking I ended up putting it through. We climbed our first hill and I was wheezing at the top.

“Do you want to keep going?” my husband asked.

I scoffed. “Of course I’ll keep going,” I muttered. And I did. I do.

Dear Natalie Walking on dirt really

But how did walking on dirt really change me? That’s a story for another day.

In the meanwhile, on behalf of the Adventure Some Women and Camping for Women communities, I wish you a fabulous and fun-filled 2018 in the wonderful outdoors.

Love, always,

Natalie

P.S. – Have you had conversations with yourself like this? Are you into walking on dirt really? What pushed you to get out and adventure? What does adventuring do for your mind, body, and soul? Let us know via message, video, or audio recording (you can use the voice recorder on your phone!), and feel free to share pictures as well! We’d like to include your contributions in future posts. Share via email at AskNatalieColumn@gmail.com     

P.P.S. – Your privacy matters. If you want to remain anonymous when you share, say the word. Ain’t nobody gonna know but me, and I have ethics ‘n’ stuff.

 

Resident Columnist and Reviewer at | Website

“Ask Natalie” host, Natalie McCarthy was born and raised in the urban American rust belts of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Cleveland, Ohio, in a not-particularly-outdoorsy family. She discovered the outdoors in her early 30s and now seeks out new ways to adventure.

Natalie earned her master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work. She works as a licensed supervisory clinical social worker specializing in the treatment of co-occurring substance use, general mental health, and trauma-related disorders. While her professional practice is where Natalie spends most of her time helping people with their problems, she was an online advice columnist in the past.

In the early 2000s, she was the go-to answer girl on a now-defunct website called New Girl Order. Her column there led her to research a diversity of topics, from May-December romances to why on Earth plucking our eyebrows makes us sneeze.

54 thoughts on “Dear Natalie: Walking on dirt really?

  • February 1, 2018 at 8:13 pm
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    Wonderful post! I’ve just discovered hiking and camping and love it. A broken heart got me outdoors. And I am so much stronger and self assured now because I’m getting out there and breathing. Soaking up nature, stretching my mind, body and soul. It is so lovely to read posts like yours to share the joy of simply being. Thank you and please don’t stop writing!.

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    • February 3, 2018 at 2:22 pm
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      Thank you Cindy! I find it fascinating and inspiring that so many women I talk to get led to outdoor adventure after some hardship. I think that really speaks to how we head out there for peace and connection.

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  • January 25, 2018 at 1:11 pm
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    I often have conversations like this with myself and I’m so happy to learn that I’m not the only one, Natalie! This post was an excellent read! 🙂

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    • February 3, 2018 at 2:21 pm
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      Thank you Agness! It makes me feel better to know I’m not alone, either!

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  • January 19, 2018 at 12:29 pm
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    Most of us go through these norms of life. And like you said it is sometimes too much. I am glad that you found something good to escape into. And in a the right manner. This is inspiring for a lot of us. Cheers to you for it

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    • January 23, 2018 at 6:27 pm
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      What a kind comment! Thank you ?

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  • January 19, 2018 at 11:37 am
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    That’s an awesome hobby, I am so happy for you! My little brother is into hiking as well, he reached some awesome tops through all Scandinavia (just an example).

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    • January 19, 2018 at 4:44 pm
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      That is awesome!! ??

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  • January 18, 2018 at 5:36 pm
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    Such an inspiring piece! In this moment I really needed this. I wish I could have conversations like that with myself, but I have not come so far yet. I hope I can take some inspiration with me from this post and be able to self-reflect more.

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    • January 19, 2018 at 4:45 pm
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      Anne, thank you for the kind comment. What do you think gets in the way of you having that kind of self-conversation?

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  • January 17, 2018 at 3:30 pm
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    No doubt, hiking is quite therapeutic in general. I love the way you have expressed yourself in this post. So inspired to hit the road again, get my backpack ready and go hiking! Lovely!

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    • January 19, 2018 at 4:46 pm
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      Sussie, thank you! Exciting that you may be hitting the trail!

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  • January 17, 2018 at 2:04 am
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    Hiking fan over here too! Great read – just love the way you express yourself ?

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    • January 19, 2018 at 4:46 pm
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      Thank you trail sister ♥️

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  • January 16, 2018 at 2:23 am
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    “And I do.” Beautiful sentiment–I love that the simplicity of hiking, and I think that’s a huge part of the appeal. You have two jobs: breathe and put one foot in front of the other. Absolute bliss when you need it! This makes me want to get out there soon!

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    • January 19, 2018 at 4:47 pm
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      Kate, yes! It’s so meditative to focus just on moving and being. Thank you for the kind feedback.

