Not So Special: Reflecting on #TREASURE

August came and went. Quickly. Too quickly given how little I accomplished.

Though my birth month wasn’t as full as the rest of the year. In higher ed, it’s typically a time in which we prep for the arrival of students and brace ourselves for the insanity of the first few weeks of classes. In my area, we are responsive to the shit storm that usually follows six weeks of newfound independence that lends itself to chaos and trouble.

August at work is a waiting game through the end of October.

At home, I wrapped up a (very easy) summer semester and refreshed on all the necessary supplies and books necessary for my next (and final) year in my program. Josh and I lay low most weekends, trying to restrict our monetary and caloric budgets.

Simplicity is sometimes unnerving. Especially when it comes during what we perceive should be Big Moments. I’ve struggled to write something eloquent about the past month because nothing feels noteworthy. As a Leo I love celebrating (especially myself TBH) so having no updates feels like somehow the whole month was a dud.

Everything was smooth. Everything was uneventful. Everything was so freaking easy.

In the same way many artists believe they thrive off angst and anxiety to produce worthy work (recommended reading about this: Big Magic), I feel like I need to have something monumental in order to write an interesting or inspirational blog post. And there is probably something to that – I doubt this will be a read that pulls at your heartstrings or inspiration.

A few short years ago, I was the girl who had plans every night of the week. I literally had to deliberately practice Hermit Nights to spend in solitude. They were a beautiful respite among a packed calendar, but if I’m fully honest, I have historically felt better about myself when things are busy. I feel productive, interesting, important.

During this time I created a list of things I wanted in a relationship. It was an aspirational list which I never expected to fully manifest. But manifest it did, in the form of Josh. The first thing on that list that I think of, that I absolutely TREASURE, is achieving the desire to feel cherished. Josh cherishes the shit out of me. And likewise, I cherish the hell out of him.

It is in these quieter moments — this quieter life — that I find myself naturally expressing magnificent  gratitude for simplicity. For the ease. For what I once classified as boring. Understanding that all that is  Instagramable may not necessarily be the most valuable things. That afternoons spent in our underwear, lounging on the pullout sofa in front of the tv, sipping too strong of cocktails too early in the day, cuddling but not necessarily talking… this glitters more vibrantly than what pops and flashes.

Not so special has become pretty fucking amazing.

In September we make some decisions — find out what we CHOOSE.


Check out Steph’s #VOWtreasure post (coming soon!)

Contractions: Catching Up on #VOWcross, #VOWwait, & #VOWspend

It’s the last day of July, and I haven’t posted since May.

Since then, #VOWcross, #VOWwait, and #VOWspend have come and gone.

I just caught up on Sister’s posts for the past three months, and I found myself nodding in agreement. Had I posted, as often happens with us, I would have said many of the same things, so I suggest you read hers.

I did reflect on our verbs. I even put them into practice. I thought about posting. I intended to.

But the last three months…well, they were something.

I think the best way to describe them is that they involved a hell of a lot of contracting, as Madisyn Taylor phrased it in her Daily Om newsletter that we reposted on the blog. (Also, you should totally subscribe to those emails, because they are life-changing; you can do so here.)

At the end of this year, I anticipating looking back on my One Word for 2018, Narrow, and remembering these contractions. I anticipate remembering the months spent trying to cross more things off my list than I possibly could get done. The time put in waiting for it to be time. The money spent when I would have rather saved it.

But despite this tightening, I think what I will remember more about narrowing is the way these contractions, ironically, expanded me. They flexed muscles that allowed me to cross lines and boundaries in nearly every aspect of my life, inspiring me to stretch and grow more than I knew I could—physically, sexually, spiritually, mentally, professionally. They reminded me about the goodness that can come from the Universe when I just sit and, therefore, trust that some things are worth investing in, worth waiting for. They taught me that sometimes Emergency Funds should be renamed Life Funds and spent in the moments that make you life rich, even if a bit cash poor.

And speaking of things that can be gold, this month, in August, we

Treasure.

