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.

What If's

December 2nd: What if’s

I have been beset with the “what-if’s” the past few days. I’ve been having such a lovely time with my life lately- enjoying friends and family, reveling in my clean little house, feeling quite content with my lot in life.

Suddenly, the idea of tossing everything I know up into the air and moving as far across the country as I could possibly go without leaving it altogether…seems terrifying! What if I’m making a giant mistake?! What if I’m horribly lonely? What if, what if, what if…?

Luckily, I remembered some very important things. And I asked these new “what-if’s” of myself: What if you stopped looking at everything as if it were the last thing you would ever do, and remembered that your life is made up of many parts, this being one of them? What if you remembered that you can, despite what the old saying tells us, come home again? What if you have the time of your life? What if, a year from this day, you are sitting at your desk, looking out of a snowy window, thinking “This is the most wonderful thing I have ever done?”. What if you just see how it goes?

Because I do, indeed, still want to go. I’ve checked in with myself, over and over again, and yes…the answer is still a resounding yes.

I’m scared to death. I’d be a fool not to be. This is a really big thing I’m planning on doing. But when I think back on all of the really big things I’ve ever done, they were also the greatest things I’ve ever done.

Look- we get one shot at this life, at least, as the person we are this go round. I have no idea who I’ll be next time, or if I’ll come back at all, or if I’ll be the sort of person that wants to do crazy things like pack up shop and move…everywhere. So, sure, fear is natural. But you cannot let it stop you from living the biggest, best, most joy-filled life you are capable of. So, I’m turning those “what-if’s” around, crossing my fingers, and forging ahead. ‘Cause what if this is the exact right thing? How will you know unless you try?

Bound

November 30th: Bound

First of all, I missed another day…I didn’t forget, I was just busy with my family. Sometimes we must prioritize.

Today, I am coping with the silence of this house after everyone has gone on their way. For someone like me, who generally enjoys being alone, I find myself a little bit out of sorts. There is nothing quite like knocking around in an empty house after everyone you love has left.

To remedy my loneliness, I called some people I love in hopes of cheering myself up. Instead, I found myself leaving each phone call more worried and sadder than I already was. These are people who are close, very close, to my heart. Both of them are making decisions that I don’t understand, and I know, I just KNOW, that if the situations were reversed, they would be equally as concerned and worried about me.

I hung up the phone and sat in my dark, empty house…unsure what more I could do. There is no one I can call to share these things with, there is no way to help. So, what do I do?

Here’s the thing: Life is hard sometimes. No matter how old we are or what we think we know, there are yet more lessons to be learned. I have often thought that it is more painful to witness someone we love going through a tough time than it is to be going through it ourselves. At least when you are in it, you can do something. When you are a bystander, all you can do is sit helplessly by and watch and wish you could think of the right words to get through to the people you love.

We are, all of us, bound by love to others in this world. It is what gives life to our lives- even someone like me, closed off as I can be, knows that. Sometimes that means sharing in the good things, and sometimes that means…just standing by, ready to be there when you are needed. It means checking in, reminding people of how much they are loved, and how much they matter. Sometimes it means telling hard truths, saying the words “You don’t sound like you’re okay, and I think I know what’s going on.” Sometimes it means rocking the boat a little bit. Sometimes love asks us to be a little more brave and speak up a little louder…even if it makes people defensive or angry. When you love someone, you need to recognize what is needed, and show up.

Today, if there is someone you love who is struggling, I hope you can see it for what it is. Rather than wonder, pick up the phone and let them know you are here. That you see them. That you love them. That even if they can’t talk right now, you’re gonna call again tomorrow, and the day after that, until they can. Life is hard, sometimes. Don’t let your loved ones think they are alone. And if you are hurting…open up when someone reaches out. Even if you’re ashamed or scared. Let someone in. We need each other so much more than we think.

Now

November 5th: Now

I’m going to tell you about a weird little personal quirk of mine (What else is new? I hear you thinking that!): Okay…I buy myself really pretty underwear, and then I never want to wear them. I want to “save them” for…something. Some far-off day, perhaps, when my lady bits have earned the distinctive panty award. Oh, right…that’s not a thing, is it? Well, maybe it’s…no, you know what? It just doesn’t make any sense at all, no matter which way I try to rationalize it.

It is, however, a good analogy for the way I live my life lots of times. And I bet, since we have established at this point that I am not nearly as unique and eccentric as I would like to pretend, that you are guilty of the same offense- waiting and waiting and waiting for the “right time” to do all of the things you want to do most.

We like to pretend that somewhere down the road we will be better prepared, more established, more capable of pursuing our dreams. Well guess what? I’m 44. Half my life, at least, is probably behind me at this point. To be honest with you, I don’t feel anymore prepared for anything than I did ten years ago. The main difference is that I’m just a bit more cynical, my body hurts if I sit in the same position for too long, and I like naps more. Just kidding, I couldn’t possibly like naps more. I’ve always loved naps. Seriously, though- on the inside, I’m not much different.

I’m still scared to death that I’m going to mess things up. This move, for instance- I lay in bed at night and I have moments where I’m like ‘I can still just stay. My life is fine here, why am I doing this?’ and the icy feeling in the pit of my stomach is a fearsome thing. But you can’t believe everything you think when you’re alone in bed in the middle of the night. So, every day, I check in with myself- do I still want this? And the answer is always exactly the same- a resounding yes.

Because it might not work out. It might end up being less than spectacular. I might have regrets. But the thing is, those regrets will be nothing compared to the ones I will have if I don’t try. Not someday, not when the time is right, but now. Well, not right now, next summer, but you know what I mean. My life is fine the way it is, that’s true. But man, that’s not really what I want on my headstone. “Here lies Courtney. Her life was… fine.”

Unless you are actively making plans, your “goals” aren’t goals at all, they’re just wishes. And wishes are nice, but they don’t generally amount to much, do they?

Today, I want you to stop saving your good underwear. You deserve to wear the fanciest, laciest, prettiest ones right NOW. And by that, of course, I mean- stop relegating your dearest desires to an uncertain future. Right now is the perfect time to begin laying down the foundation of your dreams. Once you begin, even if it is just in the smallest way, that action has significance. Don’t wait for the perfect time, because the perfect time doesn’t exist. Just start right now, right where you are.