Here is a question for you- do you think gratitude and fear can coexist? Can they live in the same mind, spirit, body at the same time? If you would have asked me that question two weeks ago, I think my answer might have been different. But today, my answer is yes. I know this […]Gratitude, Fear, and Compassion — After The Party
Author Archives: After The Party
January 31st: Return
It is my belief that, though you may choose a word for yourself each year, if you get quiet and pay attention, the theme will reveal itself.
For me, what I am seeing so far (and this could change and probably will change) is “return”. I am returning to myself, to the parts of myself that are true and that matter most, and I am learning that these parts can only be accessed by turning away from the noise and distractions that make up so much of life as we know it today.
I say “we” as if I can safely assume that you and I are living similar lives, and I’m sure that’s a pretty big assumption. It’s just that I have found after all these years on earth that I am not ever very different than the status quo- a thing that both comforts and bums me out. LOL.
So, perhaps you have already bypassed me in this way, or never jumped on the distraction train to begin with. But I find that I can be a very approval-seeking person, and how much that rules my life is directly proportional to the amount of time I spend on social media, news stories, and trying to fit in and measure up to whatever the standard of the day is.
And that’s just it- the bar is always moving, and depending on where you are focused, the rules change, the ideals change, the opinions change. But when we return to ourselves, and shut out all that hullabaloo, we can be certain that our core values and nature will reveal themselves to be pretty darn consistent.
Yes, of course, we change over time as do our dreams and needs. But when they align with your true self, it’s more like a slow morphing, or building blocks…an evolution rather than a whole new thing.
I am discovering that who I am today is not very different from the girl I was long, long ago. I still love books and words. I still love contemplating the reason I am here and trying to work out how to make the very most of my time. I still long to see everything, explore, roam.
For a moment there, I began to lose my excitement about moving to Maine. I think it was mostly fear…my life here is so good and solid and reliable. But given a little time, I have returned to that as well. I feel more than ever that I want this adventure, I want to see what life holds for me beyond this little safe space I’ve built here. There is more, there is more, there is always more. Go while you can. That is what my spirit whispers to me.
I don’t have any sage words to share today (or possibly ever. I suppose that’s a matter of opinion.) but I do hope that if the way you are living is depleting you rather than feeding you, you can recognize it and understand that you are still in control- you can choose to do something different. I did, and I am more at peace than I’ve been in years. Getting in touch with who you are, who you really are, is always a rewarding thing.
January 25th: Humbled
I know I have missed a few days this week, and it’s because I’ve been working on something really important- my actual life. There have been some things that desperately needed my attention, and so I decided to prioritize those things and get them sorted out. When I am depleted physically or spiritually, I don’t have much to offer in the way of inspiration. When my mind is cluttered with noise and full of meaningless worries and judgements, it doesn’t leave a lot of space for the good stuff. I think it’s a really good idea to take a step back, often, and surmise if your life is rolling along as you want and to make adjustments where they are needed. That’s what I’ve been doing.
But that isn’t what I want to write about today, not exactly. Although it is true that since I’ve decided to stop keeping up on the ultra-depressing and hysteria-inducing news, I’ve been gifted with remembering that the doom and gloom we are force-fed by the media is really just one perspective of the world and reality. I’ve been consciously choosing to tune out the negativity and take in a little more goodness, and guess what? The world hasn’t ended. No one has mocked me for my ignorance of current events. More importantly, I feel better.
MOST importantly, when there is less room for the negative, there’s a lot more room for the positive. What we focus on is what we attract, or, if that’s too hard for you to swallow, then what we focus on is what we tend to see. You can’t argue with that. Lately, I’ve noticed that there is a lot more good in the world than bad. That people are still ready to be kind and friendly if you give them the chance. Most of us want to help. Most of us want to smile back, say thank you, lend a hand.
It’s a giant planet we live on, full of wonderous things. There are probably many things in your own city or town or area that you have yet to see. There are amazing people you haven’t met. There are sunrises and sunsets, full moons and forests, stars and beaches and mountains. And you are a human being with a perfect soul and more potential, more adventure and stories within you than you could ever imagine. You have no idea what the future holds.