Breaking the Spell of Scarcity: Reflecting on SPEND

Growing up, I was an incredibly frugal child. While both of my parents have always been financially responsible and stable, I’m unsure exactly where my mentaily came from. Perhaps I was just fascinated with the independence that money could bring to a highly dependent being? After doing my requisite chores and household responsibilities, I received a modest allowance; what I did with it was up to me.

I remember being fascinated by the concept of borrowed money earning interest. I often “charged” my mom an extra quarter whenever she needed cash for the weekend. She thought it was adorable, I thought I was business savvy.

If memory serves, I probably counted my savings on a weekly basis. I was also a highly organized child (at one point literally everything in my room had its own labeled place) and found an insane amount of comfort in stacking my coins and sorting my bills.

I maintained a healthy relationship with money throughout most of my life, save for two largely disruptive cycles heralding massive life changes. The first was a shopping addiction I struggled with during my ill-fated marriage. I was that girl who would clothes shop every weekend, and occasionally during my lunch hour. I love a good deal and my tastes have never been particularly expensive, but the outlet of stockpiling clothing helped mask the crushing anxiety, depression, and fear I struggled with inside.

The second was as I made the transition towards my current career. I took at 30% pay cut, paid for expensive out-of-state trainings out of pocket, and spent my remaining time in Fort Collins at my favorite locations with my favorite people. I amassed an incredible amount of debt in that year and worked diligently during my first year-and-a-half in Birmingham to pay off my nearly maxed credit card. It was one of the greatest accomplishments of my life.

But more than just my relationship with money, I’ve been a stockpiler of nice things. Books I’ll never read, candles I’ll never burn, lotion I’ll sparingly lather on, journals I fret about “ruining” by using, favorite outfits I avoid wearing (and thus washing) to keep them as near-new as possible. Hell, I’m even stingy with the booklets of planner stickers I use to organize my time keeper.

The problem with this of course is that I outgrow my pristine clothes and because I never used them enough, they sit in my great-grandmother’s hope chest waiting until the (unforeseeable) day that I fit into them again. I buy cheap notebooks to record my daily thoughts because those aren’t beautiful enough words worthy to fill the expensive leather journal I bought in my 20s. The fancy facial serum my former mother-in-law bought me literally eight years ago sits practically full on a cabinet in the house I now share with my partner.

I know how stupid this is. How ridiculous it is to be so afraid of scarcity that I prevent myself from enjoying the beautiful things I’ve curated. And believe me, I’m millions of lightyears better than I once was. In the five moves I’ve made over the past six years, I’ve probably purged a solid 60 percent of my belongings, including an insane amount of self-care products, candles, make up, exotic spices.

I don’t consider myself a cheap person. But there is something about the feeling that these possessions are precious and irreplaceable that gets me. I’ve had my fair share of items that I got rid of and was never able to duplicate or replicate — the black lace peplum top that looked stellar with both pants and skirts, the sexy boots with the perfect shape and heel height that laced up the back, the apple-pear candle I found in middle school that is still to this day one of the best smells I’ve ever experienced. The sachet of saffron from an outdoor market in a foreign city. I find myself so attached to these things that SPENDING them in whatever capacity they offer almost hurts. And because they have become so precious, that panicked maintenance spills over to more arbitrary things too.

Knowing this month was coming up, I prepared myself to really go gung ho on this spending thing. I reminded myself of the times I’ve successfully broken the spell of scarcity. When I relocated to Birmingham, I decided the only plates I would pack was the dogwood-patterned fine china my dad gifted me (us) after my 2009 wedding. My ex and I ate with them once, maybe twice. I spent weeks purging closets and drawers and memories, and that china was literally in the back of my car headed to Goodwill. Then I realized I was more than happy to just dump this beautiful set of dishes which my father had held onto since I was 15-years-old because I was too afraid to use it.

What a sad waste.

Josh and I use that china every day now. We can’t put it through the microwave because of the gold plating but we do run it through the dishwasher. And when Josh accidentally shattered one of the dinner plates, it wasn’t a big deal. I managed to normalize what was once fancy so its loss no longer felt impactful.

What a wonderful thing to gain.

