All posts by Laura Max Nelson

About Laura Max Nelson

Laura Max is a Houston-based writer, online Talk Show host of "The Light Files by Laura Max" on TheBusinessMakers.com, and author of "The Light Files" blog, an inspirational online magazine. Now a twenty-something, she discovered her passion for communicating through media when she was a teenager and has spent most of her time since then either in front of or behind a camera. As a regular guest on a CBS talk show in her hometown at 17, she realized that while it was often a struggle for her "be herself" with her teenage peers, she was for some reason completely comfortable doing so in front of the thousands watching her on camera. Through media, Laura aspires to continue enriching her own life and the lives of others by spreading a message of love, humanness, hope and humor. To read more from Laura Max, visit her website at www.thelightfiles.com.

How to make the New Year a YOU Year (Vlog)

On Intent.com, intentions are set by the community year-round to fulfill personal goals, reach for our dreams and realize our inner potential. What many tend to forget is that the most important step in reaching for the starts is reaching inward, giving ourselves the love and care we need in order to go forth. Whether it’s January 1st or any day of the year, there isn’t one day or moment that isn’t bettered when I take the time I need for me – it makes me a better friend, a better partner, a better daughter, and a better person all around when I have a full tank of my own from which to give to the world around me. Though it may be counter-intuitive, it’s giving myself the love and care I need that’s makes it much easier for me to do my favorite thing in the world: loving and caring for others.

Tell me how you plan to give yourself a little extra lovin’ in the New Year in the comments box below!

For more, check out my website, The Light Files, and follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

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Why You’re Perfect Just The Way You Are.

shutterstock_123704254Less than two years ago, I was lucky enough to be living in walking distance to a Barnes and Noble. Somehow I would always find myself attracted like a magnet to the often shamed and typically avoided self-improvement aisle. My friends used to joke that my walking into my then-favorite section was like an alcoholic walking into a liquor store: I would literally go through book by book for hours on end, searching for some hidden secret that I thought might help me do a little better at this whole thing called life. These were my “self-help” binges, and I would exit those aisles more utterly confused than when I walked into them. Still, upon first whiff of that delicious Barnes and Noble scent, I was unable to stop myself from going back for more.

I must be missing some kind of guidebook everyone got when they were born, I would think to myself as I scanned each book in my favorite section. If only I could find the answer somewhere in one of these books, I would have it all figured out.

I came across many-a-book that would instruct me to love myself unconditionally, and I was told that if I could just give myself unconditional love and gentleness, I would have the peace I was looking for. I would repeatedly fail to understand what that meant and assume this implied I was failing life in general, only to love myself a little less as I sadly trudged away from the self-help section.

I would search and search, and I would find nothing I didn’t already know or nothing that could really give me what I wanted. Why? Because what I wanted was to be accepted just as I was, not if only I could love myself. This could only come from me, not from “passing” the exam called “life” with flying colors because I spent my whole life in the self help section of the book store and got all the answers down.

Although I’m slightly sober of my self-help section habit (okay, I did make one trip there the other day) I’m still finding I’m walking away from many a “spiritually minded” article or magazine with the same feeling of inadequacy I used to get from reading Cosmopolitan, or hanging out in that darn aisle of the book store. No, I don’t feel like my abs are too flabby or like I don’t have enough sex appeal, but I do feel a little bit like I’m “not spiritual enough” or like my limited kale intake doesn’t grant me access to some kind of higher plane of living.

So let me just say, I’m deciding there aren’t any rules. I’m deciding I’m good enough right where I am (and I get to decide that every single day.) In a world filled with rules and instructions for how to let go of rules and instructions, I am always granted the choice to accept myself, warts and all. No matter what I might be struggling to quit, hang onto, or pick up, I can embrace myself right where I’m at, well before I get to whatever final destination I’m heading toward.

After all, I may never “arrive” there anyways. I might as well enjoy the ride.

