2019: WRITE What Happened. (#VOWrecord)

My grandpa used to write things down. Every night. In this daily planner of sorts. It had a faux leather cover. The year was in gold. On the front. Near a corner. He sat in that rust red chair a lot of nights writing in it. I don’t think I ever dared to open one. Though I’ve always been curious. I hope they are in a box somewhere. I should ask my grandma.

My grandma…I keep thinking about her. That I don’t call enough. That when I do, it is always hard to talk like we used to. I know she is tired. She always has one eye on my grandpa, making sure he is okay. I feel guilty too…for not being there. I don’t want her to be reminded that I am not. To be in pain. But I have so many things to tell her. She used to be my best friend. I stopped treating her like that when their life changed. I didn’t want to be a burden. I wonder if I inadvertently was anyway. I have things to ask her too. I’m going to try letters.

I want to pass things on. The things I want to know from her…I want to give those to someone one day. I want to be able to recall when I remember, even if I need some help to do it. I want to have a way to check back in. With myself.

I want to write what happened.

In as many ways and formats as I can.

So, in 2019, I am RECORDing.

Pomodoro Prompt: Reflecting on INFORM, LISTEN, & NARROW in 10 Minutes.

I’m months behind on posts.

I had intentions to post. I even had ideas about what I wanted to post.
But I left things unwritten.

It felt daunting.

I should have set myself a timer and wrote a damn post.
Should have just gotten it done.

I’m doing it this year.
My 30th year.
If something takes less than a minute, do it right then.
If something seems daunting, set a ten-minute timer and make as much progress as you can.

So here is ten minutes.
On INFORM (November 2018).
LISTEN (2018).
NARROW (2018 One-Word).

I started listening to Up First, the NPR podcast. I started it, because one of my yoga teachers mentioned in her Instagram story that it is part of her morning routine. I realized I had been slacking as a citizen, despite my service as a public servant. I wasn’t staying current (with good reason sometimes).

I set a goal to do a sun salutation every day. I didn’t succeed, but I did a lot more than I would have otherwise. I realized that I like sun salutations. That they can seem like a gratitude prayer.

I just strung together that the same yoga teacher mentioned that to me. Worth noting.

I took in information. Some of it just through observing myself. Noting a lot of what makes me not feel so good and when and why I don’t—be it physically, emotionally, or just authentically.

I picked up patterns. What happens. When I don’t exercise. When we don’t touch.

I learned a lot this year that I didn’t know I needed to learn.

Things were taken away. I realize I like less.
That I can still do without more.

I figured out what I don’t want to do with my life—another thing anyway.

I learned who I want by my side.
Who it is okay to let watch from the sidelines.

Here’s to 2019.
To RECORDing what happened.
Because we should write that shit down.

Mildew 1402 & What It Taught Me…

…About Treasures / Treasuring / What We Value (#VOWtreasure):

If you asked me a year ago what I would have taken from my apartment if I had 30 minutes to save what mattered, I think I would have had a very hard time picking. I would have wanted all of the clothes. I would not have left without my books. You would have had to pry the flaming canvases out of my hands.

A month ago, when that scenario actually played out (except that I was told nothing was safe to take and I had as much time as my lungs could breathe toxic air), I took two cast iron skillets, a potato peeler, a mandoline, and our boxes of Spanish sea salt–the supplies Kev and I use at least twice a week to make tortilla. I took the rocks we collected from the black stone beach in Iceland. I took the shells I held while I cried into the ocean two summers ago. I took a literal jar of dirt from my hometown that has been everywhere in the world I have since I graduated from high school in 2007. I took the pair of my grandpa’s socks I stole from his drawer years ago and the bear claw and turquoise necklace he gave me. I took the charms my dad gave my mom the year she graduated from high school. I saved the vintage leather jacket my sister passed down to me.

There was so much I couldn’t take of my grandmother’s. I hate that I did not even attempt to save her sewing basket. But every time my heart starts to ache, I can hear her telling me that I did not need something physical of hers–she’s hemmed right into my soul. She told me (in real life) not to shed tears over the loss of my artwork, because she was crying those for me.

