My conundrum: Reflecting on REJECT

Immersing oneself in the study of society and culture has an interesting way of illuminating realities you haven’t really noticed before. Or kinda noticed but failed to acknowledge its weight.

Looking back through all my posts from this Venture, I notice how often I bemoan social media.
How much it exhausts me.
Detracts from my life.

But I live in the world.
During this era.
Social media is a part of the postmodern age.
Like single-use plastics and smog and centuries-old discourse that espouse hate.

People live social media-less lives.
I desperately want to be one of them.

And…

Pretty much none of my Tribe lives in my current city. We’re scattered around the country (and globe) nowadays. So if the alternative is feeling less connected to them, then I haven’t really an interest in severing the few ties that continue to bind us. I’m not the best at keeping up with people, especially when time is sparse, and sometimes keeping an eye on snippets can suffice.

Plus, my job necessitates I participate in a variety of social networks. I have presence on most everything in some capacity so I can peek at someone’s digital footprint when necessary.

And…

This month I’ve taken steps to REJECT Facebook.
To remove it from my life.
To consult Instagram less.
To select my news from the New York Times rather than some automated feed.

Lately, more than ever, I’ve tried to be active about the standards I keep. In my personal life. In my professional role. In the clothing I purchase. In the words I share. Because selecting something means REJECTING another. So I damn sure better be aware of what that choice (or lack thereof) means. Beyond myself and the immediate repercussions of that choice.

REJECTING has been a lot more about curating. About selecting. Which is funny because that was last month’s blog which in turn felt like taking ownership.

Sometimes our VOWS are similes. Sometimes they’re exactly what we need.
Occasionally they show up in ways we expected. Meanwhile others it’s a sort of filter you see through.

Next month we round out our last dichotomous pair with INFORM…


Check out Steph’s #VOWreject post here

Wrapping around EMBRACE: Reflecting on 2017

Instagram wants to make me believe that 2017 was something miserable. Something I survived.

It was 2013 that was truly horrendous. 2014 nearly killed me. 2016 made me so very, very sad (particularly the end).

But 2017? 2017 really wasn’t so bad. Honestly, it seems that by the end of every year most folks are ready for the change. Because when we reflect back on our lives, the majority of us has a preference to move on towards the promise of something new (read: better). Though I pretty much guarantee that at the end of 2018 the exact same people will be saying the exact same things all over again.

EMBRACE made me take things for what they are. It is what it is is a phrase that I’ve come to love as an adult — this year all the more so.

The opposite of embracing is resisting. Holding at a distance. Stiff-arming experience. And while there are many things I didn’t approach with open arms, I certainly put forth the effort to break down the walls and just let it all be.

I spent the majority of the year in the EMBRACE of My Person. A guy who is highly tactile and requires lots of physical affirmation. And I gotta tell you, there is something to be said for constant cuddling with the snuggly man of your dreams. This was easily the best part of the year.

Oh, and I’ve fully EMBRACED how disgustingly in love I am. #sorrynotsorry

Work is insane and not looking like it’ll slow down at any point. I found being a yes girl made me go with the flow. And releasing perfectionism and ownership of things I cannot control sure does make it easier to be on board with every new project or presentation.

I eagerly challenged myself to upgrade my life by starting grad school. I knew it’d be a good fit but y’all, I EMBRACED the shit out if my first semester and earned near-perfrct grades in both classes.

This year ended with so many hugs from new tribe. I met Josh’s people — most of them at least — and all have been delightful. I have seldom felt so immediately loved by near-strangers. And I have never been so proud to witness a long-anticipated homecoming. Josh was received with gratitude and love.

I haven’t fully EMBRACED my body, which reached an all-time high on the scale this year. But I’m not panicked or miserable so perhaps it isn’t quite the failure it feels.

Tomorrow I go back to work and face the first real application of my year of EXPANSION.

(More on that later BTW…)


Check out Steph’s final post of 2017 and her thoughts on #VOWbuild


Linds’ POY (Playlist of the Year): Every year that I’ve used Spotify I have created a new playlist for that year. It is a wonderful way to mark time, a tradition I started randomly knowing that in 10 years time I’ll hit the nostalgia train on my fave tracks from my past. Here’s what I curated for 2017…

 

Image courtesy of Egon Schiele at https://curiator.com/art/egon-schiele/the-embrace

Anticipation is the best part: Reflecting on WAIT

Christmas used to be my favorite holiday.

