#VOWrepair: The Journey of the Warrior

The thing to know is that, for me, repair does not mean to make whole. It does not mean to complete. It does not mean to make anew.

Repair means to fix or mend (a thing suffering from damage or a fault).

I like that.

You fix things you care about. You mend things you need in your life. Sometimes you just work on things, refurbishing them, for no other reason than love.

And sometimes you don’t do those things for all the same reasons. You walk away because you care, for no other reason than love.

I sat on the beach early on in the week. Or rather I lie there. And I didn’t try to fix or mend anything. Nor did I try to walk away. I was simply still.

The day after I came back, I saw Glennon Doyle speak on Thursday night, and it was completely perfect.

That’s the thing I’m learning to trust, by the way, that the Universe Buddha God, sometimes brings beaches and books and bold fucking females to you exactly when you need them.

Anyway, she talked about the thing that I highlighted and underlined (yes, I do both—highlighting is a for passages that speak, and underlines are for points within that do) when I first read Love Warrior.

She was writing about Bikram (something I have a close personal relationship with) and a Pema Chödrön passage about the journey of the warrior:

So even if the hot loneliness is there, and for 1.6 seconds we sit with that   restlessness when yesterday we couldn’t sit for even one, that’s the journey of the warrior.

Glennon reflects:

What if pain—like love—is just a place brave people visit? What if both require presence, staying on your mat, and being still? If this is true, then maybe instead of resisting pain, I need to resist the easy buttons. Maybe my reliance on numbing is keeping me from the things I was born for: learning and loving. I could go on hitting easy buttons until I die and feel no pain, but the cost of that decision could be that I will never learn, love, or be truly alive.

That’s #VOWrepair.

It’s about caring enough about what you went through to let it cause you pain. And valuing that experience and loving yourself enough to be worthy of what that pain could teach you.

As Elizabeth Gilbert wrote, “Ruin is the road to transformation.”

And as you know, Sister and I are big fans of that road and the women who have helped us learn how walk it (Brené first and foremost, followed by Elizabeth and Glennon and Cheryl).

And this week, we continue on with the journey of the warrior as we…

REACH.


Steph’s EXPLORE mantra: We are not meant to stay wounded.

Steph’s Song of the Week: Hard Feelings/Loveless by Lorde

& Don’t miss Lin’s post on #VOWrepair (coming soon!).

Exactly This…

Today’s TED is from Tim Ferriss on Why you should define your fears instead of your goals.

“The hard choices — what we most fear doing, asking, saying — are very often exactly what we need to do. How can we overcome self-paralysis and take action? Tim Ferriss encourages us to fully envision and write down our fears in detail, in a simple but powerful exercise he calls “fear-setting.” Learn more about how this practice can help you thrive in high-stress environments and separate what you can control from what you cannot.”

Tim discusses how to work through our worst fears by listing what we’re afraid of, define what the fears are, ways to prevent it, and ways you can REPAIR the damage if it comes to fruition.

Then he asks you review the benefits at just trying whatever you’re questioning… and the cost of inaction.

Sometimes #VOWrepair is about doing all we can to avoid disaster. Sometimes it is about fixing what is broken. And sometimes it’s just about thinking things through to figure out a solution you don’t immediately see.

Watch the full talk above (or here).

Searching and Measuring: Reflecting on EXPLORE

My god, this would have been the perfect week to travel.

One of my favorite things in life is taking to a new place on foot. Winding through streets with a general destination in mind but no hurry or rush to get there. To see the touristy sights, to discover the hidden gems, to picture what it would be like to live here. Is it for me? How would my life be different? How would it be the same?

The escapism of a new country or a new town or an unknown road speaks to all of us in a similar way to the familiarity of our childhood homes. There’s something there that you want to soak in until you’ve covered every square inch and can finally feel satisfied.

Alas. This week I did not get to travel. I did not even make an attempt to explore my new city on foot, though last Friday we did have a new neighborhood recommended to us with some good ol’ Southern architecture.

Rather my exploration was more about mapping my future. Over a matter of days, two paths unfurled themselves in front of me. One was the promise of a new skill set and better boss. The other, homework and late night coffee fixes.

For me, grad school has been a long time in the making. Working in higher ed, I have to earn another degree at some point. But at 32, I don’t want to study for the GRE and re-learn all the useless information I’ve lost in the past 15 years post-graduation (I’m looking at you, geometry). And finding a program that actually fits with how I want to build a career but won’t take an eternity to complete has been a struggle. But last week I finally bit the bullet, applied to a program that the more I EXPLORED it, the more excited I became. Josh heard me proclaim more than once a class on Deviant Behavior? Oh my god, that’s PERFECT! I drafted the essay, deposited the application fee, requested the referrals.

