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

v-e-r-b scrabble tiles

12 Verbs in 12 Months: Our 2018 VOW Venture

51 verbs in 52 weeks; that was our venture in 2017.

In 2017, each of us chose a single verb for the entirety of the year, our #OneWord. For Lin, it was EMBRACE; for Steph, it was BUILD. Our goal was to spend the year reflecting and putting this verb into practice. We bookended our challenge with this word, making our #OneWord2017 our VOW, our Verb of the Week, for the first and last weeks of the year.

To read our first post of 2017, click here for Lin’s and here for Steph’s.
To read our last post of 2017, check back in a few days.

For the 50 weeks in between, we randomly selected a verb for each week that we spent time with. We began on a Monday and ended with individual reflections on the weekends, with the exception of a few bye weeks for each of us.

To see our VOW schedule for 2017click here.

In 2018, the second year of our project, we have opted for 12 verbs in 12 months.

Our #OneWord’s for 2018: For Lin, it is EXPAND; for Stephanie, it is NARROW.

Completely unplanned, we chose antonyms of each other for our words this year, so we decided to keep that theme in mind for the 12 verbs we will encounter in 2018. We randomly selected six verbs and then chose opposites for them. For example, in January 2018, we will CHARGE; in February, we will FREEZE. We will each post at least once a month.

To see our VOW schedule for 2018, click here.

The purpose of the VOW Venture is simple and remains unchanged: to live more intentionally aided by our favorite part of speech.

To join our ventureclick here.

 

30 Seconds to Intimacy: Reflecting on HOLD

I don’t remember exactly when Josh first mentioned it. Maybe it was something his therapist said. Perhaps it was a random article that caught his eye during a mental work break. All I know is that since he mentioned there was a “right way” to do them, all our subsequent hugs have piqued my interest.

Hugging, it seems, is good for our neurobiology. And 30 seconds of it increases intimacy-cementing hormones (namely, oxytocin). This is the chemical released during childbirth and, interestingly, intercourse. As much of a 30 second EMBRACE (recall that this is my #oneword2017) can enhance, solidify, and tenderize your relationship with your partner. Not that Josh and I need it — we’re that obnoxious couple that has never fought, despite dating for over a year and living together for nearly six months. Part of that is because we’re naturally so fucking compatible that it bewilders us on a daily basis. The other is because we actively work to preclude conflicts before they originate.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re going to have a huge blow out at some point. We’ve even placed a bet on what it will be about and who will start the fight (my bed: probably about his ex and it’ll probably be me saying something feisty).

But in the meantime, we are diligent to take care of the other person. To be on their side. To support and forgive and clarify. And this week, I wanted to give those long, restorative hugs a try.

So every day, we would HOLD one another for a long embrace. Sometimes it was in the bathroom, naked post-shower. Sometimes it was in the doorway, holding my purse post-work. Sometimes it was in the kitchen, wet hands from doing dishes post-dinner.

You don’t just wrap your arms around each other, either. Josh gave me instructions during our first run — you must also put your weight into the other one. Really lean in there. Rest your body against the other person. Hold tight-ish. Maybe place your face in the crook of their neck and breathe in their pheromones.

And for reals, y’all, it works. It’s an instant rejuvenater. At first we hugged for the designated 30 seconds. Oftentimes it lasted far longer, the two of us slowly revolving in our own little world. The hugs infiltrated our sleep, TV watching, and meal times. Josh thrives on physical touch so this week’s verb benefited him even more than me.

This week was a good reminder that our VOWs needn’t be major in order to be impactful.

Next week we shift gears and begin to TAKE


Lin’s VOW mantra:

Lin’s Song of the Week: Hold On by Rivvrs


Be sure to read Steph’s #VOWhold post (coming soon!)

Reject What Does Not Serve You: Reflecting on EMBRACE

Like most of us, I cheered extra hard and kissed extra long when the clock struck midnight this year, ushering in the excitement and promise of 2017. Dismissing the hot mess that was 2016 — especially the final quarter of it — provided my soul the equivalent of a long shower, brushed teeth, fresh underwear, and clean hair.

Granted, I felt same way at the beginning of 2016. And when 2015 was novel. I still consider 2014 one of the worst years of my life but I do recall being so grateful for it’s arrival after a brutal 2013.

I guess what I’m saying is despite all the ‘New Year, New You’ promises and the memes thanking our lucky stars for a bright start with the rollover… y’all, we’ll just be saying the exact same things at this time next December.

2017 will be just as DEPLETING as 2016 — if we let it.

