Searching and Measuring: Reflecting on EXPLORE

My god, this would have been the perfect week to travel.

One of my favorite things in life is taking to a new place on foot. Winding through streets with a general destination in mind but no hurry or rush to get there. To see the touristy sights, to discover the hidden gems, to picture what it would be like to live here. Is it for me? How would my life be different? How would it be the same?

The escapism of a new country or a new town or an unknown road speaks to all of us in a similar way to the familiarity of our childhood homes. There’s something there that you want to soak in until you’ve covered every square inch and can finally feel satisfied.

Alas. This week I did not get to travel. I did not even make an attempt to explore my new city on foot, though last Friday we did have a new neighborhood recommended to us with some good ol’ Southern architecture.

Rather my exploration was more about mapping my future. Over a matter of days, two paths unfurled themselves in front of me. One was the promise of a new skill set and better boss. The other, homework and late night coffee fixes.

For me, grad school has been a long time in the making. Working in higher ed, I have to earn another degree at some point. But at 32, I don’t want to study for the GRE and re-learn all the useless information I’ve lost in the past 15 years post-graduation (I’m looking at you, geometry). And finding a program that actually fits with how I want to build a career but won’t take an eternity to complete has been a struggle. But last week I finally bit the bullet, applied to a program that the more I EXPLORED it, the more excited I became. Josh heard me proclaim more than once a class on Deviant Behavior? Oh my god, that’s PERFECT! I drafted the essay, deposited the application fee, requested the referrals.

And of course as soon as my mind was made up and submissions made — poof. Another opportunity to throw me into a tailspin.

Now don’t get me wrong, I recognize this as a true blessing and a privilege. But there’s nothing quite like an equally promising, well, promise that makes you doubt all your well-intentioned choices.

A job posting, related to my field and supervised by someone I have a positive standing relationship with opened. I was more than qualified and the words “love to have you” may have been bandied about. My heart was aglow with the feeling of appreciation from an office I respect. This position was a glittering resolution to my six-month struggle with new leadership of my office. A remedy to the soul-crushing lack of value for my efforts. A muffle to the ever-growing rants about infuriating decisions towards which I have no (official) voice.

Last week I found myself awake late at night, mentally EXPLORING my options. Weighing one versus another. Envisioning which would make greatest impact and afford me greatest future success. Stressing and dreaming and scrutinizing.

I ended up not applying for the job, putting all my eggs in the familiar basket. Metaphorically choosing to stroll the streets I cross every day seeking for a glimpse of something yet-unseen. The tucked away door that leads to the Secret Garden. That’s the risk of EXPLORE, I suppose. It can be fun and exciting but also tiring and kinda scary if you turn down an unfamiliar street and find yourself at a crossroads.

Wish me luck.

This week we REPAIR…

And be sure to check out Steph’s post on #VOWexplore

#VOWexplore: A State of Mind?

I’m headed to the beach on Monday, when I’m normally writing and publishing these posts, so I got started a bit early…

To be honest, I’d probably have more to say about #VOWexplore next week, after I return from my trip, but by Sunday, we will already be moving on to a different verb, so I need to post what I know about it now.

Note: I paused right here to look up what our next VOW is, and I just shook my head in disbelief: Repair. Universe Buddha God, I gotta hand it to you…you’re good.

It’s no secret to you, my dear readers (that could potentially be limited to my sister), that I am heartbroken, and to be quite honest, exploring anything other than my bed and bottles of wine is not what I wanted to do (yes, this is numbing Brene fans, but I gave myself a limit that my sister will keep me accountable to, so please give me some grace). I did drag myself out of my house to an event with a true lady boss on Tuesday, to a storytelling class on Wednesday, and to my favorite bookstore (and sanctuary) on Thursday. I have plans to go dancing with girlfriends and lounge at a pool with my bestie this weekend, and I booked a solo trip to the beach early next week. Last night, I even managed to clean my apartment (minus a HUGE, monumental even, basket of laundry to fold…I hate folding laundry).

Honestly, I think that’s a pretty good first heartbreak week (though I only did all that stuff because it happened to be scheduled—had it not, I probably would have stayed in bed).

But tonight, I have zero interest in doing anything, because I am sick of looking around. Because what I didn’t tell you, besides having a packed week, is that I spent a lot of time inside my heard cleaning out metaphorical closets and throwing shit on the floor; it’s a huge mess.

There’s nearly two years of memories just lying around. Everywhere. There are questions sitting in a pile that need to be picked up and sorted through. There are what-if’s collecting like dust on surfaces. There’s a big you-made-a-mistake hiding under the bed. And in the corner sits a still small voice, cowering from the many things I threw at it.

I spent the week exploring that space. Trying to clean it up. In order to find something. However, I mainly spent time putting things in boxes and taking them right back out again, making no progress at all.