And of course as soon as my mind was made up and submissions made — poof. Another opportunity to throw me into a tailspin.

Now don’t get me wrong, I recognize this as a true blessing and a privilege. But there’s nothing quite like an equally promising, well, promise that makes you doubt all your well-intentioned choices.

A job posting, related to my field and supervised by someone I have a positive standing relationship with opened. I was more than qualified and the words “love to have you” may have been bandied about. My heart was aglow with the feeling of appreciation from an office I respect. This position was a glittering resolution to my six-month struggle with new leadership of my office. A remedy to the soul-crushing lack of value for my efforts. A muffle to the ever-growing rants about infuriating decisions towards which I have no (official) voice.

Last week I found myself awake late at night, mentally EXPLORING my options. Weighing one versus another. Envisioning which would make greatest impact and afford me greatest future success. Stressing and dreaming and scrutinizing.

I ended up not applying for the job, putting all my eggs in the familiar basket. Metaphorically choosing to stroll the streets I cross every day seeking for a glimpse of something yet-unseen. The tucked away door that leads to the Secret Garden. That’s the risk of EXPLORE, I suppose. It can be fun and exciting but also tiring and kinda scary if you turn down an unfamiliar street and find yourself at a crossroads.

Wish me luck.

This week we REPAIR…

And be sure to check out Steph’s post on #VOWexplore

#VOWexplore: A State of Mind?

I’m headed to the beach on Monday, when I’m normally writing and publishing these posts, so I got started a bit early…

To be honest, I’d probably have more to say about #VOWexplore next week, after I return from my trip, but by Sunday, we will already be moving on to a different verb, so I need to post what I know about it now.

Note: I paused right here to look up what our next VOW is, and I just shook my head in disbelief: Repair. Universe Buddha God, I gotta hand it to you…you’re good.

It’s no secret to you, my dear readers (that could potentially be limited to my sister), that I am heartbroken, and to be quite honest, exploring anything other than my bed and bottles of wine is not what I wanted to do (yes, this is numbing Brene fans, but I gave myself a limit that my sister will keep me accountable to, so please give me some grace). I did drag myself out of my house to an event with a true lady boss on Tuesday, to a storytelling class on Wednesday, and to my favorite bookstore (and sanctuary) on Thursday. I have plans to go dancing with girlfriends and lounge at a pool with my bestie this weekend, and I booked a solo trip to the beach early next week. Last night, I even managed to clean my apartment (minus a HUGE, monumental even, basket of laundry to fold…I hate folding laundry).

Honestly, I think that’s a pretty good first heartbreak week (though I only did all that stuff because it happened to be scheduled—had it not, I probably would have stayed in bed).

But tonight, I have zero interest in doing anything, because I am sick of looking around. Because what I didn’t tell you, besides having a packed week, is that I spent a lot of time inside my heard cleaning out metaphorical closets and throwing shit on the floor; it’s a huge mess.

There’s nearly two years of memories just lying around. Everywhere. There are questions sitting in a pile that need to be picked up and sorted through. There are what-if’s collecting like dust on surfaces. There’s a big you-made-a-mistake hiding under the bed. And in the corner sits a still small voice, cowering from the many things I threw at it.

I spent the week exploring that space. Trying to clean it up. In order to find something. However, I mainly spent time putting things in boxes and taking them right back out again, making no progress at all.

And I guess that’s the thing about exploring…it requires perspective. You can travel across the world, to a place you’ve never been, and still see nothing new. You can choose to see just another body of water and just another building. You can go for a walk in the neighborhood where you’ve lived for five years, taking the same route you take every day, and see an alley you’ve never noticed though you pass it every day.

The thing is: I’m just not ready yet.

To clean it up.

It needs to stay as it is for now. Until I stop throwing things at my house elf of an intuition.

Until I give her some socks and set her free and see what happens.

And yes, I am fucking proud of that last Harry Potter reference.

This coming week, I’m heading to a little cottage on the beach that I’ve rented for myself. To relax. To read. To just be. To potentially start to…

REPAIR.


Steph’s EXPLORE mantra: When the climb gets harder, make your world smaller.

