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.

Bursting the Bubble: Reflecting on EXPAND

This year was a focus on growth, moving up and outward. Perhaps overgrowing in some areas. The year began with a list of things to Expand:

  • I took 20 credit hours of graduate school while working full time… and maintained a 4.0 GPA, which I realize isn’t important to anyone. Except me. Because I was so nervous about starting school. So nervous it would be overwhelming and I would flounder. But I didn’t. I discovered I would be an excellent doctoral candidate, an idea I scoffed at the first time the Chair of my department suggested it. But as it turns out, a PhD may be a path I genuinely consider one day.
  • My career took unexpected turns. While I may have passed by for a major promotion, a high ranking university administrator shared his believe I would make an excellent Dean of Students in a few years time. He also shared my reputation as a hard and considerate worker was recognized throughout the division. I had the opportunity to mentor a couple of colleagues; ones I don’t supervise but who look towards me for leadership all the same. I attended a professional development conference that introduced me to my thesis topic (porn!) which I can use as a grant proposal for future endeavors.
  • My spirituality remained steadfast. I don’t ascribe to a specific deity or belief. A couple friends suggested I enroll in a Paganism 101 course at a local metaphysical shop with them, though it didn’t appeal. I’m no more Pagan than Baptist these days. And I’m okay with that. I have certainty the Universe takes care of those who trust it. And while there may be some Source that is interested in my well-being, it isn’t actively pulling strings on the daily. This belief solidified. I possess a quiet spirituality these days and rarely struggle comparing my journey to others.
  • I probably didn’t seek friendship as doggedly as I should have. I accepted invites, though. I made connections. I showed up for people I only met briefly and came to terms that I don’t need the same size circle I had in Fort Collins — which took over a decade to build. Instead, I capitalized on the relationships I value most and showed up whenever I was called upon. Midnight phone calls, pleading emails, laughter in success.
  • Josh and I are still the eternally obnoxious couple who belly laugh ever night before bed. The ones who drunkenly sit on a balcony overlooking the ocean and discuss how they wouldn’t trade places with anyone under any condition because there is no one more compatible or contented than us. It is as schmaltzy as it sounds. I know this perfect little bubble will burst some day, maybe soon. We’ll yell at each other in anger; some catastrophe will crack our foundation. So each night when I put my head on my love’s shoulder and whisper nonsensical riddles into his ear (as is our habit) I catalog the moment with fierce gratitude.
  • My relationship with myself is progressing slowly. I made efforts to be kinder to myself about the softness of my body and wildness of my hair. I took a food sensitivity test and discovered brewers yeast and dairy caused my chronic stomach aches and aggressive acne. I hoped cutting them from my diet would result in moderate weight loss, though that was not the case. Neither did cutting out alcohol on school nights and exercising for about five hours each week. This may have been one of the tests of my year — doing all the little things that are supposed to add up to major changes and still appreciating the damn thing when it all stays the same.
  • Truth is ever evasive, though this year I found incredible solace in reminding myself It is what it is. Such a basic and seemingly pessimistic phrase that continues to prove relevant into adulthood. Fighting whatever it happens to be is wasted effort. I added another Rule of Adulthood: Make the time to do just a little. I don’t know when I discovered the Pomodoro Technique but it single-handedly enabled all-day study sessions and completing endless reports for work.
  • I didn’t go to a kundalini class. But I still want to try one.
  • I meditated a bit but it is far from routine. I’m still making room for it in the middle of my work day with the personal reminder that taking even 10 minutes for lunch is appropriate.
  • Travel always makes your world larger and smaller at the same time. You realize people are mostly the same wherever you go. You share smiles with a stranger whose language you don’t speak (even if it’s just metaphorically). You drink their booze and eat their delicacies and soak in all that’s unfamiliar. Seattle, Cuba, St Augustine, Tennessee, Orange Beach. Most of our trips were small weekend getaways but they replenished me in a way I can’t fully explain. But it made my heart bigger, experience deeper, and appreciation wider.
  • And our house. Our wonderful, amazing, cozy, beautiful home with a glorious deck and magnolia tree. My astrologer noted three or so years ago that my chart indicated Home was of incredible importance to me. She caught me in the middle of a cycle where I uprooted apartments five times in six years, so I initially dismissed her. But the adoration I feel for our little (huge) mid-century cottage is proof she was right. The only thing that could take me away from that place is opportunity in Savannah.

I’m not the same person I was at the start of the year. Not so drastically different either. As I age I find myself steadfast in accepting the things about me which may not be perfect but aren’t otherwise so bad. I also challenge myself to show up, to put others first, and to stop procrastinating. I maintain room for fun and satisfaction even during the most stressful of weeks.

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.

Exactly this…

Sister forwarded me enough articles from DailyOm that I started subscribing, too.

