2016: The Year of Reclamation.

And just like that… it’s the last day of the year.

In looking back on 2015, the temptation is there – for the first time in as long as I can remember – for wholesale condemnation of just about everything that occurred over the last twelve months. To fall prey to the perception that the bad outweighed the good, the ugly outweighed the lovely, the unfortunate and difficult outweighed the magic. It feels that way sometimes. Emotional atrophy and apathy (with some absolute anger, while I’m at it). And when in the throes of seasonal blues, it’s a challenge to see through to the other side of the clouds, where the sky is always clear.

But if I’m being honest, it didn’t ALL suck. Life is absolutely on the upswing at the moment. Starting school in the fall was a great step in that direction. Accepting a new job at a place with a healthy, motivated, forward-thinking, gratitude-driven environment was another. Braving the dating world once again and being rewarded by a few dates with a genuinely kind, honest, interesting/interested, thoughtful, and communicative man, yet another.

So 2016 will be “The Year of Reclamation.” After all the challenges and lessons from the past 12 months and beyond, it feels like it’s well past time to start reclaiming… well, everything. Life. You know?

Interestingly… I started to say things like, “reclaiming power over _________,” or “reclaiming control over __________” – like power over the direction of my life, or control over my eating, or whatever. But those things make it sound 1) like I’m in a place where I’d lost power/control in the first place, and 2) like I’m trying to hunker down and maintain a solid stance over my experience instead of, you know, embracing the fundamental ambiguity of being human and opening up to whatever comes along. The more and harder I try to control and contain, the more difficult my experience becomes. I know this for a fact.

Instead…

It’s reclamation of space. The physical space in which I spend the most time: my home. And that means paring down, donating, giving away, cleaning, organizing, reconfiguring… but it also means filling it with what brings me joy. Like the aromatherapy diffuser and the sound machine, or the new dresser, or my plans for a completely different spare room setup. The mental space previously occupied by people and events that never really earned the right to be there, but who/that were taking up space in my brain anyway (and not paying rent). The emotional space I’ve been filling with things (thoughts, feelings, emotions – shame, regret, etc.) that no longer need to be there. The space I occupy in the world – and that means living with intention again, instead of just letting life happen. Embracing mindfulness, doing more to stay in (and appreciate) the moment, instead of trying to fill the moments with other things.

It’s reclamation of values. I value eating well, and taking the time to cook healthy and delicious food for myself and those I love. I value getting rest, whenever needed. I value exploration, travel, trying new things and going to new places. I value learning, and expanding intellectually & emotionally as a result. I value the feeling I get at the end of the day after a job well done and a life well lived. I value exercise and taking good care of myself – mind, body, spirit… all of it. I value laughter. I value the acquisition of experience over the acquisition of things. And I value compassion, connection, and community.

It’s a reclamation of self and story. I think all of the above will lend itself to this. There are steps I can take and ways to engage that will bring me back to what I truly value the most, and help me become (and reclaim and embrace) ME. There’s a part of me that feels as though I’ve been lost for a really long time; a part that feels as though I’ve never quite been whole, or at least, never felt that way. I’ve never known who I was, what I brought to the table, what I had to offer. For as deep as I dig, I still feel out of touch with who I am in the world, a lot of the time. And as a result, I think that’s what causes me to doubt my value – inherently, but also the value I bring to the table with others. So, it’s going to be a year of getting to know me, learning to see and appreciate who I am, rather than letting other people try to tell me who they think I am (or should be).

I just can’t help but believe that 2016 is going to kick all kinds of ass, and I intend to do my part to make sure. Happy new year, y’all. ❤

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Comparison is, indeed, the thief of joy.

Theodore Roosevelt spoke the truth, man.

I’ve been struggling a lot this holiday season. As usual, I suppose, I mean I’m pretty sure I go through this every year. But for some reason, the demons got a little more insidious this time around. I think it’s finally on the upswing now that Christmas is over, but there’s still the NYE hurdle to get over.