Steph’s Song of the Week: The Black and White by The Band Camino

& Don’t miss Lin’s post on #VOWexplore (coming soon!).

Where You Look is What You’ll See: Reflecting on FOCUS

I find it funny that I have had such a hard time finding direction for this week’s post. It’s been lingering in my mind, a general idea of concept but I struggled to hone in and articulate my thoughts. And now I find myself posting a very belated essay and wondering if I have it in me to make an impact with my words.

Really, you could just skip this post and instead check out what Steph has recently drafted because she’s really been killing the vulnerability game lately — #VOWfocus from this week and #VOWrelease from last.

Despite our VOWs being posted online, I never really skip ahead and mentally prepare myself for our word until it arrives. Then I mildly reflect to see where I might want to direct my energies that week. Where do I succeed at FOCUSing? Where do I struggle? What do I wish I FOCUSed on that I don’t? What do I spend too much time FOCUSing on? So on, so forth.

Inevitably my analysis falls into two categories: work or romantic relationship. You, dear reader, can attest. I love both. One causes me insane amounts of stress for which I feel powerless to control. The other I am mindful to keep sacred (not to mention functional and fulfilling). But they do not make up my entire life and therefore should not comprise my representation on this blog.

It’s hard to acknowledge that with my relocation, most of my friendships have changed. And I’ve struggled with that reality because I cherish so, so many individuals. The affection has never changed. But keeping up with people is hard, especially when the conversations become more about catching up than building up the relationship. And I end up saying the same thing in the varied conversations that I bore of my updates and instead try to prompt for information.  To no fault of my friends, I know this, but I’m so far behind that bringing people to-date feels daunting. And exhausting. (Again, not you, it’s me)

I also tend to be an all-or-nothing’er. Meaning, I want to catch up with EVERYONE RIGHT AWAY. I overbook myself and make ALL THE SKYPE CALLS. And by the end of it, I feel shitty because I’m not giving my all to the person I care about. So I do what is normal in overwhelming situations — avoid and procrastinate. Which just makes reconnection even harder.  I know this so why do I do it?

I think that is where FOCUS comes in. Because you see what you look for. And when you’re not honed in at all, you end up missing a lot. And when I’m too focused on catching up the “right way” I end up being the person who moves away and fades into oblivion.

I’m sorry for being that person, friends. And I made a list (because when faced with any dilemma, that’s what I do) of everyone I want to correspond with. The list is long and it’ll take me time to get through all the names. Because when we speak, I want to be able to truly FOCUS on what’s important — you.

 

Next week I promise to have something a bit more exciting because it’s time that we EXPLORE

An Open Letter to My Heartbroken Beloved About #VOWfocus

My Dearest Friend,

I know so intimately what you feel at this exact moment. The difference is perhaps that I am a bottle of wine in, and you have likely opted instead for deep fried and paper thin….dealer’s choice.

That not withstanding, I know what you’re going through.

The emotional ache that you never quite believe is physical until you feel it crack your chest. The pain you know you’ve felt but can never for the life of you remember. The I’m Sorry for every little thing you think back on that may have altered our course and now seems just so insignificant. The self-loathing for the times you doubted us or let your mind wander to something else. The What If’s and Maybe’s that repeat like a Top 40 Carly Rae Jepson song. The panic that sets in when you mentally un-circle the dates on a calendar. When you start to un-build a life that only physically lacked the ring.

More than anything, I want to talk to you about that last part. Because, for some reason, I still think it’s what you need to hear. Or maybe I’m projecting, and it’s what I need to hear.

In our three decades (you give some, and I’ll take a little), we’ve both been here enough to know that the sun moves us on, willing or not. But that the times in between the sun, our skin stays marked (mine permanently and in ink considering your handwriting is tattooed on my arm)—it aches and flakes and tans and scars.

I just wanted to remind you, in the moment between the sun, that your focus can be your aloe. That you should let it soothe you. And let that brief respite be okay. Let grateful replace the guilt I…you feel.

Tonight, a half bottle in, I think it’s pretty remarkable what us humans can do. The ones who make a decision, conscious or seemingly unconscious (though we know—if not at first then always at some point—love is a choice), to give our heart to someone who could break it. To stand in the arena and wave a red flag at love. And the resilient ones, to do it again. And again even.

The lovers don’t get enough credit I think.

So I want to tell you how strong I think you are. For having done this before, legally even, and choosing to do it again. With me.

There is nothing in me but the deepest and most sincerest of gratitudes, for seeing in me, something that needed to be seen. And admiration, for choosing to enter.

