Looking Ahead

December 31st: Looking Ahead

I think most of us give at least some thought to what they want from the year ahead, even if we don’t write down big, lofty lists. It’s a good thing to do, having goals and ideals. Taking stock of where we’ve been, where we are, where we’d like to be. For me, at least, one of the joys of life is working towards achieving or changing or reaching something. I know not everyone is this way, and that’s fine too.

I’m not going to get into the specifics of what my goals and hopes for 2020 are here- that’s not what I want this space to be about, and anyway, I haven’t quite worked out all the details just yet.

But I will tell you this- in the year ahead, I intend to be very brave. Braver than I’ve ever been before. Strength? I’ve got that attribute down pat. But bravery is another matter entirely. The difference being, of course, that a strong person can deal with whatever life throws at them when they need to. A brave person gallops out to meet the challenges where they live. I am going to be brave this year. I am done waiting to see what life might come up with- I want to make my own path.

We should never aim to be fearless- fear is an important instinct, and we need a little of it. But we can name our fears and face them, taking ourselves out of the passenger seat and getting behind the wheel, where we belong.

Whatever life holds in store for us in the weeks and months ahead, my wish for myself and for everyone who reads this is simple; May you have more good days than bad. May you always find the silver lining. May you do the best you can at everything you try so that you end each day feeling proud of your effort. May you choose to be in the driver’s seat of your own life. And may you be very, very brave.

Happy New Year to you.

Looking Back

December 30th: Looking Back

As the year reaches its conclusion, it is natural to want to peer forward into the great, unknowable future and try to plan our comeback- I’m gonna get in shape this year! I’m gonna tackle this mess for good! I’m doing Whole 30 for REALS this time! This is gonna be my year!

And all of that is wonderful. I do it, too. There is nothing this girl likes more than a fresh start- I like them so much, I figured out that I can make one wherever I choose to, though I’ll admit that January first is a biggie.

But while we are here, still in the final days of this year, I encourage you to look back. To thank yourself for the obstacles you’ve overcome in the past twelve months, to love on yourself a little for the good you did and the way you tried so hard, even if things didn’t turn out quite as you planned. I encourage you to forgive yourself if you messed up- you’re only human, after all, and what is easy for others might not come so naturally to you or I. Give yourself some grace, ease up a bit. And if 2019 was truly hard, then don’t forget to thank yourself for surviving it- you did it! No matter how bad, sad, hard, heartbreaking, grueling or awful it was, the finish line is right before you. You made it. You can put it behind you now.

Perspective is crucial. We are on the 364th day of a 365-day year. If you are looking back and seeing only what went wrong, it’s possible, I suppose, that you had the worst year of anyone, ever. But it’s far more likely that your eyes are failing you, not your life. I bet there were a lot more happy moments and good days than you can recall, and that’s okay- this seems to be the default setting for the human experience. I can remember a terrible thing my older daughter’s father said to me in 1998 with perfect clarity (that he doesn’t recall at all, mind you, and has apologized for at least five times), but I brush off and dismiss compliments and praise like I’m allergic to them. We cling to the bad- bad news, bad days, bad situations- for a bunch of reasons. For one, they hurt. Pain isn’t easily forgotten. There are lots of valid reasons we hold onto shitty things. But there are just as many reasons to hold onto, cherish, and value the good ones. In 364 days, some really great things happened too. Don’t forget about those. If you’re busy focusing on the hardships, you’re never going to notice the beauty…and you’ll be doing the same thing at the end of 2020 that you’re doing now- wishing it was behind you. So, check your perspective!

For me, 2019 was…peaceful. I experienced a lot of gratitude. I cried a lot of happy tears, and a few less-happy ones. I grew- more calm, more confident, more capable. I was a good friend. A good mother. I worked through some pain and found healing. I let go of some things that were holding me back. I resolved some fears and set myself free. I had a few revelations. I caught my eye in my mirrors reflection and smiled because I like that person. I love her, honestly. And that’s a big deal. I laughed, a lot. I was kinder, softer, and more loving this year than I’ve ever been. It was a very good year.

Today, I hope that you can look back on 2019 and understand that a year without stumbling and troubles is as impossible as a whole year without laughing or joy. I hope that you can see both, and that you choose to focus on the things that matter most. I hope that you can set down the burdens you don’t have to carry and walk into the new year a little lighter. And if you can’t see the good, remember to clean your glasses! Because it really is there, if you look hard enough.

Merry & Bright

December 24th: Merry & Bright

I am not a religious person by any means, but I must confess, I do love the story of Christmas. The idea of Jesus being born, sent here to right things by a God who loves us all so much. What a beautiful thing to believe. Although I will probably never be one who buys the story myself, I am not opposed to rejoicing for those who do. I do believe God loves us this much, I’ll give you that.