I loved the lights. I loved the music. I loved the festive air. And I fucking loved the Christmas movies.

I shouldn’t say all that in the past tense. I still do love all those things. But I’ve found as I age, New Years has replaced Xmas in my heart. Perhaps because I’m no longer religious. Perhaps because I’m a lot more jaded. Perhaps because tradition has less impact on me than personal evolution.  Christmas is still marvelous, it’s just no longer the best.

However, there is one thing about the holiday that I love. Something that doesn’t really exist the same any time else in the year.

The excitement of anticipation.
The build up towards Christmas morning.

I’ve never quite been the kid who wants to open all my gifts up on Christmas Eve. I prefer to open gifts round-robin, where each person opens things one at a time. To pause for coffee and later breakfast mid festivities. The WAIT of Christmas (both up to and throughout the day) is the absolute best part.

This year I knew almost everything I was being given, with the exception of two pieces of jewelry that brought tears to my eyes. But it wasn’t so much the excitement of what will I get as much as it was the slow process of it all (we eeked out FIVE HOURS when all was said and done). The thrill of seeing Josh open his gifts. The emotional bang of the Christmas gift finale that got us both in the feels.

Maybe that’s why every year I take down all my decorations on the 26th. Because once the day has passed, the pressure has been released . Why tightly grip onto the event once it has passed? Yes, once the WAIT is over , the magic dissipates, and I shift gears into the main event. New Years Day.

This week we start where we began, with our #OneWord2018, where I EMBRACE onCE More…


Check out Steph’s #VOWwait post here!

#VOWwait-ing for Christmas

I fly back home tomorrow. And by that, I mean that I fly back to the District from the rural town where I was raised. From my parents’ house. The place where I spent the last week.

It’s cheaper to fly on Christmas. Plus, you get free drinks. Actually I get free drinks anyway–a friend upgraded me to First Class.

I have to say that I always find the very well-intact class system at the airport a bit disturbing. But, I gotta admit, that pre-flight drinks in real glasses and a much-upgraded snack choice to enjoy in my very large seat is pretty clutch.

I have strong feelings about this, but thoughts of free champagne have me falling a bit off my soap box.

.  .  .

I always expect this place to ground me more than it does. I always hope the house that built me will leave me steadied. Yet I always leave feeling less anchored than I’d like.

I feel unmoored.

.  .  .

Sister says it’s the season. All the ghosts.

Man, I hope I see that big hairy muppet angel of a Hagrid in my dreams tonight. The one who shows you them.

The past ones.
The present ones.
The future ones.

Those are the ones I would like to meet.
The future ones.

Maybe then I would have some idea about what I’m looking for.
And where.
Who.

.  .  .

It’s Christmas Eve. My Saturn Return is upon me.

And I’m here. Waiting.

Feeling less like a kid leaving cookies out for Santa and more like the one who just found out he isn’t real.

To be honest, I think the lack of holiday cheer has to do with the introvert in me screaming for time.

She wants to hide out in a dark closet for a bit.
She needs time to think.

She needs time.

.  .  .

It feels like I have less of that lately.

There’s pressure.
To make choices.
To make starts.
To have happy endings.

But I’m just not there yet.

Or maybe I am.

I just need a little help believing.

.  .  .

Christmas is the time for that, and there’s still tomorrow.

.  .  .

And until then, all I can do is cry as much as I need and to be as present or as absent or my heart will allow. (Credit to Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls for that.)

.  .  .

This week, our One Word comes back to close the year, and I continue to

Build.

P.S. Give Lin’s #VOWwait post a read.

K2 P2 rib, repeat 8 rows: Reflecting on RESOLVE

So it’s funny, I didn’t even think of interpreting RESOLVE as fixing something or wrapping things up until I read Steph’s post. For me, RESOLVE was always buckling down. Fixating on something and seeing it through, even as times got tough.

Work is brutal right now. Miraculously, I’m not stressing. I am RESOLVED to go with the flow. It is what it is. My god, is there a more adult mentality than that?

Every holiday season I like to make at least one or two handmade gifts. Over the past few years I’ve crocheted blankets for loved ones (to varying degrees of success). I haven’t picked up knitting needles since my divorce. But early last week, I set my mind to a project. And after searching for a pattern, I decided that what I wanted didn’t already exist. So instead, I decided I’d just make my own.