I’m getting sidetracked.

I used to have this yoga teacher, who I wish I could tell how profoundly she changed my life. Anyway, in my Bikram class one day, she said, “When the climb gets harder, make your world smaller.” It’s advice I’ve gone back to again and again. And I return to it now, because it saved my life before.

Because my world without you seems vast.

Unformed.

I assume yours does as well. And I want to remind you, as you have so often done with me, to breathe. To focus on the next breath instead of the next day. And the next minute instead of the next week. And the next hour instead of the next month.

It’s okay to make your world small.

And when you let a painful minute just be a painful minute, it’s easier to let the next minute be one of pure love. And the next of pure gratitude. And the next of pure pain.

Inhale. Exhale. Repeat. It’s all good. (Thank you, Alia Khan).

And I think, in that third minute, that these three-minute cycles of grief are, truly, a pretty remarkable gift we’ve given to each other. So please, and I hope you will, be grateful. Know that I am. Grateful. In more ways and more words than I would ever pen here.

Above all else, I want you to remember, that you are what I started this letter with: My Dearest Friend. And that no matter what becomes of our story in your mind, in mine, and in the end, you will always be at least and at most (which is the highest regard with which Abigail Adams addressed her correspondence to her most beloved): My Dearest Friend.

And for now this is all the salve that I can give you. And for that I hate myself, but, for my own good, I let it be enough.

Because, you know me and you know, words have always been the thing I was best at.

I need to go drink another glass of wine for tonight, because I’m reaching the end of a three-minute cycle, and it just hurts.

But remember to focus on breathing. And that it’s okay, when you don’t have to anymore.

With the Heart I Hope You Would Still Love,

 

S

P.S. This week, we

EXPLORE,

And I make plans to head to the sea (and meet salt water with salt water) with Mermaid Jar funds (more to come).

 

White Knuckled: Reflecting on RELEASE

The end of the school year is a hectic time for everyone in the field. First grade teachers, University professors, admin staff, and student affairs professionals. I’m not alone in the race to the finish line.

And yet — finals have been graded and summer classes well underway. Graduation has commenced and the gowns laundered and stored for another year.

And here I am, chugging away. Taking small strides to finish the work that honest to god feels like it’ll never end. For every case I free myself from, another comes in. And with it, the burnout smoldering inside me.

But I have persisted. I have typed. I have pushed. And I have made progress step by step.

And over the past week, I sat at my desk, fingers rapidly typing over 75 pages of information. At long last, on Friday afternoon, I liberated myself from a project several months in the making. And holy shit it felt good. Yet I’m having a hard time relaxing and letting the stress go.

It’s like I’ve been white knuckling work for so long that RELEASING my grip almost hurts.

I clicked save on my document at 2:00pm before the long weekend and unleashed myself from my office for the long weekend. The feeling was like skipping school and I felt just a little bit guilty for it. Though with a cold beer in had, it’s easy to justify your decisions a bit. Added with the reminder that it is summer and while my load may never fully lighten, it need only be as heavy as I enable it to be.

And this week, it’s back to the grindstone where we will FOCUS…


Read Steph’s BEAUTIFUL post on #VOWrelease

featured image courtesy of Tony Shasteen

A Time to #VOWrelease (& Never Read This Post Again)

I’ve been thinking a lot about letting go.
About the long list of things I need to release.

And let me tell you, it is quite extensive these days.

For the last month and a half, I have felt heavy. Both physically and metaphorically.

I’m struggling with my body again. To get out from under it. But my mind is hell bent on keeping me where I am, pinning me there with all its weight.

This isn’t a new struggle for me.

I’ve been back to the childhood journals to investigate its roots. And it started in earnest sometime around eleven, but the battle for my body began well before the first shot was ever fired. Years before I realized that my body looked different from what I thought it was supposed to look like, I watched my mother wage war on hers.

Back then though, while there is no doubt it stemmed from my brain, I thought it had only to do with my body. If I ate better or went for my runs consistently, it got better. And given that I was still living under my parents’ roof, I hadn’t yet had the chance to experiment with drugs like refined sugar, processed carbs, and wine.

These days, it’s not so easy.

Because I know too much but still somehow, not enough.

Now I know that when I wake up each morning and stand in front of my mirror naked first thing, inspecting and sizing up and pinching and deciding my worth based on that moment (and the two handfuls of the same that happen throughout the day), it isn’t a body problem. Because no amount of healthy eating and exercise fixes what you see in the mirror.