Today, I hope that you can take in what I’ve just said and allow yourself to be humbled. By the incredible gift of your life and the power you have to make of it anything that you desire. You might say that you don’t believe it, but that doesn’t change that it’s true. People with seemingly insurmountable challenges have made history…why should you be any different? And, if you just aren’t feeling that ambitious, all the same…go outside today, and take in something beautiful. Sit at a coffee shop and observe people talking, laughing, falling in love, or simply connecting. Tell me that isn’t a wonder, the way we need each other, or the way that we are soothed and awed by beautiful things. It’s a necessary thing, I think, to be struck wide-eyed by the beauty around us-whether it’s an ordinary thing we see every day that suddenly comes into sharp focus, or an extraordinary thing we might never see again. The end result is the same- it changes us, at least for a while. May you find yourself humbled by something beautiful today.
January 20th: Sacred Space
For so many years of my life, I was rootless and wild, which had its upsides- I can’t imagine a youth of conformity and structure, and if that sounds appealing to you, we are clearly different kinds of people. But there were downsides, too, one of which was that I often had no space of my own at all, let alone a particular one I carved out and called sacred. Often, I was lucky just to have a twin bed to sleep in with my daughter, and a room filled with belongings that weren’t my own.
I suppose back then that my car was my sacred space. I have so many happy memories of driving around with my windows down, singing at the top of my lungs, just feeling free and delirious with the possibilities stretched out before me. With a little money for gas and a car that ran, I could go anywhere I wanted, and I did. I had nothing but time, it seemed like.
That kind of freedom grows exhausting, though. It involves a lot of maneuvering, asking for favors, depending on the kindness of friends, being very, very poor. I grew up a bit and could see the benefit of being self-reliant and stable. So, I did that. Grudgingly at first, but over time, I’ve mellowed and come to enjoy this different kind of freedom.
One of the things I like the best about my life now is my morning routine, and the sacred space I have created for myself right here in my very own little house. My cushions, my candles, my crystals and incense. The time I spend every day in prayer and meditation, giving thanks for my countless blessings and anchoring myself in my body, to my breath, is something I never grow tired of. It feels different every single day.
I am not suggesting that you start praying and meditating immediately (unless you want to, of course) just because that is what I do…but I do think everyone should have a space that is sacred and meaningful to them, and a time each day to spend on themselves in whatever way feeds their spirit.
I wake up very early every morning and make this time for myself, but I don’t have to force it. This is just what works best for me. I spend time writing, reading, praying, and meditating, and it is the way I prefer to start my day. It’s a sacred time spent in my own sacred space.
Through this creation of time for myself, I have come to know myself in a way that I never did before. Investing in myself through a lot of hard work over the past years has paid off in a big way- now I have the time, the space, the security in life to dig into what suits me best. I can honestly say that the majority of my life and time is full of things and people and places I truly love and enjoy. I had to get through the hard parts to arrive here, but I never stopped trying, not even sure what it was I was reaching for. I knew it when I found it. And once again, I feel delirious with the possibilities spread out before me. That much is still true- perhaps now more than ever.
Create a space that is sacred and meaningful to you. Invest in yourself, in knowing yourself well and caring for your life in every aspect. Work hard when it is time to do so, understanding that this is how we get to the easy parts- through the hard parts. And if your life is nothing but hard parts and things don’t seem to ever improve, it might be time to take a closer look at what the trouble is. I know for me, it was always, always me, standing in my own way.
January 18th: Enjoy
Today, I am giving myself permission to do exactly what I want to do. No more, no less. I took a long drive down the coast with Lucy this morning, pulled over when I felt like it to walk the cliffs along the sea. Turned around and headed back when I was ready.
After I post this, I might just crawl back into bed for a while and nap…or I might take a bath. I don’t know. I’m on my own today, and the day is wide open. No schedule, no plans, no rules. I am declining the creation of a to-do list, and just taking a break.