 ***

For more, check out my website, The Light Files, and follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

Letting Happiness Find You

837693_94992340I’ve placed a lot of emphasis throughout my life on the idea of “doing the right thing.” I’m not talking about actually doing my laundry before I run out of clothes or anything, or recycling for that matter (for all of the environmental science courses and east coast upbringing I’ve had, I really ought to be much better at that by now…) I’m talking more about the elusive art of choosing what’s in my best interest. Historically speaking, I tend to exhaust an extraordinary amount of time and energy to insure that I have listened to myself so wholeheartedly that I will never have to suffer through waking up in my old age and wishing I had listened more closely. For someone so obsessed with not having regrets, it’s ironic that my biggest and perhaps only regret to date is the amount of time I’ve spent obsessing over the very idea of being regret-free.

I struggle immensely with putting an enormous amount of pressure on myself to always choose as wisely as possible. I can even see some of my friends in my mind as they’re reading this, nodding their heads in acknowledgement that I, Laura Max, am royally obsessed with making the perfect choice…whatever the hell that is. (Author’s note: it doesn’t exist. Trust me.) What I find interesting, though, is the that things that have served my best interest the most are things I was more or less forced into participating in, things I had no control over and thought would surely be to my detriment.

Take the movie Mr. Holland’s Opus, for example. For those of you who didn’t wear out two VHS tapes of this ‘90s classic when you were a kid (a la yours truly), the film revolves around an aspiring composer, Mr. Holland, who longs to have his compositions heard all over the world. Hoping to pile together the funds he’ll need to take time off and compose full time, Mr. Holland gets a job teaching music at a local school where he imagines he’ll only be working for a few years. Only a short time into what should have been a brief teaching career, his wife Iris gets pregnant, essentially forcing him to continue working and spend the rest of his working life teaching to support his family. Mr. Holland exudes bitterness as he struggles with living a life that feels far from what he had planned for himself, but then he meets 18-year old Rowena, the gorgeous star of the high school musical he’s directing. With phenomenal talent, she follows Mr. Holland’s direction and plans to make a break for show business in New York City, but to Mr. Holland’s surprise, she asks him to follow her so they can both have the life they’ve imagined, chasing their dreams. It’s only when Mr. Holland makes an active choice to turn down this beautiful woman’s request in favor of the life he’s made for himself that he realizes the reality he was forced into is the one he would have chosen all over again if given the chance.

Ultimately, Mr. Holland gets to live in the relief that he didn’t mess everything up when he went with the flow of life – perhaps the flow of life was even better than what he’d originally wanted for himself. Unforeseen and forced change in direction is uncomfortable and terrifying, but many times we get an opportunity later on to go down the road we thought we should have chosen in the first place. When we ultimately choose our current lives instead of what we think they should look like, we understand that we haven’t been led entirely astray by the non-negotiable forces of the world around us.

Often I am carried somewhere I’m sure I have no business being, only to find out after I’ve arrived there that it’s something I subconsciously wanted the whole time. I can say at this point that without fail, if I am stuck somewhere I feel I don’t belong, life will give me an opportunity to either see that I do belong there or allow me to choose a different direction. I am never without hope if I am not without the willingness to see that my dreams might be coming true in ways I couldn’t have planned myself. The outcomes of where I’ve “chosen” to go, or rather where I’ve been pushed and shoved, are usually not what I planned on.

Most of the time, they’re better.

For more, check out my website, The Light Files, and follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

Letting Go of Over-Planning (VLOG)

We’ve all been told it’s best to get present and live in the “now”, but often I find myself living in the 500-years-from-now. If life is a journey and not a destination, how do we get into the moment and out of our obsession with that golden nugget in the future we think will solve all of our problems? Here are a few of my thoughts on the plight of the over-planner (me.)

