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There’s an article about me from 1988 in the Fresno Bee in my file. The headline reads:

“Shy, demure Jones can’t help but draw attention.” 

I remember being embarrassed as I read it.  It’s always been hard for me to take a compliment, and I see the same tendency in my youngest. I attribute that to spending a lot of my life not feeling I lived up to what other people saw in me. I didn’t recognize my own gifts and attributes from an early age. As I reflect on what I’ve learned, I realize that this lack of confidence left me looking for validation or permission to live my life according to my own plan. And now I’m writing a book about it; reflections on what has worked to help me find calm, and confidence, and get closer to making my insides match my outsides…always a work in progress. Although there is no timeline on accomplishment, there are rites of passage (like sitting and writing in your daughter’s dorm room!) that make me realize my own mortality and know that there is no time like the present when it comes to accomplishing goals.  

“Does bringing me here make you feel old mom?” she asked as we navigated the streets of Fort Worth between Target and The Container Store.

“Kind of…but I don’t have the mindset to feel old because there is still so much I want to do.” I said. And this book is at the top of that list.

Born a rule follower and people pleaser, I didn’t know the power of autonomy and the truth that if we are willing to work consistently at something, then what we want is ours to create. I didn’t know that I would have to get over other people’s expectations, my own insecurity, jealousy (which stems from another’s insecurities), fear of failure, imposter syndrome…the list goes on and on.  And yet, when I sat back and thought about it, the way around all of these roadblocks to grant yourself permission to follow your own path.  And if we don’t, we lose that connection with our true self, and start showing up quieter and more subdued in our own life…not good for ourselves or the people around us.  

For quite awhile, I have been interested in generational learning, how we use our own memories and self awareness to pass down our stories to teach and hopefully make life more beautiful because of what we learn through that process. We could avoid so many patterns of abuse and addiction if we understood our worth and attachment styles that correlate with our family stories. No right or wrong, just indelible marks left on little human spirits that we had no control over but that we have to learn to work with so we don’t turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms that cause pain for ourselves and the people we love. How we process these stories and life patterns matters for our own happiness and the little people (that turn into big people) that we get to raise.

Starting 19 years ago (man, that sounds crazy) and over a seven year span, I was blessed with four beautiful children. As I went through those formative years, I put my heart and soul into raising good humans. My goal with these four little lives wasn’t to turn them into scholars or athletes or some version of perfect that I wanted them to be. I had found my calling because these little people had my heart and I felt so lucky to be able to teach them my secrets of life, before I had the courage to talk about what I thought to the world. I wanted to teach them to have confidence that I didn’t even have for myself. Confidence is interesting, it can show up in certain settings, come and go with circumstances, and definitely disappear at the most inopportune times.  And although I have lacked it in some places, I felt it from day one as a mom, I was only 25 and I’m not even close to done yet!

Maybe the days passed slowly for awhile as I changed their diapers and took them to Target, but as they say, the days go slow and the years move fast and looking back, even in those early days, the patterns and philosophies were taking shape. From early on, I looked for the value I was trying to teach with any specific scenario that arose, whether it was kindness, honesty, bravery, or many other important virtues that make strong character, I saw both what was facing me in the moment and the bigger picture that was the training ground of life for them. I believed in teaching them black and white, right and wrong young to give them a stable base so when the shades of gray creep in later in life, they have the grounding principles to see the way through, the attachment to know that they are valued and enough, and the grace and forgiveness that is needed to evolve when things don’t go the way you planned. 

These days, because I have come through an evolution of my own, they can’t quite pin me down on the black and white “rules”. Because I have the confidence today to know I am grounded in strong faith and principles, I hold much looser to the expectation of what “should be”, work from what is, and know that although I have learned so much, I have also taught a few things in this life. I know my intentions, how I want to be treated, and treat others the same way.
As I leave Lauren in Texas, I realize sometimes it’s not the deepest thoughts that make the impression by this age, it’s our actions that they watch and the simple things that have been sinking in for years that make a lasting impact. She packed all of her own bags to get here and, as we organized in her new dorm room, we set up a bin full of exercise bands and rollers, an essential oils diffuser and lavender oil, and her first request for groceries was oatmeal and peanut butter - because she knows that any meal can be happily replaced with those two things. We had conversations about mental strength, what we can become, introversion, extroversion, and validation, that surpassed anything I knew at her age, and talked about where she would find a church (there are plenty around here).  She knows how to care for her mind, body, and spirit and has the confidence to be herself. And knowing I raised a kid who knows these things gives me confidence that the goal I set almost 20 years ago has been attained. No more shy and demure…the process of raising her, and seeing what she has become, inspires me to be what more of what I want to be and today I have the confidence to do it. 