I’m not an advanced knitter. And I’ve never made up a pattern before. But my project seemed simple enough and I was feeling headstrong and creative, so I set to work.

I made multiple test projects, jotting down changes or thoughts as I worked my way through. It was intense enough that I didn’t blink, forgot to eat, spent the majority of my weekend curled up on the couch, knitting and purling and cabling until I’d figured it out.

I RESOLVED myself to making it work. And when it didn’t, no worries. I’d backtrack and adjust. It’s the process and I knew I’d get there… I just had to figure my way.

Finally, finally, I was ready to start in earnest. And when I was six tiny rows away from completion, it happened. I dropped a stitch that I couldn’t pick back up. I had to deconstruct the whole thing — all that time, all that patience — and roll it into a tiny ball.

Because I’m me, there were several oh shits. But otherwise I remained collected. I knew all I had to do was start again. Which I did. And I gotta say, the finished project is pretty damn cute.

Our last mutual VOW of 2017 is WAIT


Catch Steph’s absolutely glorious #VOWresolve post here (probably the best piece of writing all year — don’t miss it!)

#VOWresolve-ed to Arranging the Pieces as They Come

I had salad and a glass of sparkling rosé with a girlfriend today. She moved to Boston not too long ago, and I miss sharing a meal and a glass bottle of wine with her all the time. It’s funny—we’ve known each other for years but fell into closeness only months ago.

Life’s like that I guess.

Anyway, while we chatted away, the conversation eventually drifted to the thing that brought us together—men. More specifically, the marks they’ve left on us. And she didn’t know about my word this week—I’m actually not sure we’ve talked of this project—but she said it. Four or five times in the span of a minute.

Resolve. I wanted to resolve things. I want resolutions. We resolved it after so much time.

I got chills up my spine as the word just hung there.

Resolve.

.  .  .

Last night, I drempt of an ex-boyfriend. We didn’t part well then. We don’t speak now.

But last night, he was there. And he said all the things he never did. And I was the woman I never was with him.

I was strong.

And we made it all right. And I felt him. It was palpable. His presence. I swear, I spent half the night laying in his arms.

And then I woke up. And I walked out my door this afternoon and nearly crashed into him, with his new lady, and two dogs. Dogs? He has dogs now.

And I was shaken. Literally.

And we didn’t speak. We didn’t acknowledge anything. We walked in opposite directions, and then we both stopped and turned to look back and then kept on walking the ways we were going.

Maybe it was a ghost.

Because, lately, I believe in them.

I have chills up my spine most of the time. And I see them just as often.

.  .  .

I wished him well for the first time in almost two years tonight.

.  .  .

Resolve.

It just keeps hanging.

And it’s palpable too.

.  .  .

I’m trying to make sense of where I am.

As the end of the year and this project’s pilot near a close, there’s a sense of something:  being so close to where I need to end the year and yet so very aware that the next couple of weeks are going to have to shatter me to get me there.

I don’t know why. Or what that means.

I think it has something to do with the ghosts. Or perhaps with my resolute (didn’t mean to do that) belief that ashes bring life. That transformation is always born from wreckage.

.  .  .

More chills. Because it’s scary to write that shit down.

.  .  .

This year of Build has been a hell of a lot about knowing when to stand my ground on the safe shore and when to swim out deep.

Right about now, I’m pretty far from shore this time. Sister’s deep fear of what swims beneath her is pretty much consuming me—thanks, Sis; I never use to worry about that.

Now, I dream about whales, right below me, and it’s not a good feeling.

It used to be.

.  .  .

And I know I’m supposed to be right where I am.
Completely untethered.
No safe shores.
No life boat.

.  .  .

Frenetically alone.

That’s the phrase Dani Shapiro used in her memoir, Devotion—I haven’t finished it yet, but it’s swallowing me whole.

Anyway, I feel that.

I’m not lonely.

But I know exactly what she means.

I feel it at night. Normally at 3:30 a.m., when I wake up and feel my heart beating. Faster than it should be.

Probably because I’ve been swimming with whales. Or because there’s a ghost in bed with me.

But I can literally feel my heart beating. And I know I’m mortal. Fragile. Suffering from the human condition.

I can die.

And fuck if that isn’t the feeling of being on a speeding train knowing you can’t stop it. You can’t just say, Alright, I think I’d like to get off now. You were born, and that’s the beginning of the end of something.