It’s an interesting place to be, to find no solace at all in something that once brought happiness and pleasure. I’ve been thinking back to my ghosts of Christmas past; for the last three years, I’d found myself in some form of a hopeful place with someone, only to have it disintegrate for one reason or another. And when the good times had are tainted by the truth of what was really going on before, during, and after it was all over… I mean, damn. I can’t even enjoy the memories anymore.

So, there’s that. And there’s me, battling the part of my brain that seems hellbent on regret for past choices, actions, lost friendships, relationships, etc. I am 43 years old, single, childless… and while that may sound like a dream come true to some, it’s not at all what I’d wanted or hoped for myself. But despite my best efforts to change that, I keep winding up in this same place. The place where it’s pretty much too late for kids of my own, the place where I’m not even sure a good man (for me) exists, the place where I have to own that where I am is my own damn fault, the place where I compare my life to that of my family members and come up short in just about every way. The place where the destruction of what I knew, trusted, and loved all those years ago lent itself to me never feeling whole, like, ever.

The place where I am not enough.

(But I am, apparently, a broken record.)

And yet, I know full well this malaise, these doldrums, the winter blues, etc. will pass, and before long I’ll find myself grateful for what I have and who I am and where I’m at. I think it’s okay to call it out, knowing full well it’s temporary and that I can absolutely weather the storm like I always do. Maybe not with as much dignity or grace as I’d like sometimes, but always with the grit and determination to hang the hell in there until it passes. I know, too, that I’ve done a LOT of work this year to change the trajectory of how things have been going so far. It’s been a hard year, with a lot of lessons.

But if that means there’s a better chance at better things, then I’m willing to put in the effort. I just also think (and am grateful) this year was full of lessons I will never, ever need to learn again.

Not only am I enough, and not only do I have enough… I’ve HAD enough.

So I find myself at the end of the year with what appears to be a completely clean slate, in just about every way. Right now, that blank slate feels oppressive, overwhelming, sad, and exhaustingly scary… but what that really is, is freedom. I am free from toxic people and situations, free from having my story already told, free from obligation and expectation, free from everything and everyone that may have been holding me back, whether in real life or in my own mind. I’ve started putting the pieces in place to build a new life from the ground up, starting with a way more stable foundation. And this next year may very well require a whole lot more work to keep it going and keep it moving, but that’s okay.

I got this.

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ThxFriday, Tea, Thunderstorms, and Jive Christmas Dinnerware Dreams Edition.

Opting out of shows and into jammies for sanity’s and productivity’s sake; telling the necessary parts of the story; recognizing just how unattainably high (and unfair) my expectations are of myself sometimes (and learning to let that go); solid Saturday sessions with Noelle; calling out the holiday malaise; navigating new terrain; refusing to fall prey to negative temptations; doing the work to keep those epigenetic switches flipped; touching up the roots and book club intros; dinner dates with really good humans; slowly becoming that go-to person; saying yes in the face of fear; building a life and then immersing myself in it (you know, instead of just passive participation); eating all the many treats and good food this week as the proverbial dumping of the dirt on the carpet before getting out the vacuum; sitting with all the memories of holidays past, acknowledging them one by one (and wishing them well as they move along); family traditional dinners; and waking up from a fantastic dream to the sound of thunder and rain on Christmas Day.

As always, my thoughts, love, and heart are with all of you, whether it’s the very best season or one of the hardest times – we’re all in this together, y’all. As it should be. ❤

A Wise Person Once Said…

Friendship multiplies the good of life, and divides its evils. – Baltasar Gracian
Gratitude turns what we have into enough. – Melody Beattie
Live in freedom. – My CEO
Never again. – Me

I was talking to Noelle TWT yesterday about how, in many respects, I feel as though I’m walking on a bridge that’s exploding in fire behind me. Not that I set those fires, necessarily, but that this past year has been filled with toxic environments/people, growth opportunities, and lessons to be learned once and for all. It has felt really good to move on, forward, and away; to take a lesson from my niece and recognize those situations and people and just excuse myself from those reindeer games completely. Scorched and salted… just the way I like it.