Many thanks, as always, to Stefani Twyford of Legacy Multimedia for filming my vlogs and for her continued support as I trudge the road of “putting myself out there.” For more, check out my website, The Light Files, and follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

 

More from Laura Max Nelson:

Change is Good, and It Happens Faster Than We Think

How to Find Balance by Losing It

How to Deal When You’re Outside of Your Comfort Zone

How to Find Balance by Losing It

Minimum DayThere’s this beautiful moment that happens a few weeks into dating someone new when, after countless sleepless nights either staying up with them or staying up thinking about them, you’re still able to maintain a thread of maturity that nudges you to get back to a normal sleep schedule. With somewhat divine timing, both people usually have this realization right around the same time, and then there’s that adorable little conversation you have where you establish you’re on the same page about being “in like” with each other but that neither of you can bear another day in the office sustained by two hours of sleep and four cups of coffee.

I write like I’ve had this kind of conversation about 11 times in my life, but that’s not true at all. It’s only happened in a rare few instances, but one of them was last night, hence my return to writing to you from my couch at an ungodly hour of the morning (yes, I think 7:45 AM is ungodly: I am no Thich Nhat Hanh.) All giddiness aside, I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t terrified when I looked at my blog this morning and noticed I hadn’t really written anything since September 2nd.

The two week gap between this post and my last written post perpetuated a familiar terror that I might be at the risk of “losing myself” – an affliction we’re all taught or compelled to be guarded against. My concern as I gazed at the dates with no blog entries associated with them reminded me of Liz Gilbert’s sentiments at the end of her famous novel, Eat, Pray, Love when Liz, having spent four months soul-searching and meditating regularly in India, carries her new routine into Bali as a grounding source of her finally-found self. It’s in Bali that she meets her now-husband and subsequently has a total freak out when she realizes she’s stopped meditating for two weeks in favor of…well…activities far more fun than meditating. Her extreme panic at the idea that she might be losing herself again is one I’m very well acquainted with, so I try to remember what her now-famed spiritual teacher Ketut tells her when she arrives distraught after her two-week beginning of a love affair:

“Sometimes to lose balance for love is part of living a balanced life.”

Balance is an interesting thing, really. It’s important to have it but it’s just as important to lose it, too … or so I am told. We must be human beings first, or else what would we as writers have to write about, anyway? If we’re not to get lost, how are we ever to explain the process of being found with any real authenticity?

In the process of seeking a balanced life, I think it’s important that we make room to actually live it. It’s the life that bears the stories, the stories that bear the writing. We’ll always come back to our proverbial pen and paper, or whatever routines that make us feel like ourselves. This time though, we’ll come back to them with a more open heart … and a heart that has more stories to tell anyway.

 

For more, check out my website, The Light Files, and follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

Change is Good, and It Happens Faster Than We Think

ChangeIt was in late 2003 that I developed a monster-sized crush on a boy named Tim. (His name has been changed to preserve anonymity; however, if “Tim” doesn’t figure out he’s “Tim” by the end of this blog post, I’m not a very good writer.) I was 14 and a freshman in high school, and Tim was a sophomore and one year older. He wasn’t your classic high school heartthrob, he wasn’t a football player, nor did he have the best grades, but Tim was an actor. He was a very, very good actor.

I’d been eye-ing Tim for a few days before we ended up sitting next to each other at the annual fall recital for my high school’s dance department (I went to a performing arts high school, hence the absence of football playing men and prominence of drama – both real-life and acted.) I spotted him in the auditorium just before the show was about to start and found myself seated next to him as the curtains began to open. If I’d had any doubts that Tim was the “one” I would pick to be object of my undying affection, it was what happened next that sealed the deal. As I looked beside me at Tim, he looked down at his program and saw that one of his favorite songs, “Crazy on You” by Heart, was the soundtrack to the first performance:

“Ah, this song has the best guitar intro,” he whispered as he tilted his head backward and took in each strum. I watched him as he inhaled this song I hadn’t heard before and found myself wanting to know every song he’d ever heard. He was like no one I’d ever met, and I was somewhere between wanting to be with him and wanting to be just like him. I knew he was in awe of the music, but I was convinced he was the real rock star. I didn’t know who Heart was, but I knew mine was in some serious trouble.