It’s hard to believe I’m done filling out permission slips for you. When I stare down the fact that we are leaving Tuesday…two tickets out, one ticket home, I can’t get rid of my chills.  I’ve been so excited for you, I still am…you are about to experience one of the greatest privileges on this earth, a college education backed up by parents who love and have the ability to support you through it.  It’s a gift, a protected world with the freedoms of adulthood but with a protected and safe place to land. It’s still one of the things I am most grateful to have had in my own life. Although you are about to be out on your own, making your way, I thought I would write you one more permission slip to take with you on this journey.

Date: 8/19 - 6/23

Place: College

I give permission for Lauren Turner  to  have the time of her life

on (date) 8/19 to 6/23. 

Wendy Jones (Mom)

Parent signature

Comments & Notes

  1. Give it time. It may not feel like this new environment fits like a glove right away. It may be uncomfortable, you will get homesick for your bed, home cooked meals, easier ways to do laundry, your siblings and your parents, and the routine that you have done such a beautiful job building. Give this new routine a chance, when we learn to sink into the uncomfortable, we grow, learn, and develop a broad perspective. There are so many ways to make life beautiful, give yourself time to find it there.

  2. Make friends with people with different points of view than your own. This world is begging for tolerance and understanding. We all come from different upbringings and traditions of thought. Learn to share yours humbly and more importantly sit back and listen to what other people have experienced. Give them a space to speak their mind, you never know what you will learn that will add to your own experience and perspective.

  3. Seek solitude and breathe. Find an empty church, a yoga class, or somewhere out in nature to be by yourself with your own thoughts. Dorm life, team life, full classes, and busy schedules are the bulk of your routine, but the younger you master the art of quieting your mind, the sooner you will realize that you are in charge of your own destiny.  Solitude connects us to the present moment, settles anxiety, and reconnects us to our mind, body, and spirit. Then we learn to bring that peace into the busyness of our life.

  4. Change your mind. You can be good at a thousand different things.  You are young and the farthest thing from locked into a path.  You don’t have to define that path today, just pay attention to what you attract.  To quote my beautiful little card from yoga this morning, “Life doesn’t happen to you, it’s happens for you.” You have the skills to figure out where you want to go, whatever you treat with consistency and commitment will become your life, so take the time to choose that path and let it wander to match your heart and mind.

  5. Help yourself first. There will be many requests, from friends, roommates & people along the way, but we are more useful to others when we have learned to take care of ourselves first.  It’s not selfish.  It allows us to give from a place of abundance and shows us the balance of what we truly have to give without burning out.  

  6. Define who you are away from your family. Have those conversations that go way into the night with roommates and friends that become your second family.  Be vulnerable, share what you think about the world and life, and you will form bonds that you will have for the rest of your days. The friends I made in these times of my life I can call anytime, ask them anything, and they have my back. The power of those friendships is possibly greater than even the degree I received. 

  7. Work through fear, shame, and doubt. I wish I had known earlier in life that these are normal feelings for every human being. There isn’t a perfect one among us, we all make mistakes, we all have things we wish we would have done differently or better. So fear, shame, and doubt are not things that are meant to hold us back and make our lives small. They are merely things that connect us as human beings. Although these emotions are always present in our lives, when we learn to wrestle with them, we break through, assign them their proper place in our mind and heart and, only then, are we able to use our intuition and see life through the lens of love, truth, and connection. This is the kind of maturity that will make your life joyously full. 

  8. Take care of your body. You are young and your body will forgive you, but the habits you create now will lead you forward. You already know the power of endorphins, but sleep, what you eat and drink, and how you treat your body on a daily basis is important in the years to come. It’s so much easier later if you get a jump on it now.

  9. Don’t be afraid of attention, you are so worthy of it. You are amazing, and you will attract attention because of the joy and kindness you express when you are going after life. Be confident, don’t shy away from it. Keep being you and be comfortable with the attention that you draw from that. Surround yourself with people who want to see you shine, and your light will burn brighter and brighter and light your path forward. 