And I haven’t Googled that symptom. Because I don’t need to.

That’s being alive.

.  .  .

I know there’s something there. Underneath. Not in the ocean but bubbling in my subconscious. Waiting to rise to the surface.

And I have no freaking idea what it is.

But it’s palpable.

And I can’t resist it or lean in. I just have to acknowledge it.

I have to wait. To “arrange the pieces as they come in.” (Thank you, Virginia Woolf, via Dani Shapiro.)

.  .  .

So, I’m resolved.

To being here.
To staying on my mat.
To deep breathing.
To knowing it will come.

And that it will pass.

I’m 49 percent terrified and 51 percent completely exhilarated.

This week, we

WAIT.

And, tonight, I’m going to watch 47 Meters Down, because that sounds like a really good idea.

P.S. Don’t forget to check out Lin’s post on #VOWresolve.

The moment between noises: Reflecting on HUSH

HUSH was an incredible necessary this past week. Finals happened (hooray!). This consisted of nights spent studying and researching two final papers on gender studies and sexual discrimination. Hours would pass between conversations, the only noise heard the typing of keys, sipping of coffee, and tinkling of classical music from our Echo. It was a productive week that left two hyper-extroverts feeling distanced from one another.

Then Josh went to New Orleans for a business trip and I was cast into solitude. I wrapped my last final the afternoon he left and found myself suddenly without distraction. I didn’t have my person, I didn’t have my studies. But I did have a clay face mask, a brick of wine, a meditation downloaded, and half a dozen candles; so I decided to treat myself to a restorative bubble bath.

The meditation (#52) was precisely what my overworked brain and body needed. Intended for deep relaxation, Mary Maddux directions were to listen to the tiny bits of silence in the midst of all the action and ruckus around. To breathe in the stillness deeply. As I sat in the softly lit room, literally bathed in warm delicious smelling water, my eyes closed and head reclined, I listened for the HUSH between noises. The end of the train whistle blast. The shift in conversation between the girls gabbing outside my window. The split-second pause between heartbeats.

It wasn’t so much a game as it was an activity. And because I’d snuck in a few Christmas movies before finals, I was reminded of the opening monologue from Love Actually:

If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.

That’s the trick of silence. It’s nowhere and everywhere — you just have to HUSH long enough to hear it.

We are wrapping up the year so it’s a good time to RESOLVE our minds for what comes next…


Lin’s VOW mantra: If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that *silence* actually is all around.

Lin’s SOW (Song of the Week): Not quite just a song, but this is the soundtrack to my week: Deep Focus playlist curated by Spotify.


Check out Steph’s #VOWhush post here.

#VOWhush as Snow

I’m not sure why Lin and I both associated snow with #VOWhush, but we did. Hell, we may have manifested the flakes that fell on Alabama and DC.

For me, the day it snowed was the first time it really felt like winter.

Like the holidays were almost upon us.

Like the slow was coming.

Like I could sit for a moment, near my Christmas tree made of books, and just watch with wonder.

This week, we

RESOLVE.

Playing Catch Up: Reflecting on November

So November happened. And I had the fullest intent to post each and every week as it passed because even though I may not have been writing about our VOWs, I certainly felt like I was living them. The weeks piled up at the same rate as my work case load and grad school readings. There are seasons when it feels like all you can do is keep your head above water; be it by skipping workouts or ignoring personal writing assignments. For anyone who missed these posts, my apologies. But now you get a huge recap (and I get a head start on next year’s format where we focus on one VOW per month).

SHOW certainly, well, showed up at the start of the month (November 6 – 12). This fall has been eerily quiet in my office; typically incidents start getting reported near the start of October. But this year? Crickets. It took a full month for the reports to start coming in, this time with the mass and intensity of a plague of locus.

Additionally, I was also presenting to First Year Experiences throughout the month. Let me tell you that talking about sexuality — let alone sexual violence — is not your average 18-year-old’s idea of a fun class session. Typically, I am met with tons of discomfort, a heap of uncertainty, a touch of resistance, and sometimes a sprinkle of hostility. I try to make my presentations to students as painless as possible (given the subject) and engage them in a way that makes the issue at hand applicable to their lives. I have limited success but the song-and-dance feeling of NINE one-hour presentations IN A ROW has the ability to make you feel like you’re putting on a SHOW. And it’s a program no one really wants to be watching.