I raced home that night and downloaded the song before my mom even had time to tell me she needed the computer first. I listened to the guitar intro over and over, thinking about Tim and how perfect he was, wanting know more about his favorite kinds of music. For months after that I would chat with Tim over AOL Instant Messenger, pretending to know all of his favorite bands and posting lyrics to his favorite songs in my away messages. I would go back and forth every other week (sometimes every other day) between being “in love” with Tim and viscerally hating him.

Tim led me on to the point of no return, but had a girlfriend all the while. I hadn’t seen enough episodes of Sex and the City yet to understand what a dead end street this actually was, so instead, I was starring in the Taylor Swift music video “You Belong With Me” and dreaming of the day Tim would come to his senses, turn around and ask me to be his girlfriend instead. Genius plan, I know, but I was merely taking the advice of all the pop queens before me.

In my moments of “visceral hatred” toward Tim, I would passionately take a stand and delete my entire iTunes library as most of the songs in it were his influence. I got rid of all the songs I never would have known about if it hadn’t been for Tim, but I never deleted my favorite: “Crazy on You.”

Of course, Tim and I did not end up together. Around the end of my freshman year, he finally broke up with the girl he’d been seeing and was “ready” to date yours truly, but I decided to move on the moment I found out he was available. He’s actually married now, and I’ve lived about 259 lives since my freshman year of high school, but “Crazy on You” has still managed to hold it’s place in my iTunes library. Tonight, it came on shuffle and took me my surprise – just like that, I was 14 again.

I couldn’t believe that moment was 10 years ago, but at the same time, I couldn’t believe it was only ten years ago. How was I only 14 ten years ago??? I was (am) at a loss for words.

At the risk of sounding a bit too much like Carrie Bradshaw, I got to thinking. I got to thinking about how fast growth happens but how slow it can feel when it’s actually happening. Perhaps for all the times I’ve feared I wasn’t striding forward at a quick enough pace, I was moving forward much more quickly than I realized. Perhaps in my moments of discontentment with where I am today and why I’m not somewhere further down the road, I can remember it was just a mere ten years ago that I was Googling Led Zeppelin lyrics and using them in my AOL away message to impress a boy (I mean, we didn’t even have Facebook back then – that’s saying something.)

I’ve come a long way since 2003, and I’ve actually come a long way since yesterday, too. When it comes to taking account of where I am, the most valuable tool at my disposal might just be taking account of where I’ve been. In any given moment, I’m sitting somewhere far down the tracks from where I was sitting before.

And if I’m really looking to know what’s ahead, it’s actually the looking back that shows me how very much I have to look forward to. I mean, if we were all using AOL but ten years ago, I imagine there must be infinite possibilities awaiting us all in the next ten.

For more, check out my website, The Light Files, and follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

 

More by Laura Max Nelson:

Why I Choose the Solo Life, For Now

Romantic Failure Doesn’t Make You Any Less Perfect

How to Deal When You’re Outside of Your Comfort Zone

Romantic Failure Doesn’t Make You Any Less Perfect

AloneI was 17 the first time someone told me I might be addicted to love. In my defense, I think I’m one of the many suffering from such an affliction, it’s just that I happened to become aware of it at a relatively young age. Also, I’m sorry, but if you seriously managed to survive listening to ‘90s pop radio in your car every day and not get “addicted to love”, allow me to copy your notes after class. I seriously have no idea how you did it. (Seriously though. No idea.)

Needless to say, at 17 years old, I really didn’t appreciate hearing this … nor did I have any real willingness to admit it might be true. I took my friend’s observation as a sort of death sentence, a prophecy that I was doomed to romantic failure for my entire foreseeable future. Still I continued repeating the same self-defeating patterns in relationships, over and over, until one day I got tired of it and decided it was time for something new.

While I wish I were writing this as someone who woke up one day and said “today is the day I will stop being attracted to misogynistic assholes”, that’s not exactly how it all happened. Instead, I’ve woken up many times with that same commitment, it’s just manifesting gradually (gradually: AKA not exactly the way a control freak such as myself would have preferred).