Something else we talked about was my decision to deactivate (and potentially just delete forever) my Facebook profile. I understand there are people out there who can use those sites “normally” (whatever that means), but I’ve found that for me, it’s not healthy. As I put it yesterday, it’s like I’m trying to fill a void, but instead just end up making it bigger. That site makes me feel lonely; being privy to the photos and events and other things that friends (near and far) participate in doesn’t make me feel closer to them – it makes me feel further away and disconnected. I also feel like the site opens me up to things I want nothing to do with, so. No more. I figure if I’m not interacting with people in real life now, removing that site from my existence isn’t going to change anything or make it worse. If anything… better. Much, much better.

There isn’t really much more to report these days. I’m getting back into a gym routine, slowly but surely, and that feels good. Last week I stopped drinking coffee and am now having tea in the mornings instead; I don’t know where the hell that inclination came from, but I’m just going with it. Now that the horrific caffeine headache has passed, I’m just enjoying the change. I’ve spent this weekend mostly at home, nesting and tending to things that needed my attention, which felt way better than going to the shows I’d planned to attend. Basically, just paying attention to what my brain & body are telling me is best.

And really, that’s what it all comes down to. I’ve spent a lot of time ignoring those things, and struggling for/because of it. I guess that’s probably the biggest lesson I’ve learned this year: your body will tell you the right thing to do and the best direction to take. I know mine does, despite how much I’ve tried to ignore it (and paid the price). When someone or something causes you severe anxiety, pay attention to that. When someone or something causes you grief, confusion, or upset… pay attention to that. When a message or a path or an insight keeps poking its head into the door of your awareness, let it in and follow its lead.

Don’t be afraid of hearing or telling the truth, and find the people who will tell it with you.

ThxFriday, You’re My Satellite Edition.

Tacos, hot chocolate, and Christmas lights with a pretty amazing 15 year old; Saturday morning massages; productivity instead of the Leiper’s Fork nativity festivities; high-school-crush-turned-down-the-street-neighbor doing the Lord’s work with that damn dresser (more treats are on the way); burgers with family; every busy work day filled with so many kinds of gratitude; news from the toxic war fronts further affirming all decisions made and actions taken; board members honoring the staff for Christmas, and getting to hobnob in that faincy house; breaking in that contoured pillow; lengthy conversations, each as meaningful as the last; playing Rumpelstiltskin, at least for a couple of days; treat exchanges at work; Thursday night dinner dates with my mama; being challenged by the people who remind me, just by being there, of who I really want to be; swapping it out for Boston and Kansas; finding better ways to say difficult truths; opting for comfort and TCOB in place of a long-awaited Christmas show (maybe next year, Mike Farris); hopping straight into jammies at 5pm instead; getting more done in the span of three hours than has been done in the last three years (at least as it pertains to paperwork); and just having so many things to look forward to.

Tis the weekend of reclamation and celebration.

And this. I am so, so grateful for this. As my friend captioned… “Dream big, little meow meow.” You know? I think I will. ❤

Rawr.

Real-ing in the new year, Velveteen Rabbit style.

It’s been a hell of a year. I have to say, I’m kind of relieved it’s almost over. I’m not usually one to look back and say, “Good riddance!” because I’m usually so anti-regret, and invariably there’s good to be found in every year that’s passed – even the really, really tough ones.

This has been a really, really tough one.

And not even for reasons one might think. I guess I’ve kept pretty quiet about what I’m sure appeared to be some tough and unfortunate parts, at least from the outside looking in, so it’s likely that outside perspective is a whole lot different than the reality. And yes, I’m being intentionally vague, because this isn’t at all the forum for discussing such things.