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  • January 15, 2018 at 10:23 am
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    I love hiking. I find it very therapeutic and calming. And, like you, I too have conversations with me while hiking. It helps me understand more about myself. Thanks for sharing this inspirational post. I could see a lot of me there.

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    • January 15, 2018 at 8:07 pm
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      Archana, thanks for your kind comment! And I agree – these sort of monologues are ways we get to take long looks at ourselves and figure out how we work. So many of us spend our time on other people, so it can be a gift to dedicate time to ourselves!

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  • January 15, 2018 at 6:55 am
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    There is so much research out there that getting outside is so good for our health and our hearts! Glad you are going out there.

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    • January 15, 2018 at 8:08 pm
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      Barbara, yes! I was just speaking this morning about mental health and the outdoors. We’re seeing really exciting research about how getting out there can help even serious mental health issues, like eating disorders and PTSD. I figure, if it can help severe disorders, certainly it can help boost my mood! 🙂

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  • January 15, 2018 at 6:35 am
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    Beautiful! Hiking is really a therapy to the soul! Living in Switzerland we go hiking all the time and we plan most of our trips around great hikes all around the world. I dont ski so we go snowshoeing in the winter. My Swiss husband never hiked before we got together and it lasted about 5 years into our stormy relation before we headed to the mountain and we got addicted right away. Hiking and reaching the top together is the rare times we don’t argue with each other.
    Now we have a little girl of 2.5 month and we have kept hiking putting her in a backpack. But the time has come she rather walk…which is good but she walks in the speed of a snail! Sigh.

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    • January 15, 2018 at 8:09 pm
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      Dada, I love that your family is using hiking as a means to be together. It sounds like it offers you all a reprieve from tense moments, too. How I’d love to snowshoe through Switzerland… even if it meant going at a child’s snail pace! Haha!

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  • January 15, 2018 at 6:05 am
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    I loved reading this post. You go girl – you’re rocking it 🙂

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    • January 15, 2018 at 8:10 pm
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      Haha thank you Ada, for reading and for being so motivational. I’m glad you’re here!

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    • January 15, 2018 at 8:11 pm
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      Christina, you are preaching truth right now. I can’t tell you how many times I say (out loud!), “Pull it together, McCarthy.” Evidently my inner voice is a bit like a football coach… ? 🙂

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  • January 14, 2018 at 11:11 pm
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    I’m not an outdoor person. I try but the only outdoor place that I like is the beach

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    • January 15, 2018 at 8:11 pm
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      The beach counts! And it is sooooo peaceful!

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  • January 14, 2018 at 8:11 pm
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    I have several conversations like these with myself. They are more like conflicting thoughts, but I push myself to go! I love hiking. Hope to explore newer trails in 2018. Cheers!!

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    • January 15, 2018 at 8:12 pm
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      Aditi, I’m sending all sorts of new trail love your way. And I’m in agreement – often these self-conversations are more like self-arguments!

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  • January 14, 2018 at 11:11 am
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    I enjoyed this article very much, it is so personal and eye opening. I will also start hiking soon, hopefully I will enjoy it as much as you did. It takes a lot for a person to admit to themselves that they need to do more, when, most times, all they want to do is just lie there is a semi vegetative state and ignore the world. Congratulations on what you did! Keep on walking!

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    • January 15, 2018 at 8:14 pm
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      YES! “Semi vegetative state” – this is absolutely where I was. I was going through motions and not feeling connected at all. Thank you for reading and for offering such a positive response! Good luck with hiking — you deserve that “out there” time for yourself!

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  • January 14, 2018 at 1:29 am
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    For me, I kept looking for myself in all kinds of places. As a teen in the 80’s, I went punk. I shaved my head and filled my world with anger. After high school, I took a gap year working at a ski resort that lead me to my true love of the outdoors. My gap year turned to two and then twenty. Nothing filled my sole like the mountains. My anger turned to peace and eventually acceptance. I journeyed into the wilderness and found myself waiting there all along. The mountains are still my happy place and my spirit’s home.

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    • January 15, 2018 at 8:15 pm
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      Jenn, what a beautiful response. (I was a 90s punk! What a coincidence!) I love what you say about “looking for myself” – for many of us, we spend our time looking outward and rarely give ourselves the gift of looking inward. I share your experience of finding peace and acceptance in the outdoors. I am also jealous of your 20 gap years! 😀

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  • January 13, 2018 at 10:38 pm
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    I love that your pick, that you don’t even know how you picked it, was the right fit. I think intuition probably played a key role. 🙂

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    • January 14, 2018 at 2:30 am
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      I agree, Rosey. My heart knew what it needed!