I ask a lot of myself every day. And no matter how much I do, I find a way to make it not enough. I’m always critiquing myself and thinking about how I could have really done a better job if I’d done this, or not done that. If I’d been faster or taken my time. If…if, if, if.
That’s a really shitty thing to do to yourself, you know? And it’s a really hard habit to break. But today, I’m just going to leave myself alone and shed the weight of all that expectation. Today, I’m simply going to enjoy myself. Drink it all in. Be happy with whatever I’m doing…or not doing. I need a break. I’ve earned it.
If you are in the habit of riding your own ass, I want you to stop it. Just stop harassing yourself, stop talking down to yourself, stop being mean. In my experience, we speak to ourselves far more harshly than we ever would another person. The thing is…I really, really like myself. And I bet you really like yourself, too. So, how about we both start acting like it? I intend to do just that. Right now. I hope you do, too.
January 16th: Space
It’s no revelation that the world we live in today is a busy one- nothing languid or placid about it, really. We are pummeled with information from all sides, technology having given us the ability to watch events as they unfold, in real time, anywhere in the world. We are electronically connected at all times, to everyone we know, and plenty of people we don’t. We carry our phones with us and panic on the rare occasion that they are lost or left at home or down to 3% battery. Scrolling became a compulsion for me, one app after another, hours and hours every day.
For quite some time now, the urge to stop all this craziness, to slow down, to do things differently, has been growing in me. I believe that might be a huge part of why I hunger to make this move to Maine so much, honestly. The idea of LESS. I understand that there is just as much internet in Maine as anywhere else, but it just feels like…I don’t know, a return to life as it was, I guess. The kind of life my nine-year-old knows nothing about, where people sat and played board games together, not on family game night but just…whenever. When families set the table and ate together every single night.
Anyway, I understand there are flaws in that thought process. That I don’t need to move across the country to change my life. Obviously, there are other reasons for wanting to go. But that’s a part of it. At the start of this year, I began to do things differently. Staying off of social media completely hasn’t worked for me, so I just cut way, way back. I stopped following the news closely. I stopped engaging with things that I didn’t want to spend my time and energy on.
In short, I created some space for myself to breathe. And because space cannot stay empty for long, I filled it with things that made me feel better instead of worse. Books and writing and walks on the beach. Daydreams and plans and time with friends. Filling myself with these things has worked much the same way that filling yourself with fruits and salads rather than cheesecake and pizza does. I just feel better. Cheesecake and pizza are great once in a while, but when all you eat is garbage, eventually you’re gonna feel like shit. Filling your time and brain with garbage? Same thing.
If you are feeling beat up or overwhelmed by the barrage of information coming in, remember that it’s not your job to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. There are so many things we can do nothing about and being uninformed is not the worst thing in the world. Creating a space for yourself that is sane, safe, peaceful and protected is a pretty bad-ass thing to do, honestly. I’m so happy to be doing it. Maybe you will be, too. If you need a break, I say take one. See you Saturday!
A Day Well Spent
January 14th: A Day Well Spent
I started reading “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron recently- for those that don’t know, it’s supposed to be this really great guide to unblocking your creativity and helping you get down to business artistically. I’ve been wanting to check it out for a while, so now I am. Anyway, I am just starting out with it, but one of the things you have to do is write three full pages every morning, by hand. Just…anything that comes up. I promised myself that I would not half-ass things that I really wanted to do, so…even though it seemed like a lot, I did it. Lacking in ideas, I wrote all of the things I wanted to get done that day (along with a bunch of other stuff, as it was THREE FULL PAGES)
Well, to my utter shock, I had the most productive day I’ve had in WEEKS yesterday. I mean, I accomplished almost every single thing I wrote down. It was crazy. I’m not quite ready to credit the writing as the reason yet, but just in case, I went ahead and did it again today. This time I added writing to the list since that was the one thing I left off yesterday, oddly enough.