  10. Master the disappearing act. People will want you to stay, but only you know when it’s time to go home. Establish a buddy system, share your Uber log in with a trusted friend and get home safely. But when it’s time to go, don’t be afraid to pull the ripcord. You’ll thank yourself for it in the morning. 

  11. Use your jiujitsu if you must, you learned it for a reason. You are the strongest girl I know, mentally and physically, and you are your own first line of defense.  God willing, you will never have to use these skills, but, in the event that you do, don’t be afraid to fight back the way that you were taught. You are a precious commodity that deserves every protection, starting with the knowledge and physical skill you earned yourself. You are my 2.0 in toughness for sure. 

You no longer need permission, the greatest responsibility of your life is to know yourself so well that you can understand the choices to make to optimize this beautiful thing we call a lifetime. Autonomy comes with responsibility and you are ready. It’s been my greatest joy to get you to this moment, so, while you no longer need my permission slip, you will always have my heart, no matter where your path may take you.  Now, go have the time of your life.

Just a few years back someone asked me:

“If you could live anywhere, where would it be?” 

Even by this point in my life, I had traveled the world, but I quickly answered, 

“Fresno. I love it here.”

I loved my home, my family, my friends, my church, my kid’s schools, my routine...complete with friends to have coffee and wine with, a Masters swim team, and a coach that put his heart and soul into our workouts as though we were training for the Olympics. 

The thing about sports in my life, is that they have been a great outlet, and also a huge source of regulation. I got the nickname Turbo from my marathon running friend Michael the day I showed up at a Saturday morning swim practice, mad as hell about something, and, at the end of a 3500 yard workout swam 20 100’s on the 1:05. Not bad for a 35 year old recreational swimmer - and I left all my rage in the pool. The first time I was able to recognize flow state was when we swam a race 100 at the end of practice, no dive, just a wall start, and it felt like i was gliding above the water and I finished with a 1:02. The thing is, all of these significant and meaningful memories to me, even dating back to high school all tournament teams, Valley Championship losses that no one except the players and the coach remember, and chalk full of goofball injuries like torn thumb ligaments and severely sprained ankles that have left me with almost no dorsiflexion in my right foot come without any fanfare or major championships. But it doesn’t mean that they didn’t help train a championship mentality.

The growth comes with the process, not the result. 

Life teaches us the lessons that we are ready to learn. I wish I had the mindset that I have gained through my yoga practice in my younger athletic days. Yoga has taught me not to run from discomfort, like the kind you face when you want another breath racing for the wall but shouldn’t take. It teaches me not to attach to outcome, and let it define who the world thinks I am. Most importantly, yoga has taught me how to calm my overstimulated nervous system with my breath. I am not one of those athletes where nerves work in my favor. The calmer I am, the better the focus and the vision, and that comes with breath work. Wish I knew that fact a little younger.

Now, I’m raising my own athletes, and I get to use what I have learned to train them. There is a big difference between using my hard earned knowledge to parent and living vicariously through my kids athletic experiences and I check myself on it frequently. I consider myself lucky to still get so much joy from the sports I get to play at 44 and can separate that from any success or challenge my kids my face. Today, this idea of process over result mentality doesn’t always hold true in the world of single sport club athletes, scholarships, and coveted championships. I have nothing against winning...I actually like to win a lot, but, I know that the bigger lessons I have learned have come in the face of adversity, in learning to trust my own gut because of my ability to process life on a highly sensitive level, and feel comfortable in my skin. These are the things I want the younger generations to learn from their athletic careers, no matter where they take them.

My athletic journey has two distinct periods of time, the first was one of a timid, tall, athletic kid who was literally afraid to stand out. The second chapter of sports in my life started when I got cut from the Cal Poly Women’s Volleyball team..  As a late walk on at Cal Poly, I had very little leash to get injured. I had already missed my entire high school senior season because of that torn thumb ligament and was significantly behind in skill from my Southern California counterparts. Then that typical and terrible volley injury when someone comes under the net and I was the lucky one to come down from a block and land on her foot sidelined me...and ended my career. But, I got just enough college level experience before that fateful cut to feel how much I loved to work hard, get better, and feel the blissful endorphin payoff. So, I let that ankle heel and pretty much never missed a workout for the rest of my college days. Self motivated, I lifted weights, could run 10 miles with ease...I still miss those SLO backroads, and came to understand what exercise did for my body.  I went on to run half marathons, one marathon (checked that one off the list) and swim in Masters swim meets and open water races, the latter while raising four little ones. And now I’m lucky enough to get to play beach volleyball multiple times a week.