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  • January 13, 2018 at 7:06 pm
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    I need to go hiking more! I really love it, despite how out of shape I am! It’s always a new adventure!

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    • January 14, 2018 at 2:31 am
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      We need to see you out there!! So glad you’re motivated.

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  • January 13, 2018 at 6:23 pm
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    I’ve definitely had a few conversations like this with myself, just haven’t been brave enough to write them down. I’m a complete newbie when it comes to hiking and taking more adventures, but I’d like 2018 to be the start of this. The more I challenge myself to try something new and exciting, the less conversations I may just have for myself!

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    • January 14, 2018 at 2:32 am
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      Lisa, yes!!! Or maybe the conversation changes. It goes from “can I?” to “what next?” – which I think has been so empowering. 2018 is your year!!

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  • January 13, 2018 at 3:17 pm
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    What an amazing story. My amazing comrades whether they be fur or human are my free therapists. The closeness and privacy of the Forrest, is an euphoric experience. Those ties bind me to man and beast,and I truly feel make me a better person to deal with everyday trials and tribulations. Looking forward to more of your posts❤????????‍♀️??‍♀️??‍♀️????

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    • January 14, 2018 at 2:33 am
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      Stella – ♥️
      And your comment nails it. Adventure is a connector. It’s the tie that binds us to everything else. I feel that too!

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  • January 13, 2018 at 1:08 pm
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    Such a beautiful conversation. It got me thinking that I also think like this many a times. A great platform to share. I would love to participate in this some day . But as of now, I am inspired to go on hiking myself . Inner voice is so important to follow.

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    • January 14, 2018 at 7:54 pm
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      Neha, just listening to that inner voice is such an accomplishment. Enjoy your hike!

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  • January 13, 2018 at 6:32 am
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    I love how it came about, nature has a way of refreshing us like nothing else. And the backpack, thats so great.

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    • January 14, 2018 at 7:55 pm
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      Haha thanks Jasmine! That backpack was a real…unique…piece of “equipment.” ?

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  • January 13, 2018 at 4:17 am
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    I love your writing. It seems to come so naturally, and yes, we all need something. I am glad you found yours. I think I am still trying to figure this out. I talk to myself all the time, and feel consumed by the thoughts in my head but I do know to enjoy the adventures in life because they are never ending!

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    • January 14, 2018 at 7:56 pm
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      Ashley, what a lovely compliment- thank you! And I hear you. There’s this delicate balance between feeling mindfully grateful of each moment and feeling awash in our mental orchestra. It can be tough!

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  • January 13, 2018 at 2:18 am
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    Oh yeah, I’ve had those conversations. I’m a nearly 70-year-old woman who likes to solo camp in a tent. I keep asking myself how much longer I’ll be able to get into and out of my sweet Marmot tent. I still work full-time running my own business. The only way I get to disconnect from all the electronic devices is to load up my car with my gear and hit the highway. I try to take three-day retreats once a month. It’s the most rejuvenating, self-care I can do. I yearn for the day I can afford a small camper van … and that day is hopefully coming soon. I think I’ll still bring my tent along, though. There’s nothing like looking up at the stars, cozy in my down sleeping bag, and on my comfortable mat. Lots of Mexican blankets around me for extra warmth, if I need it. So here’s to many camping trips in 2018! I live in California where we can camp year round. It’s the greatest feeling. I think this lifestyle may even be keeping me young!

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    • January 15, 2018 at 8:20 pm
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      Gail, YES to self-care, YES to year-round camping, YES to California (I’m just north of you in Oregon), YES to rejuvenation. I’m very interested in your thought process around “how much longer can I do this?” – and I love that you show how committing to ourselves and what we love doing is a gift. I wonder if you’d be open to chatting with me more about your experience as a “nearly 70 year old woman” defying stereotypes and getting out on solo adventures?

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  • January 13, 2018 at 1:36 am
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    I have conversations with myself all the time and it really helps me to understand where I am and reflect on how far I’ve come.

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    • January 15, 2018 at 8:21 pm
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      Dee, amen to that, sister. It’s sort of a self-growth conversation, isn’t it? Which is a really cool thing, in my opinion.

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  • January 12, 2018 at 11:19 pm
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    Thank you for the inspirational post! It’s not easy being a woman these days, but we can do so much more than we ever imagined! Happy 2018

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    • January 15, 2018 at 8:21 pm
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      Thank you for reading it, Suzanne! It isn’t easy, but here we are, crushing it! 🙂

      Reply

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