Anyway, I realized something about myself yesterday that might be rather important. I have mastered a quiet, subtle form of self-sabotage that works very effectively. I think when I should be doing. I do it all the time- sit here, immobilized by thoughts about all of the things I should be doing, when I could just get up and start doing them. I caught myself doing it right when I got off work yesterday, thinking about whether or not I should get up and take the dog to the beach like I wanted to when it hit me- I had already decided to do that hours and hours ago. What I was really doing was trying to think my way out of it. If I sat there thinking for much longer, it was going to get dark, and then I’d have to stay home which is what a part of me really wanted. When that realization crossed my mind, I jumped up, grabbed the dog, and headed out the door.
And you know what? It was a wonderful evening for a walk on the beach. The tide was way out, and we made it just in time to catch the sunset. When I got home, I fixed dinner, changed my sheets (another thing I’ve been thinking about instead of doing for over a week now!) and got ready to settle down. I kept thinking about what a wonderful day I had. It felt so good to have accomplished so many of the things I set out to do. I read to Camryn for a while, then burrowed down into my flannel sheets and slept soundly.
There is something to be said for a day well spent, don’t you think? And I know that there will be days when things just don’t work out, but I would rather not be the number one roadblock in my own life, you know? Having good intentions is great but committing yourself seems to work a lot better. Writing things down seems to up the chances of success quite a bit. I’m ready to see where this goes.
Want to experiment with me? Today, try it out. Write down the things you want to accomplish and commit yourself to doing them. When you catch yourself trying to think your way out of it, remember that you already made up your mind and stop thinking, start doing. I want to see if it works for you, too! Whatever you decide, I hope you have a wonderful day. I’ll be back on Thursday.
January 12th: Inevitable Change
Sigh…sometimes I take a very simple sentiment and muddy it up with too many words. I am going to attempt, for the 3rd time, to write these words in my heart this morning.
Human beings have a strange habit of expecting things to always remain as they are despite constant proof that nothing, and I mean nothing, does.
We look up one day to find our children inexplicably grown older. The sweet dimples on the backs of their hands disappeared, their heads smell sweaty instead of sweet, they won’t kiss us on the lips anymore.
We see our parents after time apart and suddenly we realize they are growing old. We look into the mirror and suddenly we realize that we are growing old.
People we love, people we cannot comprehend living without, die. Our lives are a series of events like this, before and after, and yet…we persist in our efforts to pretend like we have forever and ever to get it right, or to do better, or to be…whatever we think we need to be to feel satisfied by our efforts.
I am just feeling this so acutely right now, for a myriad of reasons, and I want to remind you- remind myself- that sometimes our priorities need to be revised. There are things that must be done, I get that, but make sure that you are tending closely to the things that actually mean something to you in the big picture. Be present. Make an effort to show up fully for the people you value. Not soon, but today. Enjoy the irritating little intrusions by your kids, because it means they want your attention, and that’s a gift. A gift with an expiration date, man. These moments are valuable.
At the end of it all, what you have left is love. Everything else falls away, and what is left is love. The love you gave, the love you were given, the love you wish you would have given more of, the regret of not loving enough. I promise you this is the truth. Every single thing in your life will change, except for this. So, do with that what you will…but try not to forget it.
January 10th: Limitations
Right off the bat, I want to apologize for the title of this post. I had a bunch of other extraneously worded ideas, but this one basically sums it up, so I’m going with it.
First off, there are a lot of memes and blurbs and ideas floating around about “blasting through your limitations” and “the only limits that exist are in your mind” and blah blah blah. Well, okay, sure. There are days when I certainly feel this way, and I get it, then.
But what about the other days? The days when you can’t stop procrastinating? The days when you go to bed at night disappointed with yourself for the three things you still didn’t do, even though you’ve been trying to make yourself do them for weeks? What about the mornings like the one I am having, where I really wanted to work on my novel, but I just couldn’t make myself do it?
The thing is, life, for me, is an unpredictable sea. Sometimes, for weeks at a stretch, I can navigate the waters beautifully and I think “Hey, this is my life now! This is how it will be from here on out. Yay!” And the next thing you know, I turn around and I have no idea where I am. I might be stuck on a metaphorical sandbar for weeks, or thrashing about in a monsoon, or simply adrift in calm waters with no wind to move me towards where I want to go.