But whatever. It was still pretty rough there for a while, in a few different parts. And yet I can say, with all sincerity, that I am thankful for every single thing I went through, and every single thing I learned this year as a result. I’m supremely grateful and amazed and relieved for how it’s all worked out. Even when the packages in which the lessons came wrapped were painful (or stressful or confusing or scary or ugly or dramatic or dysfunctional or avoidant or manipulative or dishonest or or or… etc.), I don’t regret any of it – even the intentional “learning/growth experiences” for the sake of the long game. I’m coming out the other side of it all in a way better place than where I started and really, that’s all I can ask.

So… yeah. I learned a lot in school, and loved every eye-crossing second of it; I learned a lot from my family (every last one of ’em, but especially my niece); I learned a lot from other people (woof, did I learn some things); I learned a lot at the old job about what does (and definitely doesn’t) work for me; and I can already tell I’m going to learn a ton at the new job, too.

Have I mentioned how much I love to learn and grow as a human?

A few weeks ago, I read a book by Sam Harris called, “Lying.” It’s short, sweet, and touts the benefits (as well as the morality and logistics) of simply telling the truth, all the time, no matter what. It’s an interesting thing to contemplate; I’ve got a strong desire to put that into practice in my own life, and I have a whole lot more I could say about that, too, but in the meantime I will just say that it got me thinking about what it means to me to be real, and how I can incorporate that into my life in the coming year.

Real friends, real life, real connection, real talk… this is what I want for myself in the year (and life) ahead. And a small part of what that means for me is cutting out some social media accounts completely. Like, for good. I’ll keep Instagram for pictures, probably Twitter for following people who are a whole lot more interesting and smarter than I, this space… and that’s it.

What I’ve come to observe is that people might use social media (namely, Facebook) for different things – catching up, staying in touch, updating friends and family on special happenings (or day-to-day stuff too, I suppose), business or band promotion, event invitations, treating the timeline like a litter box for opinion turds, bragging, stalking, dramatic blowouts, messing with people and perception by putting up pictures that don’t accurately represent what’s really going on… but you know, gee. Not surprisingly, pretty much none of it feels real to me. It feels like a false, shallow replacement for real connection, letting everyone (including me) off the hook for maintaining actual relationships with other people. I think a lot of our problems as a community, society, and members of the human race would be alleviated, or at least lessened somewhat, if we just put the electronics down and TALKED to each other. I realize I sound like an old fart, and maybe I am, but we’re not wired for being wired; we’re wired for connection.

I’ve had enough. I want to reach out to people, and I want them to reach out to me, too. Like, for real reach out. Not just pass over a picture I posted and walk away feeling like they know how my life is going. You know? I want to have real interactions and real relationships with real people in real life. Real connection, real love and affection… all of it. And, conversely, I don’t want to keep getting or giving any false impressions about levels of connection and friendship, either.

So, come 1/1/16… no more Facebook, and a significant paring down of other social media. A whole lot of other life changes, too. I’m excited to see and experience all that the coming year has to offer, and am equally excited about all the lessons and wisdom I’m bringing with me.

“If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud.” – Émile Zola

Every moment is another chance to get things right.
Every moment is another chance to get things right. Don’t ever forget that. ❤ 

ThxFriday, Freedom Edition.

Taking the final quiz and that first huge sigh of relief; gluten-free baking adventures that turn out pretty okay (even when the cake weighs fifteen pounds); BBQ and birthday celebrations; early morning airport trips; letting things (and people) go instead of trying to force the issue; recognizing when it probably just ain’t right; brunch with friends, our Minnesotan waitress, and beer all afternoon; embracing mistakes as a means of learning more; hallway fights serving as an always-welcome reminder; rising above the chaos; laughing when it gets to be too much; taking a cue from a 15 year old for removal of self from dramatic situations; being surrounded by gratitude and grace; reaching out and making plans; letting someone else take the lead for once; recognizing crazy for what it really is; the discovery of friendly, familiar neighbors; dinner out with mom; WD-40 for the bee-hinds; and what looks to be a pretty great weekend ahead. ❤

Strike that! Reverse it. Thank you.

