Inevitable Change

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.

Limitations

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.

Examining Labels

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.

Factory Reset

January 6th: Factory Reset

What a blur the past two weeks has been! Actually, doesn’t it seem like the clock speeds up sometime around mid-November, when the preparations for Thanksgiving begin? For me it seems that way, especially now that my part is more than just showing up and eating.  The minute Thanksgiving is over, the Christmas frenzy begins- I am not much of a shopper, and even I visited more stores in November and December than I do throughout the rest of the year. Then school is out and with all the weird days off and fragmented work weeks, by the time January second rolled around this year…honestly, I didn’t know what day of the week it was. I thought there were at least four Monday’s over the past two weeks. I’m not even kidding.

For me, a messy, complicated person who craves order and routine all the more for its elusiveness, starting fresh from such a chaotic place as that is very difficult. Unlikely, even. What I really needed was a nap. A chance to recover from all that activity. A little more “back to normal” and a little less “wait, what day is this?”

Unfortunately, due to circumstances I am not even going to attempt to get into right now, that was not to be. I hope that the start to your new year was peaceful and easy, but mine took a running leap straight into facing my fears and dealing with my deepest anxieties. I dealt with it just fine, but it was exhausting all the same.

Today is the first day of what promises to be the first normal week of this year for me- no days off mid-week, no holidays, no weirdness- and I am ready for it. I spent the last 48 hours basically cocooned inside my house, accomplishing absolutely nothing that I hoped I would. I just needed a break. I wanted so badly to tackle my to-do lists and jump into mapping out my goals, but…I couldn’t. I was simply unable to do anything other than rest.

I want to lie and say I’m okay with that, but the truth is, I have no choice other than to accept it. For one thing, it’s already in the past, and we all know you can’t do anything about the past. For another, after all the years I’ve lived in this body of mine, I’ve learned that there are times when my instincts take over and render my busy human brain useless. Kind of like a factory reset- my thoughts are still swirling away, but my body goes offline and…I don’t know, installs updates, I guess. But during that time, while my body is powered down, I cannot think my way into activity. I just have to rest. I can enjoy it or not, but it’s going to happen either way.

Here’s the reason I am sharing this with you: If you are like me, and you are feeling disappointed because the past few days didn’t go the way you’d hoped, let that go. We have all been incredibly busy for the past couple of months, and maybe you, like me, needed a break. I am trying to be gentler with myself and notice when I am not. I hope you can do this too- go easy on yourself. Ironically, it’s one of the hardest tasks for me, being gentle…especially with myself. But I keep trying because I know it’s important- everyone around us is touched by our vibe, be it good or bad. So I keep aiming high…I hope you do, as well.

What is Left Behind

January 1st: What is Left Behind

Can you feel it? Man, I woke up this morning, and that New Year Energy is like a living thing- a big jumble of hope and excitement and determination, a breath of fresh air, a big zap of radiant motivation. It’s not just the start of a new year, but the start of a whole new decade…which is also the end of the last year and the last decade. What a wonderful place we are standing in right now.

The first thing I did when I woke today was suspend my Facebook account. I’ve done this on January first for the past three years now, and it is always such a relief. I am not going to pretend it is permanent, but it is a much-needed break. This year, I hope to know less about things that don’t matter to me. It’s much more peaceful that way.

After that, I lit my candles and settled onto my cushion and sent up my first prayer of the year, heartfelt and full of gratitude for all that I have, and gratitude for all that is on its way to me. I stated my intentions for the months ahead and gave lots of thanks. I meditated for a good long while. When I was done, I wrote down the things that I would not be carrying with me into this new year, each one on its own scrap of paper. Here are the things I am leaving behind:

  • Worry about what other people think of me
  • Judgement of others
  • Resentment
  • Hurt over things that happened in the past
  • Trying to control that which can’t be controlled
  • Fearing the worst

I took the scraps of paper outside, and as the sun rose on the first day of the year, I lit each one of those things on fire and dropped them, one by one, into the fire pit. I let them go. I know I will need to let them go again and again until I learn how to release them forever, but this is where we start. By naming them and releasing them.

Have you thought about what you are not bringing with you into 2020? If not, there is always time to start now, no matter when you happen to read this. The point is not to do it perfectly or call it a failure the first time you catch yourself slipping back into old habits and routines. The point is to start the journey of change, which begins with taking notice of this heavy thing you carry, setting it down…and understanding you will pick it up and put it down many times before you let it go forever. We are all works in progress. We can always find a better way, do a different thing, improve one aspect or another. Today is a wonderful day to start, but you know what? So is tomorrow…or any time you are ready. Whatever you decide, I am sending you love and good wishes for a wonderful year.

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.