And I guess that’s the thing about exploring…it requires perspective. You can travel across the world, to a place you’ve never been, and still see nothing new. You can choose to see just another body of water and just another building. You can go for a walk in the neighborhood where you’ve lived for five years, taking the same route you take every day, and see an alley you’ve never noticed though you pass it every day.

The thing is: I’m just not ready yet.

To clean it up.

It needs to stay as it is for now. Until I stop throwing things at my house elf of an intuition.

Until I give her some socks and set her free and see what happens.

And yes, I am fucking proud of that last Harry Potter reference.

This coming week, I’m heading to a little cottage on the beach that I’ve rented for myself. To relax. To read. To just be. To potentially start to…

REPAIR.


Steph’s EXPLORE mantra: When the climb gets harder, make your world smaller.

Steph’s Song of the Week: The Black and White by The Band Camino

& Don’t miss Lin’s post on #VOWexplore (coming soon!).

An Open Letter to My Heartbroken Beloved About #VOWfocus

My Dearest Friend,

I know so intimately what you feel at this exact moment. The difference is perhaps that I am a bottle of wine in, and you have likely opted instead for deep fried and paper thin….dealer’s choice.

That not withstanding, I know what you’re going through.

The emotional ache that you never quite believe is physical until you feel it crack your chest. The pain you know you’ve felt but can never for the life of you remember. The I’m Sorry for every little thing you think back on that may have altered our course and now seems just so insignificant. The self-loathing for the times you doubted us or let your mind wander to something else. The What If’s and Maybe’s that repeat like a Top 40 Carly Rae Jepson song. The panic that sets in when you mentally un-circle the dates on a calendar. When you start to un-build a life that only physically lacked the ring.

More than anything, I want to talk to you about that last part. Because, for some reason, I still think it’s what you need to hear. Or maybe I’m projecting, and it’s what I need to hear.

In our three decades (you give some, and I’ll take a little), we’ve both been here enough to know that the sun moves us on, willing or not. But that the times in between the sun, our skin stays marked (mine permanently and in ink considering your handwriting is tattooed on my arm)—it aches and flakes and tans and scars.

I just wanted to remind you, in the moment between the sun, that your focus can be your aloe. That you should let it soothe you. And let that brief respite be okay. Let grateful replace the guilt I…you feel.

Tonight, a half bottle in, I think it’s pretty remarkable what us humans can do. The ones who make a decision, conscious or seemingly unconscious (though we know—if not at first then always at some point—love is a choice), to give our heart to someone who could break it. To stand in the arena and wave a red flag at love. And the resilient ones, to do it again. And again even.

The lovers don’t get enough credit I think.

So I want to tell you how strong I think you are. For having done this before, legally even, and choosing to do it again. With me.

There is nothing in me but the deepest and most sincerest of gratitudes, for seeing in me, something that needed to be seen. And admiration, for choosing to enter.

I’m getting sidetracked.

I used to have this yoga teacher, who I wish I could tell how profoundly she changed my life. Anyway, in my Bikram class one day, she said, “When the climb gets harder, make your world smaller.” It’s advice I’ve gone back to again and again. And I return to it now, because it saved my life before.

Because my world without you seems vast.

Unformed.

I assume yours does as well. And I want to remind you, as you have so often done with me, to breathe. To focus on the next breath instead of the next day. And the next minute instead of the next week. And the next hour instead of the next month.

It’s okay to make your world small.

And when you let a painful minute just be a painful minute, it’s easier to let the next minute be one of pure love. And the next of pure gratitude. And the next of pure pain.

Inhale. Exhale. Repeat. It’s all good. (Thank you, Alia Khan).

And I think, in that third minute, that these three-minute cycles of grief are, truly, a pretty remarkable gift we’ve given to each other. So please, and I hope you will, be grateful. Know that I am. Grateful. In more ways and more words than I would ever pen here.

Above all else, I want you to remember, that you are what I started this letter with: My Dearest Friend. And that no matter what becomes of our story in your mind, in mine, and in the end, you will always be at least and at most (which is the highest regard with which Abigail Adams addressed her correspondence to her most beloved): My Dearest Friend.

And for now this is all the salve that I can give you. And for that I hate myself, but, for my own good, I let it be enough.

Because, you know me and you know, words have always been the thing I was best at.

I need to go drink another glass of wine for tonight, because I’m reaching the end of a three-minute cycle, and it just hurts.

But remember to focus on breathing. And that it’s okay, when you don’t have to anymore.

With the Heart I Hope You Would Still Love,

 

S

P.S. This week, we

EXPLORE,

And I make plans to head to the sea (and meet salt water with salt water) with Mermaid Jar funds (more to come).