This darling little article that so perfectly fit our #OneWord2018’s and this year’s VOW schedule. I couldn’t help but share and if this resonates, you may want to get on their daily newsletter list, too.

Contracting Before Expanding

by Madisyn Taylor

It is a natural part of being, that our lives sometimes contract before expanding.

Sometimes our lives contract before they expand. We may be working hard on ourselves spiritually, doing good in the world, following our dreams, and wondering why we are still facing constrictions of all kinds–financial, emotional, physical. Perhaps we even feel as if we’ve lost our spirituality and are stuck in a dark room with no windows. We may be confused and discouraged by what appears to be a lack of progress. But sometimes this is the way things work. Like a caterpillar that confines itself to a tiny cocoon before it grows wings and flies, we are experiencing the darkness before the dawn.

When things feel tight, it’s easy to panic or want to act in some way to ease the feeling of constriction. We might also spin our wheels mentally, trying to understand why things are the way they are. However, there is nothing we need to do at this time other than to be patient and persevering. We can cling to the awareness that we are processing the shift from one stage to another, and the more we surrender to the experience, the more quickly we will move through the tightness into the opening on the other side. Just like a baby making its way down the birth canal, we may feel squeezed and pushed and very uncomfortable, but if we remember that we are on our way to being born into a new reality, we will find the strength to carry on.

Even as we endure the contractions, we can find peace within ourselves if we remember to trust the universe. We can look to the natural world for inspiration as we see that all beings surrender to the process of being born. In that surrender, and in the center of our own hearts, is a willingness to trust in the unknown as we make our way through the opening.

 

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]

On Choosing (and already witnessing) #VOWexpand

I bought myself a special birthday treat last August. As a tarot reader, you’d think that I’d have had several professional readings in my time. Not so. The only reading I ever had (aside from friends in my meetup group) has been a nice fellow spread out on the Charlottesville foot mall. It was that one random reading (backed by a lifelong curiosity) that led me to purchase my first deck.

This year I paid off a shit ton of credit card debt. I cut out all superfluous spending for over a year and plugged about 40% of my paycheck (after taxes) towards financial freedom. EMBRACE taught me a lot about money, such as using what I have rather than stockpiling three or four backups of virtually everything (read: fear of scarcity issues). I worked hard and so as my birthday approached, I asked my inner self what sounded like a nice reward to usher in the new year. And my heart said it would like a virtual tarot reading from the incomparable Benebell Wen.

My Twelve Month Reading included a whole host of unexpected and insightful information (Bell is nothing if not an Achiever) and it was she who chose my #OneWord2018 for me.

Expansion.

She had channeled the word as being key for the upcoming year. And the reading she gave supported it. And mysteriously (because I’m still sorting out my beliefs regarding astrology because it seems hokey but that shit is also eerily accurate) many other metaphysical readings I’ve had done in the ensuing months have supported it.

I will admit that it felt that #VOWexpand felt almost too similar to Steph’s 2017 word (Build) but who am I to argue when the Universe places a path in front of me?

Some things I want to EXPAND on in 2018:

my education

my career

my spirituality

my friendship circle here in Bham

my relationship with Josh

my relationship with myself

my definition of Truth

How this shows up is still a mystery. That is the benefit of choosing a word for the year – it isn’t quite what you anticipate it will be. Like a mantra and affirmation, like spellwork, I believe that in the mere focusing of the word it redirects where you will go.

I hope to help it along the way, of course. I don’t fold my arms and blindly demand that the Universe heap mind-blowing revelations on me. Some things I plan on doing this year:

try out kundalini

determine my capstone project

reestablish my meditation practice

read (and re-read and re-re-read) White Hot Truth

buy a house

Let me just clarify that, that last one — buy a frigging house — was not on my list as of January 1st. But there’s the Universe, stepping in and saying oh that’s sweet. you want expansion, huh? how about 2400 square feet?

The perfect-for-us home fell into our laps late last week. Josh and I have kept our eyes on Zillow since relocating. We’ve been happy renters but are so in love with our neighborhood that we knew the ever-burgeoning area would soon outprice us rent-wise. We’re surrounded by cute mid-century bungalows so it felt only natural to set a few alerts in case anything in the right price arose. And as it turns out, there was one house about half a mile from where we live that kept catching both our eyes.

So we booked a showing with our realtor on Friday. And wouldn’t you know it? The sellers had just dropped the price. The layout was the right amount of quirky. The wall colors and flooring were just my style. The kitchen had a big deep sink and fancy fridge included.

It was perfect.

And upon checking my horoscope the next morning, I read:

There’s a great deal of activity for you on the home front. You might be involved in a major construction project and if so, you’ll make significant progress today. Your contractors might inform you that they anticipate finishing ahead of schedule, much to your delight. Another possibility is that you could be involved in a real estate transaction and notice that there are absolutely no obstacles in your way. This is clearly meant to be.