This month I started a journaling project with a set of beloved out-of-print oracle cards that I had previously been putting off until I got my hands on a backup set. Every night I’ve greedily slathered my whole damn body in the delicious-smelling Hemp lotion from my mom. I’ve used my good pens in my favorite colors any time I’ve had to put pen to paper. I took a week of vacation days to read books and drink dark-and-stormies on the beach with my beloved.

But our biggest splurge was the 500-square-foot deck added to the back of our house. Josh and I haven’t had a decent outdoor space during the entirety that we’ve been together, something we both deeply cherish and desire. We had planned to save up money and get it built in October before family comes for Thanksgiving. But when Josh was tapped for a side-hustle project that would pay for most of the deck, we decided to go all in. So the most phenomenal crew of guys (seriously, one of them worked on crutches with a broken foot) built our deck in three weeks. And I dropped a tidy sum on patio furniture during Wayfair’s Christmas in July sale.

It was a lot of money out of our pockets. And a fair share of nerves putting over grand on the credit card I worked so hard to pay off.

But it feels so damn good. So right. Our backyard is now the highlight of our already gorgeous home. And what’s a few months of pinching pennies when we can spend our Friday nights sipping cocktails surrounded by fireflies instead of at a crowded bar surrounded by TVs? It’s almost backward — the mundane has now become sacred.

August is my birthmonth and with all this spending, our next verb — TREASURE — is perfectly timed.


See Steph’s mega catch-up post (coming soon!)

Hold It: Reflecting in WAIT

I’m not so good at waiting.

I tend to be a girl who, when she makes up her mind, jumps into action. This is a quality I’m proud of, you see. And something that a former sufferer of Generalized Anxiety Disorder didn’t naturally come to. I had to fight my way towards my “yes and…” sensibilities. I had to relearn that to freeze the wasn’t the best and exclusive option.

So this month’s verb had me stammering a bit. In a bit way that I would start then pause, but momentum would drag me forward a bit. It took some relearning and leaning into the discomfort that had previously been sanctuary.

It’s hard to deprogram, I guess is what I’m saying.

But anytime I resisted the first waiting game, I recall one of my Rules of Adulthood. Anything that I feel must be said or done RIGHT NOW absolutely should NOT be said or done.

The immediacy is the key here. Anything that I’m so wrapped around that it cannot wait another second has yet to go exactly the way I wanted/planned it to. Rather, my rush ends up morphing my intentions so that things are missed, incorrectly articulated, or haphazardly done.

So even if/when it is against my revised baser instinct, sometimes it is best to not proceed forward. To give things time to marinate.

The TEDFellowship application.

Asking for a raise right after discovering disconcerting news.

Severing ties with my tarot group.

These are all things that I hesitated on. Deliberately. Effortfully. Intentionally.

Not only because of this month’s verb but because, dare I say, maturation. Evolution. And perhaps a bit realization that the in-between space I’ve avoided for so long isn’t as much of a compromise as it is a place to strive for.

A Big Shift: Reflecting on CROSS

Smack dab in the middle of May was when Uranus made a major transit, CROSSing the part of the sky where the constellation Aries is to the part ruled by Taurus. I’ve become increasingly interested in astrology over the past several years; similar to the tarot cards I read, I don’t know how these things apply but they certainly appear accurate.

Uranus mixes things up. It’s a Big Picture planet that shakes things up so it can rebuild them. It’s about evolution and innovation, destruction and replanting. The Sign it crosses is a certain phase or energy and the House is how it manifests in your personal life. (I’m by no means an expert, so you best head to AstroCodex if you want to know more).

Case and point, from 2011 through May 15, 2018, Uranus crossed Aries in my 4th House, the one that rules your family and home. During that time I got divorced and moved five times in six years; one of which was across the country and the most recent into a house that I love and can see myself in for a very long time. Josh and I moved the last weekend of April and were all settled by mid-May.

Y’all, I felt Uranus in my 4th House. It was really fucking hard a lot of the time but it brought me where I was meant to be. In fact, throughout that transition I discussed that feeling a lot. That things weren’t perfect by a long shot, but I felt settled in ways I’d never experienced before.