If you were to tell me, during one of those less than ideal times, that I was limiting myself, I would probably want to smack you, except for the fact that I believed it was true.
But is it though? Am I really expecting myself to be operating at 100% at all times? I mean, is that realistic? I don’t think it is.
I think that it’s important to understand that circumstances change daily- sometimes more often than that- and that we are all a bit at the mercy of many varied elements. How tired we are. How stressed we might be. If you’re a woman, hormones are a HUGE factor. What our mental state is like. Relationships, work, money, health, nutrition, responsibilities…I could go on and on, but you get what I am saying. Recognizing why we might not be out there killing it is super vital if we hope to stop beating ourselves up for perceived failings.
Once you understand that, it’s a lot easier to give yourself props for the things you are getting done. For instance, this morning I might not have worked on my novel, but I did sit down and pay all of my bills. I did set up an automatic transfer to my savings account. I did meditate, shower, and get my kid in the tub. I should probably go check on her. Hahaha.
Anyway, my point is, limitations DO exist. Try to recognize where you are at today, and work with what you have. You might not be where you want to be, but there is plenty you can accomplish from wherever you are. Just know when it’s time to lower the bar a smidge, and don’t feel bad about it. It’ll get raised again when you feel better and things settle down.
January 8th: Examining Labels
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I am totally oblivious to things that are happening inside of me, in my own life. For someone who thinks of herself as pretty self-aware, this can be kind of jarring, but that is exactly what dawned on me yesterday.
Turns out I’ve been trying to be on a certain path for a long while now, and I’ve been fighting myself every step of the way.
Let me explain- you know how, all your life people tell you certain things about yourself and you hear them so often that you believe them to be true? Like, for instance, I am outgoing. I am a people person. I am a social butterfly, a chatterbox, friendly, funny, entertaining. Total extrovert, right? Well, kinda. But that isn’t all there is to see, that’s just the labels I got stuck with and believed. So, when I started to retreat a few years back, I thought that meant there was something wrong with me. If I wanted solitude, if I wanted something quieter, I must be depressed or something, right? Every year, my resolutions have included some form of being more social, more out and about, busier.
Well…let me introduce you to the theme of this year for me: “The Year of Knowing Less”. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? Okay, fine, it’s a little weird, but you know what? It fits me, and it makes me feel…like I can breathe.
While it’s true that I might love a good conversation, and that I enjoy making people laugh, the endless onslaught of information through social media has been dragging me down for years. Not that I have the willpower to stay away from it, you understand. It’s like trying to avert your eyes from a gruesome accident on the highway- I don’t want to look, but it’s nearly impossible not to. But as of recently, I’ve done a mighty good job of scaling way, way back on my consumption. Same thing with the news- I despise the president, and everything that is happening in our government with a passion. Like, I knew it would be bad, but I had no idea it would get this bad. However, me knowing about all of it, arguing about it, constantly keeping myself abreast of every detail…it has not helped me one iota. Not once. So, I’m out.
The thing is, this is what I’ve wanted for such a long time. Less knowing. Less craziness. More quiet. But I’ve been fighting it because I have held onto the labels I’ve accepted for myself without examining them to see if they were still true.
What I know to be true at this moment is this: I don’t care what anyone else thinks about me or the way I choose to live my life. I don’t have any interest in participating in meaningless internet chatter or getting myself all riled up over anything that I can do nothing about, or that doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. I am okay with my world being a little smaller, and a lot quieter. I am devoted to living a life that works best for me, and I will continually seek that out…even if no one else understands my choices.
Here’s the thing- it doesn’t matter if you are sixteen or sixty-three, you owe yourself the chance to live a life you love. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, you have to honor yourself- when you do that, everything else will begin to fall into place. Maybe not right away- there might be some strife and some struggle- but eventually, you’ll find your footing. Examine the labels you have taken as truth. You might find that some of them don’t fit anymore, or maybe never really did. Figure out who you really are and go from there. Be brave. You won’t be sorry.