#VOWtake It In; #VOWbuild On It

For no other reason than a bone-deep feeling, I believe that my 28th year will be the last one that I am here—

Not alive (that’s morbid).
But fully present in this city, maybe.
More than that, by myself here.

I think, in a year, there will always be two, more times than there are one.
And that I will be completely ready for that commitment.

I believe I will owe that readiness, in large part, to this project.
To this year of Build-ing.

Because each week, these VOWs take me somewhere new.
They’ve become cities I’ve traveled to and explored without a map.
Alleys and cafes I fell in love with, not because they were wholly unseen,
but because they were ordinary things that made me feel feelings that,
in that moment, I hadn’t felt yet.

I think #VOWtake was an earthquake. An aftershock. And the rubble.
And ruin, as Elizabeth said, is the road to transformation.

This past week, I took:

In more calories in bread and cheese and wine than I should have.
More nights for what they were.
More chances than were smart.

And I regret nothing.

So this week, I’m primed to


Steph’s TAKE mantra: Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not: unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the word is full of uneducated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. (Calvin Coolidge)

Steph’s Song of the Week: TESTIFY by NEEDTOBREATHE

& Don’t Miss Lin’s #VOWtake post (coming soon…after she returns from the beach…not that I am jealous or anything).


#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…


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

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

& Lin’s taking a bye week for #VOWrepair but meet her back here for #VOWreach.

Exactly This: A Letter From Elizabeth Gilbert

Dear Ones –

OK, so I don’t usually quote myself on this page, but a reader asked me today if I would take a moment to further explain this idea that ruin can sometimes be a gift in our lives.

*takes a deep breath*

Let me begin by saying that the ruin I’m talking about here is not something I would encourage anyone to ever deliberately seek. I’ve seen people who chase darkness and destruction on purpose (sometimes for the glamour of it, sometimes for the romance of it, sometimes for the sheer self-hatred of it) and this is not a path that I am capable of endorsing for anybody.

No, I’m talking about the ruin that happens to you, without you ever seeing it coming. The chaos that sneaks up on you.

Because sometimes the bottom falls out of our lives. People leave us. Precious certainties are yanked away. We lose our health, our money, our gifts, our faith, our familiar surroundings, our trust. All the truths that we thought we could believe in forever suddenly depart us with no warning. The ground that we always knew was solid under our feet turns out to have been nothing but a trap door all along. (And then there’s another trap door under that one.) We disappoint ourselves. We are disappointed by others. We get dead lost. We are no longer longer recognizable to ourselves when we look in the mirror. It all falls to ruin.

And that, my friends, is when things start to get really interesting.

This is the chapter of life that Joseph Campbell called “The Dark Night of the Soul” — and it’s a necessary step in every hero’s journey. It’s also the hardest thing in the world. Nobody ever chooses to stand in this place; it just happens to you. And you will often see later that it needed to happen to you, if you were to ever become more than a mere passenger on Earth. Because this dark place is where you must decide whether to die or live. You cannot go back to what you knew, because what you knew is a pile of smoking rubble. You cannot stay where you are, because where you are is a bleak shroud of despair. You can only move forward into the absolute unknown. And the only way to move forward is to change.

Change, to put it simply, is the suck.

Nobody wants to do it — not real change, not soul change, not the painful molecular change required to truly become who you need to be. Nobody ever does real transformation for fun. Nobody ever does it on a dare. You do it only when your back is so far against the wall that you have no choice anymore.

Or, rather, you do have a choice — you can always die. As Sartre said: “Exits are everywhere.” But you don’t want to die, so you discover that you have no choice except to find a new way to live. Which seems next to impossible, but somehow, if you fight hard enough, isn’t. Because you know what else is everywhere? ENTRANCES. The task then becomes to find your entrance — to fight your way through the tunnel, into the dim hope of your own light.

The other day, I asked my dear friend Rayya Elias (who wrote the memoir “Harley Loco” about her years of heroin addiction) if — looking back on the pain and suffering of her life — she could imagine any scenario under which she could have gotten clean and sober earlier. I was imagining that maybe if she’d been sent to the right rehab, or had found a more kindly therapist, or had been told just the right words of encouragement by a wise former junkie, or had been rescued by the right family member…maybe she could have spared herself years of addiction and pain. Rayya’s answer initially shocked me, and then made perfect sense. She said: “The only way I could’ve quit drugs sooner would have been if everyone had abandoned me sooner.”