I love the older traditions as well- Winter Solstice celebrations and Yule; a candle lit on the longest night of the year, rejoicing in the return of the sun, recognizing the wheel of the year as it turns. The fabled Wild Hunt, feasting and celebrating with ale and meat and all sorts of merriment.

I love the idea of Santa Claus, too! A twinkly eyed giant in his plush red garb lined with fur, flying through the night sky on a golden sleigh weighed down with toys, laughing with joy as he urges his magical reindeer on through the night! What’s not to love about that?

I love Christmas trees sparkling with light, glimpsed through windows as you drive home in the evening. I love tinsel and snowmen, angels and elves. I love presents wrapped beneath the tree and Christmas carols in the background as cookies bake in the oven. I love snuggling up on the couch to watch movies I’ve seen a hundred times, and seeing my daughter check the calendar each day to make sure the big day is getting closer.

I love all of these things. And this year, for the first time in a long time, I have found myself in a spot where I am able to recognize that I love these things and enjoy all of it. I know how lucky I am, trust me. I have had my fair share of years that were stressful and overwhelming, years when I was dead broke, or heartbroken, sick, messed up, selfish, or any other thing you can think of. I know how hard it can be. Which is why I am so excited that this is not a year like that.

Camryn is nine this year. She still wholeheartedly believes in all the magic of Christmas; she feels it in her bones. I don’t know…this could be the last year for that. So, I am going to enjoy every moment of it, and be grateful that I am present and aware of what a gift that is. As a matter of fact, that might very well be the best thing I get this year, and if it were the only thing, it would be more than enough.

I don’t care too much for presents anymore. I have so much, and if I need something, I can generally take care of it myself. What I want cannot be wrapped up in paper and sat beneath the tree. I want my kids here with me, just hanging out. I want to see the excitement in Cam’s eyes as she wakes to find the cookies gone and sees the stockings full and presents that weren’t there the night before. I want to share her joy and be filled with the contentment that only being with the ones I love most can give to me.

My wish for you this Christmas is that you find your way to the magic of this time of year. Whatever beliefs you hold dear, may they be enough to fill your heart. I hope that you can share your joy with someone who needs it, and if you have none, may someone share theirs with you. And if this year is particularly hard for you, I want you to hang on and remember- there will be years that will be much, much better for you down the road. I can almost guarantee it.

Love Is Not Hard

December 21st: Love is Not Hard

Would you be surprised if I told you that I am far more vulnerable here, when I write, than I am at any other time? And why wouldn’t I be? It’s so easy to sit here and talk about what is in my heart and my mind to this blank page and to the people who might read it than it is to walk through the world that way- wide open, everything tender exposed.

I have learned, over time, that love is dangerous. That my picker is broken, that my choices are bad, that I am difficult to love in return, that things inevitably fall apart. I have learned by watching others that marriage is hard and generally unhappy. That people are seething just below the surface. That everyone longs to be free. I have learned firsthand that love doesn’t always protect you, that love can be harmful, confusing, and leave scars. It’s no wonder that it is something I struggle with.

Here’s the thing: All of those things I just wrote in the last paragraph are not about love. Those things are about people, and people are flawed. The love we want to give others, the love we receive, is always mixed in with other things, wounds we carry, fear, immaturity, thoughtlessness…If we have never been loved well, how do we learn how to love others? How do we learn to receive love? How do we ever stop hurting others because we don’t know how to love the right way? How do we stop hurting from being loved poorly?

I’m not sure I know the answers, exactly, but I do think they are worth seeking out. I had the craziest dream last night, where I found myself doing something awful and it was as if I were two people- one in a blind rage, and the other watching helplessly, knowing I was wrong. And then a voice came from somewhere and it spoke to me…I can’t remember the exact words, but the message was clear- you cannot teach love any other way than by loving, and love does not look like this. Love doesn’t scream, it doesn’t bully or belittle or make people afraid. Love doesn’t play games or withhold itself until it gets its way. That isn’t love.

Love is not hard. People make it hard- by fearing how it may hurt us or remembering how it has hurt us before. There are a million ways we can muck it up and make it seem hard, but love is as easy and natural as breathing. So many of us have just forgotten or learned the wrong lessons.

Today, I’m going to remember that dream I had and let it guide me when it comes to dealing with those I love. Am I really loving them, or am I letting my brokenness and unconscious habits get in the way? Because it matters. Not only for me, but for the little person I am teaching love to. For her, I want love to be easy, safe, and natural. I want that for me, too. And for you, and for those you love. All of you.

Best Laid Plans

December 18th: Best Laid Plans

I had really hoped to be able to write something, even something small, every day here.

Unfortunately, life being what it is, sometimes circumstances change and things get weird. I am in the midst of such a time right now.

I think…honestly, I think I’m a little bit traumatized from seeing my friend lose her mom the other day. I feel awful even saying that, because obviously it was the worst thing that ever happened to her, and how lucky am I that I got to go home that night and…I guess what I mean is that she can’t escape the pain, and I get to go back to my normal life.