No doubt it helps, but, on its own, it treats a symptom, not the cause.

I’m heavy for other reasons you see. Deep wounds my parents and I have inflicted on each other that seem like they may never heal. Consistent worries that I will pass those wounds on or continue to pour salt in them. Lack of trust in a relationship that I don’t know how to fix but desperately want to. And a body (and in turn, a person) I want to quit sizing up by what I see in the mirror.

I was listening to a podcast the other day, and a woman said something about how she decided one day, she just couldn’t take it anymore. She couldn’t keep being just the right size and worried about gaining weight or not where she wanted to be and scrutinizing everything she put in her mouth. She wanted peace with her body.

So she set her mind accepting herself and learning how to eat mindfully. And let me tell you, that sounded so easy.

It’s not.

I mean I haven’t even tried it, and I am getting hung up on the thought. Learning to eat mindfully is one thing—though I will point out there is not a manual for that. But accepting your body for what it is? That just sounds like a recipe for continuing on and not caring.

And as my mind was starting to make the rhetorical rebuttals, she started speaking to them. Talking about how accepting your body doesn’t mean giving up. How it means starting to live in the way of the belief that the body you have is the one you already love. And how when you start to love your body for what it is, it’s hard to hate it, and it’s easier to treat it better.

I get it.
But it’s hard.
To let go of so very much.

And it’s more comfortable. In my bed. With streaming sitcoms and glasses of wine. And my self-righteous indignation.

But I know enough to know that it’s time to get out on my own or have someone pull me out, because this is not the person I want to be, and I’m slowly becoming her.

And that isn’t something I am willing to accept.

I’m a girl who likes to work for it, and it’s time to keep building.

And this is a post I don’t go back to proofread or I will never post it, so apologies for any typos.

This week, we

Focus.

Give It A — :Reflecting on REST

Because I read a shit-ton of blogs and many, many books in the self-help genre, I am routinely inundated with the message put to society — especially mothers and other caretakers — Make sure you prioritize YOU time, too! Put yourself on your own to-do list. You can’t function on your highest level when you’re running on empty.

This is a VERY important message.
I take it to heart.
In fact, I took it to heart when I first heard it and integrated the lesson into my everyday.

And it’s funny because I feel like as someone who routinely prioritizes her mental health, as a person who can turn off and relax  on a regular basis, and who often treats herself for no reason at all, I often get judged for the exact thing which we’re all encouraged to do.

Because our culture, especially for women, embraces the idea of business as a status symbol. And even when we’re confronted time and again with studies and books and sage advise from our elders telling us to REST and pamper, many still default towards passing judgement on those who follow instruction.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot during the last week. My frustrations​ with how things are when my idealized self doesn’t think it needs to be that way.
This is where I recognize and acknowledge the SIGNIFICANT privileges my god-given identities have, well, given me. I have an ethnicity which promotes white mediocrity. My nation of origin is nothing but a gift of riches and spoils. Growing up, though we weren’t totally wealthy, I never knew a night without a full stomach. I am certainly blessed.

Additionally, my choices and station of life grant me further benefit. I work one job that provides me an income which I can not only support myself comfortably but which allows me to enjoy luxury on a regular basis. And my childfreeness allows me to sleep until noon, drink mimosas until 3:00, enjoy a blissful (not to mention quiet) meal, and rock out to a concert until all hours of the night.

I live a charmed and luxurious life.
I know it.
Though it does come without sacrifice.

Sacrifices which I won’t tout here because they will inadvertently come across either defensive and insufficient. And frankly, because I’m an adult who chooses whether she wants to provide explanation for her choices.

I guess I don’t have a huge purpose to this ramble. I write if only to say that I consider and am grateful for my privilege literally every single day — in the ways I earned it and the ways I don’t deserve it.

Each day I also look at the manner we tear our sisters down rather than build our tribe. The ways we look at other lives and determine ours is the baseline, ours is the right one or the hardest one or best one. And those who have it easier than us deserve reprehension and those who have it harder than us deserve instruction.

I’m tired of the competitiveness, especially amongst my ladies.
And I hope to be a vehicle for that message to take a REST in whatever way we can.
And to let all that other shit REST as well.

 

This week we RELEASE what we’ve caught
(which hopefully includes this lingering cold)…


Lin’s SOW (Song of the Week):


 

And check out Steph’s post on #VOWrest (which is, indeed) ironically timed