Our bodies hold on to the stories of our life and we have to find healthy ways to release them. Four pregnancies, a near drowning for my youngest, autism, divorce, these are just some of the stories that my body has harnessed and I have learned to release through swimming fast, breathing deeply on my mat, and pounding volleyballs into the sand. They each serve a freeing and secure purpose in my life because I have learned that I am my only competition. I win when I find calm, trust my gut, and beat back fear by doing what I’m scared of.  And I use my mind body connection to keep it all clear.

So, as I get ready to take my first born back to start her college athletic journey as a athlete on the TCU women’s beach volleyball team, and my second born goes through the recruiting process and I will drop him off at school in just a year’s time, the way I have learned to process and shape my experiences is paying off for the kids I have the honor and joy to raise. Our journeys are all connected, they don’t begin and end solely on our terms. We are meant to use our trials and hard fought wins and losses to help others find their own best story. 

This is why I write, and speak. Sports has taught me a lot about how to live my life, but in recent years life has taught me how to get better at the sports that I still love to play. Today, the game is life…and I will settle for nothing less than my own championship.

I’m coming back on September 17, to my favorite neighborhood, at Fig Garden Swim and Raquet Club, a place that holds a special place in my heart, to talk about “The Game of Life”. Come join me in this conversation about how we build confidence, find flow, and live our best life on and off the court. Tickets are available at www.theoptimistsjournal.com

As far as my look goes, I have always been a naturalist.  I’ve never been particularly good with makeup or hairstyles, ask my kids…my boys had shaved heads from the time they were three and my girls learned to do their own hair at a young age, or look slightly on the ragamuffin side wherever we arrived.  On dance recital day (a very short lived period in our house) I used to send them down the street to Mrs. Schuh to have hair and makeup handled. So the other day, as I sat at the med-spa (a combination of businesses that I have only recently discovered) with a needle in my arm drawing blood to check my hormone levels, out of nowhere, a doctor swung around the corner and asked me:

“When are you going to let me take care of this?” as she pointed to the crease in between my eyebrows.

“I’ve always been natural.” I replied. “I like my expressions.” 

“Well, it’s so deep, I don’t think I could get it all out anyway.” she quipped nonchalantly. As she walked away, she practically instructed the nurse to get me scheduled.

Wow.  Aging.  Hormones, wrinkles, injuries, bodies that work differently than they used to…and we have to decide what works for us. I don’t fault anyone for the choices they make for themselves and how they figure out getting and staying comfortable in their own skin, it’s an individual and daily process.  But, as I continue to peel back layers of myself and let my ego and true self banter back and forth, for me, the way I feel continues to win out over the way I look.  

I enjoy exercise…volleyball, yoga, swimming, lifting weights, because they make me feel strong and happy.  I’ve had to figure out healthy ways to manage how I feel because I feel every little thing.  Life as an empath is a bit like the Princess and the Pea. My body stores tension from life’s challenges and experiences and movement is healing. 

What struck me from that brief exchange with the doctor was how little her opinion affected me.  Yes, I am aware of the deep wisdom line I have between my eyebrows. Yes, I am aware that I don’t look the way I did when I was 20. Yes, I have my own thoughts about what bothers me about my face and body changing on certain days.  But what I know, is that the dialogue is between my two ears…what she had to say to me didn’t matter, even a little. As my friends on the court this morning told me as I relayed my funny story, boy was she barking up the wrong tree. What a blessing to spend time around people who get me.

As I celebrated my daughter’s 19th and my mom’s 70th birthday last Sunday, I sat smack in the middle of their two ages, in my very own backyard, in a relaxed setting, hosting my family and friends and calm enough to just observe.

There is so much grace and beauty at any age if we live from the inside out with faith and consciousness.  The good life starts in our soul, and our souls don’t wrinkle. 

They strengthen when they learn from a challenge, when they choose to feel, instead of numb, they deepen with positive relationships based on mutual attraction, love, and respect.  Our health and vitality is unified with our true self, our vanity is our ego. And ego always leaves us chasing something that is just beyond our reach. Being at the stage of life where you realize that life doesn’t all of the sudden start reversing itself, that there is no going back, can be scary some days.  But forward with calm and conviction is turning out to be a beautifully imperfect, even wrinkled road…so we work from what is, and go with it.

And for now…I’m not scheduling that appointment.

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