And this month, I really let those lessons marinate. I took stock and expressed thanks for all the good in my life — the man I love, the home we’re building, the city I now call home, all the opportunity and growth that have come as a result.

So now that Uranus is entering Taurus, my 5th House of romantic relationships, creativity, and… kids (given mine and Josh’s medical backgrounds I doubt an unexpected pregnancy will be an be an issue).

While this can be a little daunting, I have a hunch it’ll be an enlightening seven years. We’ll be able to grow into and with one another. I’ll feel more settled in my creative outlet. And in all my reflection, I spent a substantial amount of energy thinking about what I want to manifest this cycle. How can I express my creativity both at work and personally? What can I do to expand and grow my relationship with Josh? How do I prepare myself for the upheavals that are bound to happen?

This month will surely prove to be a challenging one, as it will force both Steph and I to go against our baser natures… this June we WAIT.


Check out Steph’s #VOWcross post (coming soon!)

Exactly this…

Sister forwarded me enough articles from DailyOm that I started subscribing, too.

This darling little article that so perfectly fit our #OneWord2018’s and this year’s VOW schedule. I couldn’t help but share and if this resonates, you may want to get on their daily newsletter list, too.

Contracting Before Expanding

by Madisyn Taylor

It is a natural part of being, that our lives sometimes contract before expanding.

Sometimes our lives contract before they expand. We may be working hard on ourselves spiritually, doing good in the world, following our dreams, and wondering why we are still facing constrictions of all kinds–financial, emotional, physical. Perhaps we even feel as if we’ve lost our spirituality and are stuck in a dark room with no windows. We may be confused and discouraged by what appears to be a lack of progress. But sometimes this is the way things work. Like a caterpillar that confines itself to a tiny cocoon before it grows wings and flies, we are experiencing the darkness before the dawn.

When things feel tight, it’s easy to panic or want to act in some way to ease the feeling of constriction. We might also spin our wheels mentally, trying to understand why things are the way they are. However, there is nothing we need to do at this time other than to be patient and persevering. We can cling to the awareness that we are processing the shift from one stage to another, and the more we surrender to the experience, the more quickly we will move through the tightness into the opening on the other side. Just like a baby making its way down the birth canal, we may feel squeezed and pushed and very uncomfortable, but if we remember that we are on our way to being born into a new reality, we will find the strength to carry on.

Even as we endure the contractions, we can find peace within ourselves if we remember to trust the universe. We can look to the natural world for inspiration as we see that all beings surrender to the process of being born. In that surrender, and in the center of our own hearts, is a willingness to trust in the unknown as we make our way through the opening.

 

#VOWcommit: The price is high; the reward is great.

My first question is this: How the fuck is it May?

I think back to March, to #VOWseek, and I was so set on taking respite. I needed it. I basked in it. March was lovely.

Then April hit, #VOWcommit, and it was full speed ahead. I can’t say that I necessarily took on anything new in April, but I did get serious about a few things in my mind: working out, creating, my Tribe, and my person.

My goal is always to exercise more days in a month than I don’t. I normally make it, but last month it was a solid 18/30. I felt good about it. I still do. I can see the changes in my body.

I made all of the art. I created a visual resume. I got my website up. There are prints for sale. I took a couple of classes. An art dealer came to my apartment (i.e., my studio for a visit). She sparked something in me. I’m doing another 30-day creation challenge.

I showed up for my Tribe. They showed up for me. I don’t know that I was as present for Sister as I needed to be, but she was always on my heart. I was always celebrating her moments, and she had some big ones. I spent a lot of time at my church, a little bookstore with a lot of heart, where my Tribe was born.

I feel like my person and I made a transition. I don’t know exactly how to describe it, but I think we have settled in for a bit.

And all of these things have left me, over and over again, completely breathless with gratitude. I am so incredibly thankful for this life, because I know I have a lot—and I am fucking in love with it.

April was lovely.

But other things happened in April too, even though I don’t know exactly how.