Thankfully, I can say that those presentations were a RISK of developing my own program, outreaching to faculty members to get on their syllabi, and receiving some positive feedback from at least one or two students at the end of each session, was entirely worth it. It was exhausting and I half-expected to be chastised by several professors because of my liberal use of the word fuck (though I never used it as a verb, solely an expletive). Overall, I felt proud of myself for accomplishing so much single-handedly.

The week of Thanksgiving (#VOWReplenish) was sooo appropriately timed. Josh and I headed to New Orleans for the start of the week. It was our first real trip together, with no work or family obligations to dictate our schedule. It was unfettered, glorious, silly, and extravagant in ways that only New Orleans could be. Strolling aimlessly along streets in a foreign (to me) city is one of my favorite past times, made all the sweeter that my hand was constantly tucked inside my favorite person’s. We drank copiously (something I hadn’t tasted much of since August) — indulging in cocktails in a red-lit, French-themed seance room, champagne on one of the city’s premier patios, and bloody mary’s on a legit steamboat. My heart was exploding with happiness from the moment we embarked on the train.

We returned the day before Thanksgiving in time to collect Sister, and we continued to dine on cheese and guzzle wine for four more restorative days. It was a humble Thanksgiving but one of the best ones I’ve had. I was sad to come back to work but also refreshed enough to see my cases through fresh eyes.

Last week, we HEIGHTENED. Most specifically, Josh and I are now Club People. Hopefully not the insufferable kind. Birmingham’s City Club and UAB partnered on a pretty sweet membership price that offers free breakfast and squishy seats all day to those who want it. And Josh, who currently pops around from coffee shop to coffee shop, could certainly use a new space. Add to it the most stellar view from one of the area’s tallest skyscrapers (that sort of looks like the building from Ghostbusters), we have literally moved upwards. We’ll see if we stay Club People but figured given our current circumstances, we might as well soak in the views next to the clouds.

Ironically, the week I finally decide to post is the week we HUSH


Check the links for all of Steph’s timely VOW posts: #VOWsave/#VOWshow, #VOWrisk, and #VOWreplenish/#VOWheighten


header image courtesy of RedStampBlog.com

#VOWreplenish + #VOWheighten = a Recipe for Hope?

Lin is deep into Finals during her first year of graduate school, which is why she has been quiet.

My excuse is not quite as good–I spent Thanksgiving with Sister, REPLENISHing. We drank wine and ate cheese, and she let me spend a day reading a book that devoured every square inch of my soul (thanks, Sis–I needed it). And I just wasn’t quite ready to go back to the Real World.

But I had to, and after a day of traveling, I was back in my apartment with my cat, getting my life organized for Hell Week.

That’s what I nicknamed this past week of work. You see, I’m starting a new job on Monday–one I didn’t ask for and am not sure I want, but I know it’s one that I need to be good at. So…I’m in Stephanie Mode. Those of you who know me know exactly what that means:

Head down. Eyes getting ready to look up. Scared shitless. Heart reconciled to not disappointing the opportunity and the people who gave it to me.

Everything in me was HEIGHTENed this week. I’m all too aware of what life needs to look like as I get my bearings in this new job and in preparation for my last weekend of YTT this semester and the Holidays: Wine becomes a thing for the weekends. Meditation EVERY SINGLE MORNING a must. Yoga an every-damn-day reality. Body language in check. Food as fuel. All the coffee.

And there’s something else at work here. I’ve struggled to name it, but tonight I have: grounded possibility, also known as hope.

I think it’s important, when our hearts find themselves floating somewhere we aren’t quite ready to fly, that we keep our heads grounded, without pulling down too much. Because hope is a pretty powerful thing, and it can lead us places we don’t know.

I spoke to my Grams at length tonight about what’s in my heart, and she said the thing Stephanie needed to hear: Just let it be; see what happens; trust the Signs, and then let it be what it is.

I have this feeling, though she has never said it, she prays for me every night, and maybe that’s the reason I consistently feel some kind of faith. Because no matter my stance on a Higher Power, she has a firm one, and because of her, I have a firm belief in something.

In myself.

In my judgment.

In love.

In hope.

We are nearing the end of this year, of BUILD, and the words that are coming–#VOWhush, #VOWresolve, and #VOWwait–are ones I already feel. Things I am already committed to. Verbs that hold power to change the course of my life, whatever they bring.

So keep me where the light is, and this week, we

HUSH.