But the truth is, nothing is ever that simple. When you are witness to something like that, it is not just so easy to shrug it off. I’m kind of…I take things pretty hard, I guess. Basically, I haven’t been myself this past few days.

Combine that with Christmas preparations and the fact that, for the first time I’ve started my ADHD meds, I’ve run out completely and so have the pharmacies…I’m just not up to snuff. It’s not so bad. Most of my Christmas stuff is done, and the without the medication, I’m just a bit more scattered and a lot less productive. And perhaps I have a terrible headache, but I can’t say that it’s related.

My point is, sometimes you just have to surrender. You just shrug and say, welp, guess this is how it is right now. That’s kind of where I am right now.

I hope that, when life piles up on you like it does sometimes, that you have the ability to surrender. To realize that sometimes you just have to go with the flow, because fighting it will only make things worse. Sometimes our best laid plans just don’t work out, and that’s okay- for you and for me, too. I’ll be back soon.

Loss

December 14th: Loss

I woke up this morning, and…I just feel heavy. In my chest, and in my spirit.

Last night, I sat beside my friend for hours as she held the hand of her mommy, who had passed just before I got there. I tried so hard to be there on time, but I was waiting in the wrong part of the hospital because I didn’t realize she had been moved the day before. I don’t think that matters in any way to anyone but me, it’s just…I don’t know. I guess I don’t like the idea of her being there alone, or without a good friend beside her, even for a minute.

I can’t stop thinking about the way my friend held her mother’s hand. This is not my story to tell, so I will leave it there, but…I am just so sad. I know the way I feel is a speck of sand beside a desert of what my friend is going through, and I hate it. I know she will wake up this morning and it will all rush back, and I hate that too.

Grief is something we experience alone, no matter how many people are sharing our pain. It hurts so much that it doesn’t make sense…it doesn’t seem possible that our bodies can handle the emotions that boil up. When my grandparents died, I was still using, so I had that crutch. When I lost my dear friend a few years ago, I crumpled under the weight of my grief. I took days off work, and I just cried and cried. And that was a friend. This is her mom. It’s just too much.

I don’t need to explain to you what grief is like. You know. If you don’t know, you won’t understand until you do. Someday, it will be me, losing one of my parents, and then I will understand better her pain. I am not eager to get there.

But I do hope you know…that none of us have forever. We all have a last day. Don’t wait to fix things, don’t miss chances to be together, don’t treat people like they will always be there. Because they won’t. And once they are gone, it’s final. My friend was an excellent daughter, and she’s still finding fault with herself. Don’t give yourself real regret- you’ll make up enough as it is. That’s it, that’s my message today. Go call someone you love, and tell them.

Love

December 13th: Love

Seems like, lately, I have needed to get the day behind me in order to look back and grasp the overarching theme that it held. Sometimes I know, right at the start of the day, what I am supposed to write about…others, as recently, I need to figure it out in review.

Yesterday was all about love for me. You know…my life is rich with love. I think, perhaps, it has always been that way, but I was just too busy with my worries, my inner battles, my self-obsession & self-consciousness to get it. It was right in front of my face, and I was blind to it.

And now…I am not. I see it, and I am awestruck. I don’t know a better word to describe it than that. Absolutely in awe.

I’m searching for the right way to explain to you the place where I find myself, and it’s hard. I talk a lot about healing and gratitude, change and growth. What I hope you understand is that I am telling you my story in real time. I am discovering as I go. I am finding new truths, glimpsing these beautiful things, getting struck by new wonders, every single day. I am just now learning so much of this.

I am a really late bloomer. I was stuck in a certain pattern for many, many years. What I am learning now is that my little efforts to be more…just, more– reward me in ways I could never have imagined. Because I had no expectation of getting anything back, maybe. Maybe that’s the trick. Again, circling back to what I touched on the other day, the more I give of myself, the more my heart is filled.

Today, it is overflowing. I love my life. I love my children, so, so much. I love my friends. And I love myself. I am so grateful that I found the things I needed to save myself, so that I could live this life.

Here is what I know: I did not get here by myself. Without the love and kindness of so many people over the years, without the help of people who didn’t have to give it, but chose to, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this right now. Though it may have seemed a wasted effort to them at certain times, I am telling you right now that every bit of it mattered. The cumulative effect of the kindnesses shown to me built a bridge that carried me here. I will never forget that.

Love is the ONLY thing that means anything at the end of it all. Love is at the bottom of every smile, every kind word and gesture, every selfless moment, every hug, every tear. Without love we would never laugh, we would never bend, we would never grieve. Love is never wasted. It is the whole point of this human experience, and I hope you remember that. I hope you believe it. Love changes everything it touches…which means you can change anything by loving it. Wow. If that’s not magic, I don’t know what is.