She explained that, as long as she was protected from total ruin by everyone’s love and care and support and enabling, she never had to completely face her own darkest place. So she lingered in the murk, hovering just above rock bottom ruin for years, barely getting by on scraps and crumbs. It was only when she had destroyed every relationship, only when everyone had left, only when she had been banished from everyone’s homes and lives, only when there was nobody left who would pick up the phone anymore when she called, only when she was dead alone with no money and no good will and no second chances left…it was only then, at the loneliest bottom of her existence, that she could finally hear the question that echoes at us constantly through the universe: “Is this really how you want to live?”

Her answer, to her own surprise, was “No.” And when that answer, loud and clear, becomes NO…that’s where our transformation always begins.

The changes in your life from that point forward will not be immediate and crisp. They never will be. Transformation isn’t easy. It isn’t pretty. (Ever watch a bird hatch? It’s fucking exhausting.) You don’t ascend from that lowest place of your life in a tidy straight line, moving a few inches upward every day. No, it’s a messy and jerky and unpredictable trajectory. But it is a trajectory. And the general direction — from the moment of your decision forward — is always going to be UP. Up and out. You will shed whatever (and whomever) you need to shed. You will find whatever (and whomever) you need to find. You will crawl and bawl. Until eventually you are standing, finally, on your own two feet in your own shower of light. Until you are the person you never would have been, had you never met your own worst darkness face-to-face.

And that is the gift that ruin offers us.


Original Source

Ruin & Build: The Road to Transformation?

I honestly can’t remember last New Year’s Eve. I don’t think it’s because I physically can’t remember it (though I wouldn’t be surprised—I drank more than was good for me this year); I just don’t.

*Pause while I scroll through Instagram.

I went to a party. I came home relatively early. It was uneventful.

In so many ways, 2016 went anything but the way it began.

The opposite of the word “build” (the word I have selected for 2017) is “destroy.”

To destroy means “to put an end to the existence of (something) by damaging or attacking it.” The more I reflect on 2016, I just don’t think that is what actually happened.

This past year was, instead, a deconstruction.

To deconstruct means “to analyze (a text or a linguistic or conceptual system) by deconstruction, typically in order to expose its hidden internal assumptions and contradictions and subvert its apparent significance or unity” or “to reduce (something) to its constituent parts in order to reinterpret it.”

This past year, things broke down.

I sat in a tangled mess—of bottles of wine I regretted, conversations I should have had, faith lost, a family history of addiction, health I wouldn’t own, men I’ve loved, and skin that no longer felt my own—for most of 2016.

But I found things there.

Things that I never would have known without this year.

Most notably, myself.

Or at least the foundation of the woman I want to be.

It’s funny—my sister used an Elizabeth Gilbert quote in her post, and I can promise the fact that I will use one too (accompanied by an entire letter) was unplanned. But it’s fitting—because we are sisters, and because both of the words we have selected for 2017 speak to this idea of creation: the action or process of bringing something into existence.

I think we both buy into the fact that, as Elizabeth Gilbert put it, “Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation.”

So, in 2017, I intend to take that road and BUILD upon what I found  in 2016, because, as she put it, “This dark place is where you must decide whether to die or live.”


2014 was PATIENCE
2015 was RISK

New Years is my favorite holiday.

It used to be Christmas. As a Gift Giver (an identity pulled from the 5 Love Languages), I adore the act of choosing the ideal gift for a loved one. Wrapping the package for perfect presentation. Watching them, as un-creepily as possible, take in the moment of expectation and surprise as they unwrap their present. The hugs. The smiles. The warm fuzzies of successfully expressing my affection and care and their successful receipt of it.

There’s great other stuff about Christmas, too. Lights on houses, spiked eggnog, and huge celebrations enjoying fantastic food and beverages with fantastic people. And the Christmas movies. My god, I do love Christmas movies. An annual tradition that began in college, I used to marathon them every day throughout season. Starting with Home for the Holidays on Thanksgiving and ending with The Nativity Storyon the 25th, I partook in a new film or special each night.

Yet for all the good about Christmas, as I aged I found myself less in the holiday spirit. Maybe it was in part because of my divorce in 2013. Or maybe the years of dissatisfaction that led up to it. Perhaps the holiday magic faded when I became more burdened by work deadlines and adult expectations. Maybe as I became less showy I required a less ornate holiday — though as a Leo I will always require a splash of glitz.