This plays a part in why people nay-say New Year’s Resolutions, methinks.

Because it’s nice to envision ourselves on the other side, having realized all our potential and relaxing in mental satisfaction with more money, less body fat, and overall tranquility.

Remember when I said I love New Years Resolutions? This is because I select mine deliberately and go full-scale nerdy and do my best to make them SMART. I set mini-goals in twelve aspects of my life to make the application of these promises realistic.

So… how does this micro-rant fit into my weekly application of EMBRACE?

There’s a lot about this week which did not naturally elicit a “Yes, Let’s” attitude.

My boyfriend left town and I already fiercely miss his warmth in my bed and his arms around my waist. When he walked out the door, the emptiness of the air around me felt suffocating. I still don’t have many friends in Alabama, none that I hang out with after work, and I likely won’t have physical contact with another human being for at least a month until his return. You forget how important touch is until you no longer receive it.

New circumstances at work which I’ve been dreading awaiting for two months has finally arrived and my concerns regarding the changes are beginning to be realized. I love my job and I love the way things have been; this change is one that I flat-out JUST DID NOT WANT TO HAPPEN. The transition hasn’t been smooth and some of the hiccups we experienced reflected poorly on relationships with colleagues I worked hard to establish. Messages I had been very deliberate about crafting were not communicated properly. Time was wasted on events that should have been applied to other projects. Overall, I left the office each day thinking (and occasionally saying aloud) fuck this.

And then I caught a cold.

And as it always does, along with stress and sadness and sickness, out come my old demons. Ones that are as much a part of me as my congenital heart defect. Quiet voices which whisper cruel things about my body, my hair, my skin, my success. In the back of my mind I hone in on the rolls of my stomach and stretch of my pants against my thighs. Every glance in the mirror pinpoints to a large pimple between my eyebrows. And I begin to think (and occasionally say aloud) fuck this, too.

I begin to wonder if I can actually remain content with the multitude of things which need to be adjusted but don’t seem to budge. And the things that I want to remain as they are but are moving too quickly to catch them. Why is it that life seldom does exactly what we want it to do?

It’s at these times, when the inner voices are chattering and my stubbornness is digging in its heels that I say to myself:

Chill, Lindsey.
Breathe, Lindsey.
Embrace.
Appreciate the stupid mess that is life (like you said you would).

It takes significant effort to actively adjust one’s attitude. But each time the pessimism has popped up, I have reframed:

Those work issues? They’re giving me an opportunity to prove my worth, develop my strengths, and build new skills.

Missing my man? Our time apart has served us very well so far and in the future, we’ll look back nostalgically at this time as being essential in our growth.

My stuffed nose and scratchy throat? I give myself permission for unlimited hot toddy’s and realize it can jump start the direction for next week’s VOW.

The key to embracing is realizing that it’s all a work in progress.

The only way any of us become the 2.0 versions we envision ourselves and our lives to be at the end of the year is to put it into practice.

Simply because it is the new year doesn’t mean that I’m going to lose weight (or stop feeling weird about the extra pounds I’ve recently put on). But it also doesn’t mean that I need to continue to feel ashamed of my body either. Embracing includes following body positive accounts on social media or taking morning walks accompanied with tea and podcasts (and when I’m lucky, my fella). My sole physical “resolution” for 2017 is to clock 20 days on my paddleboard which benefits not only my physique but my mental well-being as well.

What’s the saying in 12 Step programs? About accepting the things we cannot change  and doing the work to adapt what we can? The courage is not only in knowing the difference between the two but rejecting the things in life which are no longer constructive.

That’s what embracing is to me (and how it showed up this week). By saying this is the way things are, here is the stuff I have control over, and that there is the shit that I just need to let go. It may have been an it is what it is kind of week; but even that means I was successful.

So when 2018 comes and I’m none the richer, thinner, or whatever-er, I will find myself improved. And (hopefully) I won’t focus on all the things that that are lacking since I’ve had 365+ opportunities to deprogram that way of thinking.


Lin’s VOW mantra: Embrace the mess that is life. It is what it is.

Lin’s Song of the Week: Mad World by Gary Jules


Be sure to read up on Steph’s post about #VOWbuild

Join us next week as Steph and I join forces for our first shared Verb of the Week, #SETTLE

Share in the comments what your #OneWord2017 is and how you applied it this week.

Have your own blog? Let us know and we’ll link to you!

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.

Onward,
LG

Original Source

#OneWhat?

2014 was PATIENCE
2015 was RISK
2016 was BOUNDARIES

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

xoxo
Lin