January: Reflecting on CULTIVATE

As mentioned in our respective 2019 introductory posts, Sis and I will be focusing on different verbs each month, each with a focus on exploring our individual One Words for the year.

For Steph, January is SCRIBBLE (coming soon!)
For me, January is CULTIVATE.

cul-ti-vate (v): to acquire or develop a quality, sentiment, or skill; try to win the friendship or favor of someone; apply oneself to improving or developing one’s mind or manners.

During mine and Josh’s end of year trip to the beach, I devoured Gretchen Rubin’s modern classic The Happiness Project. I’ve read it a few times now and each time I find myself incredibly motivated by her endeavor. Gretchen has become increasingly interested in what drives our habits – how do we create them? How do we improve them? What do they say about us personally?

While we fully randomize our annual VOW list, I was thrilled when CULTIVATE appeared as my first for the year. With the fresh start, I decided to focus on strengthening the routines in my life, which need to be strong during a year which revolves around INCUBATION. To successfully create and quietly build myself up, I want to ensure the foundation is sturdy.

Mostly, this surrounds religiously updating my planner and various habit trackers. I placed reminders to floss, sneak in a quickie ab workout, and times to meditation during my workday. I was diligent about writing in my 5 Year One Line journal Sister gifted me for Xmas. I readjusted my monthly budgets and researched some unique professional development opportunities.

I met Sister’s fella, a relationship I look forward to CULTIVATING deeper in the coming years.

I presented at a regional conference and was chosen to present at another out of state. Despite all my belly-aching about my job, I know that getting my face in front of colleagues has the potential to catapult my career. I also planted the seeds for the inevitable transition to Savannah.

And even though I completed it several weeks late, I made my very first vision board to help me harness all the feelings I seek this year. A confident sexiness, a friendly authority, a fierce dissention, a chasmic love, a jubilant freedom, a quiet creativity, a vulnerable introspection, a restorative ritual. Because I was so delayed completing it, I nearly skipped the entire thing. But I reminded myself this perfectionistic impulse would serve me no better than simply missing a self-imposed deadline.

And frankly, it wound up being my favorite thing of the whole month:


In February, I will ENSHROUD while Steph CATALOGS.

2019: WRITE What Happened. (#VOWrecord)

My grandpa used to write things down. Every night. In this daily planner of sorts. It had a faux leather cover. The year was in gold. On the front. Near a corner. He sat in that rust red chair a lot of nights writing in it. I don’t think I ever dared to open one. Though I’ve always been curious. I hope they are in a box somewhere. I should ask my grandma.

My grandma…I keep thinking about her. That I don’t call enough. That when I do, it is always hard to talk like we used to. I know she is tired. She always has one eye on my grandpa, making sure he is okay. I feel guilty too…for not being there. I don’t want her to be reminded that I am not. To be in pain. But I have so many things to tell her. She used to be my best friend. I stopped treating her like that when their life changed. I didn’t want to be a burden. I wonder if I inadvertently was anyway. I have things to ask her too. I’m going to try letters.

I want to pass things on. The things I want to know from her…I want to give those to someone one day. I want to be able to recall when I remember, even if I need some help to do it. I want to have a way to check back in. With myself.

I want to write what happened.

In as many ways and formats as I can.

So, in 2019, I am RECORDing.

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.

#Incubate2019

My 2018 word was chosen during a tarot reading; I was told my 32nd year would bring for many opportunities for EXPANSION.

This year, INCUBATE similarly revealed itself. Frankly, I was thisclose to selecting Sister’s word (RECORD). I used to be an avid journaler but since moving to Birmingham, I’d fallen out of the habit. This blog, while an activity I love, was often pushed aside while more “pressing” requirements fought for my time. (Rule of Adulthood that always brought me back to posting — make the time and do just a little).

Finals were stressful and I had less time to devote towards reflecting on the past year. It’s my favorite thing to do. When Spotify unveils its Top 100 Songs playlist I feel the buzz of excitement for a new year. The fresh tracks you get to lay. The unknown promise of what is to come. 2019 might be a festering dumpster fire of a year for all I know, but there’s just something about the anticipation of the unknown. The passing of phases. The chance to look back and detect how things have changed since last time.

Goddamn, I love this time of year.

Chani Nicholas is an astrologer I came to about two years ago; her new moon horoscopes and rituals have become an essential expense item in my monthly budget. She, along with Susan Miller, another astro giant, discussed Jupiter’s arrival into my 12th house and the opportunity the benefic planet provides to the deepest layers of my psyche. It’s a time to unravel old knots, to heal ancient wounds, to cocoon before 2020 which is destined to be a great year for me.

It was a passing sentence during Chani’s New Moon in Scorpio session that planted the idea. Jupiter transitioned into Sagittarius in November (then retrograded out, and just re-entered). She said the aspect created an incubation period with the gift of making deep wounds heal and mark a moment of turning inward before big things start to happen.

It all makes sense for the trajectory my life is currently taking. I didn’t get the promotion at work I earned. It was a disappointment and frustration but one I also sort of saw coming. Completing my Master’s creates a sort of purgatory where I need to stay in my job until graduation (pretty much nothing would get in the way of free tuition). With degree in hand, a whole world of opportunity opens up. I hope a path will reveal itself clearly in the coming year (professionally, personally, creatively).

Sister and I are doing VOWs a little differently (again). We both agreed on wanting to focus more on our OneWords for the year. So rather than do random monthly verbs, we each have chosen synonyms for our words. Ergo, in 2019 I will be posting on the following:

January: CULTIVATE

February: ENSHROUD

March: NURTURE

April: PLANT

May: MARINATE

June: PREPARE

July: ENCOURAGE

August: MANIFEST

September: FOSTER

October: NOURISH

November: DEVISE

December: SCHEME

When Sister asked what I hoped to gain from my INCUBATION, I shared my focus was doing behind-the-scenes preparation. Not needing a gold star at work. Not chasing a big dream. Keeping my head down, focusing on the seeds that need to be planted so I can reap the benefits in coming seasons. To poke around the soft spots of my heart and give them proper care so I can make space for more goodness to come my way. To purge what no longer serves.

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]