Maybe I just changed.
Or shifted, to be more precise.

I do think it’s the latter. For as much as I’ve always loved Christmas, I have also always been an Evolver. I love learning. I love lists and journals and reflection. I ingest self-help books and documentary films and the wisdom compactly nuggetted inside a quote. Reviewing and analyzing and recollecting. Daydreaming about how one year from today I will be nowhere near the same woman who I am now; she will know me but I do not know her. Not yet. She will be more mature and more flawed and practically new — the anticipation of that adaptation is thrilling.

These things fuel me in a way that a well-chosen present does not; they excite to a deeper level of my soul.

And even though they’re no longer en vogue, I adore New Year’s Resolutions. The act of looking back over the past year, reminiscing on the changes I anticipated and the ones that I could never have expected, the big days and the tiny moments that pop in my memory. Re-reading diary entries. Identifying my Top 5 Best and Worst Days (a habit that dates back to my longstanding affection of Rob Gordon). I archive playlists and pictures and create space for new, clean versions.

I close circles, map my desires, commit to goals 30 days at a time.

And I choose a word. Amongst many mini goals and resolutions, I select a single guiding light to help mold and inform the upcoming solar cycle.

2014 was PATIENCE.

My heart was shattered and I was picking up its pieces with bare hands. These were dark days, the ones following my divorce, and I wanted so much to be on the other side. But the only way there was through it so I reminded myself, again and again and again, to pace myself and grant grace at every opportunity. Having patience challenged me in unique ways and I was thrilled to find myself at the cusp of 2015 with an abundance of it. Waiting in lines, dealing with frustrating coworkers, allowing scars their time to heal — I endure more, have higher resilience, and my blood is now (or rather, finally) slow to boil.

2015 was RISK.

The year before I allowed myself to steep. And from the stillness I discovered that I was ready to emerge from my cocoon. I felt prepared for the first time in my life to make the hard choices, to voice the bold opinions, to take the leap of faith. I dated more and constantly pushed myself (sometimes forcibly) to dive when I preferred to remain safely in the shallows. For the first time I visited a country where I didn’t speak the language.  I was deeply unhappy in a job that undervalued me… so I up and quit it. Something I’d never done, not even in college when it’s more acceptable to make rash choices that could leave you penniless. But the great reward on the horizon — a career investigating sexual misconduct on college campuses — had taken root in my soul and I knew that I couldn’t be static and achieve my dream. It was terrifying and though I was only technically unemployed for five stressful days, that decision stands as one of the proudest achievements of my life.

2016 was BOUNDARIES.

Intended to both build walls and dismantle them, 2016 was less about me as an island and more about my engagement with the world around me. Especially when it comes to men and love and relationships, I had (and still have) a difficult time allowing someone in. But once they breach my shorelines, I have an even harder time holding people accountable. I’m horrendously non-confrontational (perhaps a kickback of the patience I had gained years before) and find that it’s easier to swallow my problems than to share them with others; that just ends up making everyone unhappy. When I feel dissatisfaction in a situation, I tend to just quietly readjust my attitude. Unfortunately, never holding people accountable is in fact more toxic to a relationship than engaging in mild conflict. I ended a relationship that had turned counterproductive, I chose to live within the means of my salary, I gave in to a man whom I had been holding at arms reach. I challenged physical boundaries when I relocated from precious Colorado for a job and adventure in Alabama.

And 2017?

There were many runners up:

ENOUGH — as in I have enough, I am enough
CREATE — as in making something out of nothing
ADAPT — as in shift and evolve and flow with the tides
UNFUCKWITHABLE — as in being unable to fuck with

In the end, however, this year I decided to EMBRACE.

I will strive to open my arms to making new friends, finding a home in a new city with it’s own complex culture. To cuddle the man who has revolutionized my concept of love and caring over the course of a few months. To give all my flaws (both personal and physical) a big ol’ bear hug. To enfold myself into the changes and challenges which my whole being screams will be disastrous (I’m looking at you, Trump). To stop shying away from the scary stuff. To lean, evermore, into the discomfort.

My mantras for the year (altered slightly from Elizabeth Gilbert):

Embrace the glorious mess that is life 

And for days when EMBRACING is purely about acceptance:

It is what it is