If you can’t tell already, this wasn’t (isn’t) my favorite quality about myself, this fate of being attracted to the “wrong kind of guy” and dating different versions of him over and over again. I hated that I found myself reduced to such a fate and was committed to reversing it. When I realized a commitment like this would expand over a lifetime, and not be part of some kind of overnight transformation, it was the sad start of what has been a bitter and painful war with myself.

For whatever reason, I tend to be more interested in dead-end romance than cheesecake and too much Chardonnay. Regardless of my drug of choice, I’ve somehow failed to realize that the truth of my lingering and perpetual feelings of incompleteness without the presence of another half doesn’t make me only half a person. As I once believed at 17, I am not broken. I am not eternally damned.

I guess I’m writing this because there was a time when I really didn’t believe that (okay fine: it was last night.) There are still many times when I don’t believe that, when I believe that my distant past or even my recent choices are a reflection of how worthy I am. But that’s not true. It isn’t true. And it never will be.

Whether it’s donuts or carbohydrates or unavailable men or unavailable women (most of us have something we run to, I’m just listing the usual suspects…) we don’t have to be perfect to be, well … perfectWe don’t have to have it all figured out (I certainly don’t) and however many chocolates or escapades must come between us and whatever it is we’re looking for, we can trust we’re not missing something we should have been born with. Some essential piece was not left out of the box when we arrived. I like to think I’m just picking up the pieces I already have and putting them back together: it may take a while, but heck, hopefully I have a while.

And yes, even though Celine Dion and Savage Garden might have tried to convince me otherwise (little buggers), I really need not worry. I’ve had all the pieces this whole time.

 

For more, check out my website, The Light Files, and follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

How to Deal When You’re Outside of Your Comfort Zone

In my latest vlog, I discuss “How to Deal When You’re Outside of Your Comfort Zone.” Whether you’re starting down a new path, trying on a new behavior or letting go of an old one, here are three tips to help ease the discomfort that comes with stepping outside of the box:

 

 

For more, check out my website, The Light Files, and follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

 

More from Laura Max:

Why I Choose the Solo Life, For Now

Why I’m a Feminist

Confessions of an Ex-Serial Dater

 

Thumbnail image: Daniele Nicolucci

Why I Choose the Solo Life, For Now

men can't understandI live alone, and I am very good at it. I would say for about 28 of the 30 or 31 days in a month, I fail to notice that I’m going about the household chores solo. That being said, I’ve recently made the executive decision to hire a house cleaner. (I may be one human, but that says nothing on account of my messes, which often look like the work of a bear clan…)

While I certainly anticipate the arrival of prince charming (must love shoes…or have a tolerance for all of mine), I’ve come to a crossroads where my willingness to make that “Saturday night I’m lonely lets hang out and act like we don’t like each other on Sunday” thing just isn’t worth its price tag anymore. As Melissa Etheridge’s familiar tune “I Want to Come Over” blared through the speakers of my red beetle this afternoon, I chuckled as she professed to her lover that she didn’t care about the existence of her lover’s other lover because she just had to have this lover for this one night. “I want to come over,” she croons, “to hell with the consequence…”

‘Yeah…’ I thought to myself as I listened, ‘…just wait until you see THAT bill in the mail next month, girlfriend. You won’t be saying ‘to hell’ with nothing.

But as I said, there are 28 days out of the whole month when I don’t deal with that itch, which leaves two or three days each month when desperation surfaces, when I find myself repeating in my head something to the more PG tune of:

“Oh, would someone just please come cook me dinner???”

Today was one of those days.

As work drew to a close, I suddenly thought of someone who would be the perfect contender for such a desire: fabulous chef, certainly interested in me, definitely someone who would be over in minutes if I so requested. Unfortunately, my sense of the moral high ground caught up with me. I nudged my friend Jenn to support me in traveling a little bit below sea level, just for one night. Jenn responded:

“It’s like just wanting to get a massage without them trying to sell you a gym membership.”

