Sacred Space

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.

Enjoy

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.

Space

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!

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.

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.