…About Choice / Choosing How to React (#VOWchoose):

Pema Chödrön once told a story about a Native American grandfather talking to his grandson. The grandfather was telling the little boy about how sometimes it felt like he had two wolves fighting inside him. The grandson asked the old man which wolf wins. “Whichever wolf I choose to feed,” he said.

We can perpetually apologize, or we can choose to say, instead, thank you. We can feel guilty for accepting help, or we can pay it forward. In times of trauma, we can ask the victim, what can I do, or we can just show up with supplies for bolognese and pour them a glass of wine. We can let the anger loop, again and again, or we can choose to invite it to sit down with us and have a glass of red.

We have a lot of say in what happens to us.

…About Rejecting / Responding & Not Reacting (#VOWreject):

I hope some day all this makes me softer. That I look back on this with more laugh lines because of it. I hope that I lean into the sharp points. That I stay on the mat.

…About How All That Remains is Enough (#VOWnarrow):

Because I didn’t lose my entire life; I lost stuff,
and home is not a noun or a place–it’s a verb.


Check out Linds’ #VOWtreasure, #VOWchoose, and #VOWreject posts

 

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.

#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.

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.

Reflecting on #VOWfreeze & Preparing to #VOWseek

I’ve said it before–I’m a woman who does well, exceptionally well, with days that require double what it takes.

What I don’t do so well with is down time. The days in between sticky note goals.

I just finished my 200-hour yoga teacher certification. Just as in yesterday.

It’s been a nearly six-month journey. And I made it. I’m not entirely unscathed, but I’m doing my best to make sure the surface wounds don’t scar.

A dear friend, last year, pointed out this pattern I have…to thrive, survive, and then not take a break. I tend have the next “thing” lined up. And I dive right back in, with barely enough lungs in my air to make it out alive. He encouraged me to remember that, when I was done this time.

I heard him, and I promised myself that after YTT was done, I was going to breathe. I was going to spend time on the surface. Letting my pale skin see some sun.

And when I went to bed last night, it sounded so the plan.

But then I woke up, on a dreary Monday, bone-tired, and I felt it. The little tick I get. My brain is already waxing on the what’s next. Whenever I have a moment of not actively thinking about something, the plans start running around the track. Different ones taking the lead with each corner.

And I start to feel a little sunk already.

But, this time, I am refusing to lean in. I’m swimming up. I am declaring a freeze on making plans as I head into March.

Not all plans…I made some serious weekend ones:
My car’s first roadtrip. A first getaway with the man. A couple days of untimed space to just be.

But the kind that my brain is already starting to taunt me with…I’m saying no.

Because I want days off. Days to appreciate the work that my brain and my body just put in.  Time to figure out what I want to do with that certification. Weekends without alarms. Open calendar space. Nights to dream about what’s next. What I really, really want.

A chance to seek again.

And with that, we head into March.

#VOWfreeze Frame

I’ve been thinking a lot about photos lately.

I take them all the time.
Beauty of an iPhone that is basically another appendage, I guess.

But I don’t print them all that often.
I think I should do more of that.

.  .  .

Jim and Pam used to take pictures of each other.
Mental ones.

They made that camera gesture, and in a single moment, they told each other so many things:

This moment matters to me.
I want to stay here for as long as I can.
And because I know I can’t stay as long as I want to, I want to take it with me.
Because there’s something happening here.
You’re happening.
In all your ridiculousness, you’re adorable.
You’re you.

.  .  .

Pictures of happy people are my favorite.

And by happy, I mean pictures of people who you can just tell–you can feel it–are exactly where they wanted to be in that moment.

It’s like they were enjoying the best glass of wine they’d ever had.
Big, bold, and red.
And they just kept sipping it.

For as long as they could.

Waiting for the Thaw: Reflecting on #VOWcharge & VOWfreeze

My favorite yoga teacher used to tell us, “When the climb gets harder, make your world smaller.”

Funny thing…sometimes that narrowing happens all on its own.

I’ve been in training to become a yoga teacher since October; in two weeks, I’ll be finished. That end cannot come soon enough.

I think I knew that January and February would be a slow slog through endless hours of poses and assisting and karma classes, but I didn’t anticipate it would be this difficult. How small (and petty) my world would become. While I’m thankful for the experience as a whole, it is lacking in authenticity, and it has made little space for me to bring mine into it. More than anything, it has taken my joy, and I know it will require a steady fight to get it back as soon as March hits.