The work-life balance that I have put so much effort into cultivating has turned into solid 10-hour days. I’m having trouble sleeping again. My mind is constantly on a low buzz, chewing on not-enoughs and should-ing all over itself; I spent hours between sleep and awake digesting. My body is in revolt. I watched two of my dearest friends’ hearts break and then shatter all over East DC. I began to let anxiety start to steal my joy, to follow those breathless moments of thankfulness with fear—what if it goes away?

 And today, I woke up—after a beautiful weekend—groggy, wishing for more sleep, more weekend. And I cried. Because it was the only thing I could do in that moment. And then I went to work, and I emailed Sister and texted the Tribe with a sort of SOS. And they got me through the day.

And tonight, when I sat down to write this post, I remembered an April five years ago.

I had just come through a battle. With alcohol. With a love that I almost singlehandly destroyed (with a little help from Afghanistan—probably a war that was never meant for me but taught me a lot). With myself.

But I fought hard for my joy, and I remember waking up in Baltimore one morning, in my favorite apartment ever—Apartment 207 was formidable—and realizing that happiness is a choice.

There are moments when life in life when it is just easier. And maybe life itself isn’t easy, but there are times when joy and gratitude come more readily. When they are your default.

And then there are moments when it doesn’t. Even if you are doing all the right things, and everything seems exactly as it should be. In fact, you know in your bones, you are exactly where you should be.

I think that’s when the real battle begins.

You start to realize maybe there are things you could be doing more right. Thoughts you could let go more quickly. Anxiety you shouldn’t trust. More art. More writing. More reading. More yoga. More meditation. More.

And you find yourself fighting invisible enemies on more than one front, and they are sinking your battleships.

That’s today.

But happiness is a choice; joy is my default—it’s tattooed on my arm, my ever-present reminder, as a dear friend put it.

So, it’s May now, but I am committing to that declaration: happiness is a choice; joy is my default.

I have no idea what this month, #VOWcross, will bring, but I am ready.

To wake up tomorrow and remember that I’ve been here before:  this wilderness, where, as Maya Angelou put it, “You are only free when you realize you belong place—you belong every place—no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.”

And you go to HRH Brené and find the words that speak to you:

Rarely do you have the gift of knowing you’re inside a moment that will be part of what defines you….What do you do when you’ve spent the majority of your life moving to try to fit in, and all of a sudden Maya Angelou is singing to you and telling you not to be moved? You learn how to plant your damn feet is what you do. You bend and stretch and grow, but you commit to not moving from you who are. Or at the very least, you start trying.

So tomorrow, I will wake up in my bed and spend a few minutes breathing, because meditation doesn’t have to be more than that. And I’ll start looking for a new yoga studio, where I can breathe just as freely.

I’ll remember that the wilderness is a place I have chosen, and I will choose happiness.

This month, we

cross.

 


Be sure to check out Lin’s #VOWseek and #VOWcross mashup post here.

Go Big and Go Home: Reflecting on Seek & Commit

April was a full on sprint. We closed on the house March 30th, flew to Cuba April 5th thru 10th (gorgeous, amazing, you should go), wrote a 18-page paper on the impacts of frequent porn use, submitted for edits, revised by the 23rd, packed and moved into a new house on the 28th. And at the close of the month, we have every box unpacked (thought art has yet to be hung on the walls).

May 1st thru 4th we hosted my dad and his girlfriend then an old college friend stayed the weekend. Yesterday was yard work (I LOVE mowing grass, it’s better than therapy), bought a couch, got some art framed, and finally, *finally* sunk into our chairs to catch up on Westworld.

I didn’t post my March reflection because I flat out didn’t have a single evening to parse my words. But SEEKing came in the form of reading over 50 academic journal articles, working through a mini personal branding course, and scouring Facebook marketplace for furniture and other items we needed for our new home.

But there were smaller moments, too, when I looked around our little apartment and really saw it for the home it already was. I truly loved it’s features; what it lacked in size it made up for in modern details. The horizontal stained wood accent wall, the original black and white bathroom tile, the ginormous farmhouse sink. I snuggled with Josh in the perfectly lit oasis of our bedroom. I inhaled incense on the faux cowhide rug of our meditation room.