And it was. We put in an offer, we seamlessly got pre-approved by a bank, the down-payment requirements are way lower than expected, and this afternoon we got news that the sellers have accepted our offer.

So come March — one year from Josh’s arrival — we will EXPAND from our first apartment together to our first home together.

And as I cycle between ebullience and terror. I’m not scared of buying a house with Josh but rather the financial commitment that comes with it. I’m getting what I ask for, plus a healthy dose of CHARGE (our January VOW) which, when all is said and done, I’m certain will be for the better.


See Steph’s rationale for her #OneWord365 — #VOWnarrow.

On Choosing #VOWnarrow

Sister asked me in an email yesterday where I thought Narrow would take me; she told me that she was going to post this week on why she chose Expand.

Seems like I should do the same. Tell you why I chose my #OneWord2018.

So I will.

But first I need to talk about my sister.

She’s always doing that to me. Asking the tough questions. Challenging me to explain—not to justify something to her but to make sure I am thinking things through, talking them out, processing.

Let me be honest, sometimes it hurts. And it’s caused a disagreement or two along the way. Sometimes I hate that I can always hear her voice in my head. But she’s always there. She always shows up.

My sister was my first real tribe. Don’t get me wrong—I love the family I was born into. We are tribe too, even if it took us a while to get there. But the first family member I chose, she taught me how to choose my family.

At a New Year’s Eve celebration on Sunday night, I was talking to one of the hosts. She and her best friend have this bond that blows me away, and she said this thing that I can’t get out of my mind. She told me that she thinks the reason they are the way they are, the reason their friendship has stayed rock solid for a decade plus, is that they keep showing up. Busy, stressed, unshowered, at work, across the country, in love…It doesn’t matter. They just always make sure to show up for each other.

And it dawned on me that that is the basis of friendship and even romance. It’s everything about tribe. Showing up.

I don’t know if I can say that I did that to the best of my ability last year.

So Narrow is partially about those things. It’s about Tribe. It’s about making choices, choosing, and showing up.

.  .  .

I think Narrow is also about those voices in my head. Not just my sister’s. But the others—the ones from the past, the ones on the news, my ego’s, and mine. All of them.

It’s about talking less. It’s about getting quiet more. It’s about listening.

To the thing I know to be true.

.  .  .

I have spent the past few years building. Trying new things. Taking classes. Learning more skills. Experimenting. Meeting new people. Getting back in touch with old ones. Letting go of others.

I know very much I am still becoming. I’ll probably always be. And I want that.

But I also know that I have a good handle on the woman I am.
Virtues. Vices. Confidences. Insecurities.

I am getting clearer on who I want her to be.
What it is that I want from that woman.
From a man.
From a job.
From this life.

Narrow is about making choices that align with those things.
About listening to pings from the Universe.
About saying no to what doesn’t set my soul on fire.
About saying yes when I know in my gut that’s what I am supposed to do.

 

 

v-e-r-b scrabble tiles

A List of Things Built: Reflecting on My #OneWord2017

I started 2017 with a list of things I wished to build in the upcoming year.
I start 2018 with a list of things built:

 A playlist.
Chaturanga.
A stack of hundreds of pages of creative work.
Tribe, anchored rather solidly at a used bookstore in Southeast DC.
A body I love, even on the days I don’t like it as much as I could.
Certainty in what it is that I want.
In a becoming.

Those last two words sum up my #OneWord2017: a becoming.

And perhaps instead of trying to write something poignant, I will share the words of someone who already did, in a letter to me, after my #VOWresolve post (my favorite post this year):

While risking sounding miserably cliché, I hope you can, in some ways, enjoy the process of becoming. Because, the truth is, we never stop. Becoming, that is. And I don’t think there is ever complete resolve. We are ever-evolving in ways that we can’t even comprehend.

But I know you know that. 

My wish for you, sweet lady? That you, in the midst of waiting for clarity regarding your next bold move, can focus on what does make sense. To really focus on those pieces that you’re collecting—picking them up, studying them in different shades of light, and realize that, “Damn. I am the compilation of a lot of cool things.”

And as for the frenetic aloneness? I hope that you can try your best to enjoy what solitude affords you. Even though it seems like a burden (especially at 3 am), there are so many gifts that solitude gives. I’m wishing I had more of it myself. And the solitude won’t be with you forever. I’m sure of it. 

Here to the pieces. All of them. Whenever they choose to show themselves.

I am still very much waiting on a some pieces, a couple of them somewhat impatiently, but at least I know what they look like now.

With all that in mind and taking her wish into consideration, in 2018 I have decided I am going to attempt to focus on what does make sense, on the pieces I have collected and continue to. I am going to

NARROW.

And with that in mind, this month, we

CHARGE.