I laughed hysterically.

Truly, it’s not that “I don’t want the gym membership”, it’s that I haven’t found a gym…okay, we’ll quit with the metaphor here for a moment…a man…that I want to sign up for yet. I can assure you that once I do, that will certainly be “worth the consequence”, precisely because there won’t be any. That, my friends, will be one worth signing up for.

Laura Max Nelson is a Houston-based writer and author of “The Light Files“, a blog on Happiness, Heart and Humor. Visit Laura Max on Facebook or follow her on Twitter for updates.

Why I’m a Feminist

Lyrics to "Beautiful Flower" by India.Arie
Lyrics to “Beautiful Flower” by India.Arie

One thing you should know about me, if you haven’t gathered it already: I’m a bit of a famous-quotes junkie. My Facebook timeline is riddled with the wisdom of Elizabeth Gilbert, Melody Beattie, songbird India Arie, and other people whose words resonate with me as though I spoke them myself. Words, both positive and negative, carry a certain power that’s entirely unmatched.

Maya Angelou talks about this when she explains her fierce objection to hearing words like “bitch” used to describe a woman. When I hear that word and others like it, I find myself cringing right along with her. Suddenly, it seems I’m no longer able to listen to all of Robin Thicke’s unbelievably catchy yet controversially degrading new hit “Blurred Lines” without my stomach turning. Words have done everything from inspiring me so much that I finally started this blog to pissing me off so passionately that I turned into a feminist. Yes, I just said the F-word: I’m a feminist.

When did that happen?’ I asked myself just a few days ago as the aforementioned tune blared in my car, catching me somewhere between dancing and flinching. They say we finally decide to change when whatever it is we’re doing is finally more painful than not doing it anymore. Was it the same with no longer caring what was being said about women (or any other group of individuals for that matter) on the radio? Was it finally no longer possible for me to feign ignorance when so far from ignorant? It certainly seemed so.

I’m under the impression that a large percentage of society still believes there’s something particularly un-dainty about a woman commanding the same respect and achieving the same success as a man. My mom always proved to be a huge exception to that rule: she always had a killer career and a life of her own, and I never questioned that I would have one too. For goodness sake, I didn’t even know what a glass ceiling was until she explained it to me when I entered college. To her, that very fact was proof that her and her cohorts had finally skyrocketed through that glass ceiling in a very significant way. I simply didn’t understand the idea that less would be expected of me just because I was female.

But I have to say, I found myself pretty fed up earlier today when listening to songs on my very own iPod telling me “I knew I wanted it” and other similar sentiments. I usually write to a rather positive tune, but this time is different. This time, I’m fired up. While I’d love to blame it all on Mr. Thicke, he isn’t the only one responsible for my sour mood:

It happened yesterday as I was walking into the hospital to visit my grandma on my lunch break. As I hustled up the front steps near the entrance, three men in scrubs stopped me, each telling me their own interpretation of how great they thought I looked in my dress –clearly not a one of them straining too hard to keep it PG. I stopped after they walked passed me and took a minute to digest that, to them, I was just an object. I was someone they could gawk at and drool over under the assumption that I had dressed up solely for their drool. I was horrified, but still no rookie to this ridiculously common situation that women find themselves in all the time. In fact, there was even a time when I dressed down just to avoid it. I soon realized that this was me letting them win (while simultaneously realizing that, as the daughter of a fashionista, I’m really bad at “dressing down.”)

It can no longer be held as an acceptable occurrence that a woman walks down the street and expects to be whistled at, gawked at, or ogled over as though she dressed up solely to be ogled. As I watched my best friend and out-of-the-closet feminist get married this weekend, I knew in my heart that we are traveling in the right direction…

But there is still plenty of work to do.

I sincerely hope that there’s a day when someone stopping me like that on the street makes other people stop and ask me if I’m okay. Anyone near me in moments like those usually just keeps walking, and I don’t blame them because I would probably just keep walking too. That’s human nature:

We walk by things that happen in front of us almost every single day.

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