I looked for all of it… and then released it.

Because I had some COMMITments to make. I bought my second house, though it’s the first one I’ve ever been deeply, truly, and wholeheartedly in love with. I COMMITTED about as much as a person could in April. I journeyed into debt with My Person, my new city, and my job. For better and for worse, I’m staying right here. And I feel like that’s exactly where I’m supposed to be.

Going big (with EXPANSION) and staying home (with COMMIT) made April hands down the best month in a very long series wonderful months.

 


Be sure to check out Steph’s #VOWcommit post here.

A Series of Fortunate Events (#VOWseek)

“There are times to stay put,
and what you want will come to you,
and there are times to go out into the world
and find such a thing for yourself.”

– Lemony Snicket

 

It’s mid-April, and I am still struggling to write about March, about #VOWseek. I think there is a lot to say, profound things (at least to me) to say but…it’s all still soaking in. Making me think. And that’s all I can ask of it.

When I finished yoga teacher training, at the end of February, I promised myself that I would not take on any new commitments. As I have mentioned before, I have this habit of jumping wholeheartedly into deep journeys, one after the other, without giving myself time to just lie out in the sun—and believe me, my pale skin could use some color.

So, I took the month.

And instead of taking on fresh obligations, I simply took in moments.
I breathed in deeper than I ever have before.
I exhaled without a weight on my chest.

I loosened my grip.
I tried things.
I found things.

Some that I was looking for.
Others that I hadn’t even considered.

But there are passions and plans that made themselves known, and I’m getting serious.

This month, we:

Commit.

The 3 F’s: Reflecting on FREEZE

I spend a large part of my job talking to people who have experienced significant trauma — true trauma that results when a person is fearful for their life. When those type of situations happen, the brain floods the body with a cocktail of hormones which results in one of three options: fight, flight or freeze.

Your brain and body respond to trauma the same regardless of the situation  — be it having a gun pulled on you (in a parking lot, on the field of battle), getting in a car accident, or experiencing a sexual assault. When your brain thinks it is in danger, the reptilian brain stem responds before your frontal lobe can process.

There is no telling what response you’ll have — as much as law enforcement, the military, or gun lobbyists want you to believe. Studies do show that sexual trauma has a higher likelihood of resulting in the freeze response, which is why so, so many victims report that they wanted to do something (run, yell for help, fight their assailant) but for some reason couldn’t move. That’s called tonic immobility and this pseudo-paralysis is a result of the hormone cocktail your brain is dishing out.

In addition to the spending FREEZE I personally challenged myself to this month (I did quite well actually, aside from some frivolous spending when dear friends came to visit), I also spent most of my work days listening to people recount some of the worst moments of their life. People who would discuss the feeling of tonic immobility and wonder what was wrong with them. And I, due to the impartiality of my job, wasn’t able to explain to them that feeling was normal.

So how is this relevant to our VOW? I got sick (again) at the end of this month and was out of the office for a couple of days. I have two tendencies when I get sick: I get bored very quickly and highly emotional. Usually I’m either clingy or weepy, but this time I felt restless. Not because I was essentially bed-ridden but moreso that I wasn’t enough. I felt stuck professionally, spiritually, intellectually, physically. Which is insane because I have so fucking much going on right now — we’re thisclose to closing on our house, I am mentoring a new colleague, I’m kicking ass at classes, I’m in the healthiest relationship I’ve ever known.

I felt so confused about why I was feeling that way, because let me tell you, it was strong. Palpable. I felt FROZEN in my life. And then I realized that perhaps what was happening was a sort of psychological immobility because of the physical manifestation of my illness. Or residual second-hand trauma from my job.

Either way, I decided to grant myself grace. To remind myself that the feeling of being at a standstill wouldn’t last long, and that it was probably only a temporary response to my current situation. That maybe there was a cosmic third-party who could understand my confusion as a normal response.

And here I am, a week later and feeling rejuvenated again. Last month I found something I didn’t realize I needed to see This month I plan to be more active and SEEK out what my soul needs.