My family has a few Thanksgiving traditions, one of which is that we go around the table and name one thing for which we’re grateful. The catch: it can’t be anything easy or obvious, so no saying things like family, friends, or health. This year, everyone had great things to say, but my personal favorite was this: my niece expressed her gratitude for having it in her to recognize drama and toxic behavior, and then having the accompanying willingness (and wisdom!) to simply detach and remove herself from the toxic/dramatic person or situation.

Honestly. She’s 15, and already way smarter that a lot of adults I know (myself included).

Along with being in constant awe of that kid, her gratitude item got me thinking. And if you know me at all, then you know, 1) I pretty much exist on brain/thinking overdrive, and 2) anything pertaining to gratitude is my jam. If there’s a way to find the bright/positive side, I’ll find it; if there’s a way to view things from a grateful perspective, I’ll get there. Uh, eventually. It’s what keeps me (mostly) sane, tolerable to others, and living a much fuller, happier life than in years past.

Anyway. I realized that while there are plenty of obvious things for which to be grateful, there are also a whole lot of ways I’ve been finding the bright side lately. The good to counteract the bad, I suppose. Although… “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” per our dear old William Shakespeare. Whatever the case, here’s a partial list of specifics:

  • I’m grateful to be so busy at the new job that I hardly have time to eat lunch; I still get out of there by 4pm, and actually feel like I’ve been useful;
  • Related: I’m grateful to be so revved by the new gig that I’m having crazy dreams and restless nights, because that tells me all the overload is getting processed and that I’m being challenged;
  • Also related: I’m grateful for making mistakes, because it means I’m doing and trying and failing but getting right back up and trying again – also, learning how to forgive myself my fallibility (that’s a tough one) and being okay with getting right-sized;
  • Making mistakes also means I can offer up understanding and compassion when other people are going through the new person struggle, too;
  • I’m grateful for all the terrible messages on dating sites, because they make the good ones stand out all the more, and also help bring my interests and intentions into way sharper focus;
  • I’m grateful for the folks who don’t reach out or make an effort, because in the midst of feeling lonely or “apart from,” it helps me prioritize the ones who do reach out, and who DO make an effort – and it reminds me to make that effort, too;
  • I’m grateful for not having cable, because it means I end up watching Criminal Minds reruns and hearing new songs that hit just the right spot (like this one, which is a longtime favorite, or this new one from tonight – his voice reminds me a little bit of Antony & the Johnsons, so here’s one of my favorites there, too); and
  • I’m grateful for not being able to do everything myself, because it means asking for help, and that means letting people in.

I’m currently working on being grateful for that stupid B+ I got in one of my classes because I misunderstood the grading scale, overestimated the power of the extra credit, and despite having good reason, skipped two assignments that were only worth 5 points each but were 10% of my grade. Lesson learned, and this here’s fuel for the A-only fire for next semester.

In the meantime… I’m grateful for a month off. And aaaaaaalllllllll this perspective I’ve got. ❤

ThxFriday, Gratitude Central Edition.

Wrapping up the old to make way for the new; embracing the “not my chair, not my problem/not my circus, not my monkeys” mantras; working out the kinks in the very best of hands; final visits before getting sprung; taking time to tend to self; fifteen year old food for thought; resisting the urge and feeling better for it; taking one for the team for the sake of entertainment (with a little bit of hope buried underneath); sisterly visits; birthday celebrations; raspy interactions; life choice affirmations; the arrival of the end of my first semester of grad school (phew); and the absolute joy I’ve found in being challenged, utilized, and so busy at work I hardly know what’s what. What I do know, though… I’m in the right place. ❤