I didn’t anticipate Charge being so filled with its opposition. I have big plans for this year, but instead of being able to jump in and run towards my goals, I have been forced to crawl towards one. Painfully slow. With red ants crawling all over my body.

Maybe my One Word (Narrow) is trying to tell me something.
Maybe this month it actually has.

What I did do in January was re-charge, as often as I could. When I had the chance to unplug, which wasn’t often enough, I did. I had to. My survival depended on it.

When I had an opportunity to go out with people, I chose Tribe or nothing; now more than ever I need to be surrounded by those who make me light up, who love to see that fire.

I started dating someone, and I’ve been taking slow sips instead of draining my glass.

And as I continue on in February, as we Freeze, I choose to focus on these moments:

The ones when I have a chance to breathe without being cued to do so.
The ones spent with my people.
The ones when I wake up with him.

And I try to build on those.
To invest in myself and my squad and someone who could become my person.
To give myself grace and space to do just those things.
As I wait for spring and the wild things.

 

Getting Ready to #VOWcharge into My Saturn Return

I remember the day I started showing up for my own life.

It started with a girl. It ended with an email.

. . .

Two summers ago, I kissed a girl, and I liked it. And not in the we-were-drunk-at-a-party kind of way. Actually, now that I think about it, we were, drunk at a party. But, I was completely sober when I sent her an email that afternoon telling her that I liked kissing her—not girls, just her—and that this was the kind of email I’d never sent before.

. . .

Before I go any farther, I need to tell you that this is not a story where I come out. I know that what I say here is going to be new information for some (I’m sorry, Madre), but this is not an entry about how I found out I was a lesbian. I’m not. I don’t believe things are that simple. I believe, as I think most humans who have gotten curious do, that sexuality is a spectrum, and I knew pretty early on in high school that, at least for me, it was.

. . .

That same summer, I read You Are a Badass by Jen Cincero. Sister told me it was necessary.

I understood why after.

. . .

Towards the end of that summer, I went on a few dates with a girl.

I think it was the bravest thing I have ever done. Not because going on a date with another girl is brave. But because I was willing to ask a question that I didn’t know the answer to, and I was ready to know the truth and live it.

. . .

She liked my collar bones. I thought hers were the most beautiful I had ever seen.

That’s not some girl-on-girl metaphor by the way (at least not that I know of)—collar bones are seriously underappreciated. I notice them a lot now.

She was lovely.

. . .

I remember a conversation with a friend not long after I had decided that I did not want to date that a woman.

We were at his condo. I could tell you exactly what I was wearing.

He said there was something different about me. That I just seemed like I was exactly where I needed to be.

I remember knowing, in that moment, what authenticity feels like.
In my body.
In that soul-deep place of my being.

. . .

It wasn’t that I had kissed a girl or dated one or decided I was or I wasn’t something.

It was simply the fact that I had shown up and allowed myself to be seen.
For nothing less and nothing more than I was.
Just me.

. . .

I rang in 2017 with pizza, champagne, and a girl kissing me, and I mean really kissing me, at midnight.

She was lovely too.

. . .

I rang in 2018 with a man kissing me, and I mean really kissing me, at midnight.

I liked it better. But only because I know now that that is what I want.

. . .

Nietzsche once said that you have to have chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star.

Let me tell you, that labor, it feels like fire, and it’s hot.

Danielle LaPorte says it best: “We’re dancing with the Divine because it turns us on to life.”

Sister suggested I read her book too; White Hot Truth…I highly recommend.

. . .

When I think about narrow, about charge, January’s word, I think about that fire. I think about what it feels like when you find a thing that lights you up. When you meet a person who makes you spark.

But more than anything, I think about what it feels like to be seen.

. . .

One of my best friends in the whole world wrote me a letter nearly six years ago in which she said this:

“You’re fire and neon. You need to find someone who can stand to look at you without sunglasses.”

. . .

That’s where I am this year, as I get ready to storm my 29th trip around the sun:

Committed to showing up and being seen as 100 percent me.
Unwilling to settle for less than that light and those sparks.
Refusing to be anything but fire and neon.
Averse to anyone who needs to see me through shades.

 

Image by Me: SATURN RETURN by SRoshelle [Collage, Watercolor, & Ink]