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My whole life is in boxes right now. Even though I have a clear plan that’s all mapped out, I’ve reached the point where the newness has worn off and the awareness that it’s hard work has kicked in.

It’s easy to get lost in boxes.

So today, I’m linking up with Marvia Davidson to talk about values, as a reminder that most of what I value can’t fit in a box (although some of it can. Carefully. If you pack it well and don’t let anyone else carry it).

1. I value relationships. People have rallied around me to help by taking things I no longer need, listening to me rant when things fall through, and offering advice when I have uncharacteristic bouts of indecision. They also let me feed them, which is one of my favorite things to do.

2. I value knowledge. I’m tired of snap judgment. I actually got a freelance tip to write clickbait articles, a tip I promptly disregarded, as this is not something I would ever be interested in doing. It seems that the more information we have available to us, the less likely we are to take it in. I want to remember to take it in.

3. I value loyalty. It’s easy to throw someone else under the bus to make yourself look innocent. It’s harder but ultimately more rewarding to take responsibility for the part you played and let the rest speak for itself.

4. I value fairness. The world’s injustice is often seen as such a given that people don’t expect themselves or others to do anything to fight it. Life may be unfair, but that doesn’t mean I have to be. I think this is the most important reason to speak truth. Of all the hills there are to die on, fairness and justice are probably my hill of choice.

5. I value legacy. So much of who I am and what I value comes from where, how, and by whom I was taught. Legacy doesn’t have to be familial, although for me a large part of it is. Many of my greatest loves were born on a farm in west Texas. I see it in pictures and wrap it in quilts. I learn who I am from those who paved the way. I unlearn some things to make choices more in line with who I hope I’m becoming.

What do you value?

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Same cup, new office. I think it looks good here.

This week, I started my new job. It’s a welcome change, and I’ve been allowed to acclimate slowly (which is my very favorite way to acclimate). I even got to choose the office music yesterday (Ingrid Michaelson playlist, so basically we’re listening to the Grey’s Anatomy soundtrack. You’re welcome, office mates.). In mid-June, I move to my new home across town. This is also a welcome change, and I have a whole month to move. Change – even good change – stresses me out, but I am making these changes in the least stressful way possible.

This is a kindness and a blessing. There’s a lot of hope around lately.

Because I gotta be me, though, I still have anxious moments. I have gotten clutchy with the purse strings in the last couple of years, so dropping deposits and knowing my rent is going to increase so much *cough*notreallythatmuch*cough* in a couple of months is disconcerting. I couldn’t keep much of anything down and didn’t get much sleep the week that I signed the lease and gave notice that I was moving out from my current apartment. In the midst of immense relief, there still was anxiety. It wanted to be my best friend.

One night as I was watching the light on the ceiling change with the hours, exasperated, I breathed to God, “I’m going to trust you. I’m going to believe you that nothing has been forgotten or overlooked. I’m going to trust me. And I’m going to trust you to back me up.”

This is not the most faithful prayer I’ve ever prayed. It’s not quite the flying leap I used to make when I knew I had not thought the decision through and went ahead and made it anyway. I’ve thought this one through. I know it’s not all faith and hope. It’s mostly common sense and careful planning.

But the hope is important. The hope is what is making it possible to sleep and eat again.

Hope* kicks anxiety’s tail.

Hope is becoming my favorite change of all. I’ve missed it. I’m glad it’s back.

 

*and also the appropriate professional help and possibly meds. Get help when you need it. /public service announcement

 

I’m linking up with Marvia Davidson’s Real Talk Tuesday. Join us?

 

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I’m seeing a duplex tomorrow. Well, one half of it, anyway. I’m going to see if it could be a feasible move to make. It’s across town – closer to church and family, farther from work.

I really want to move. I’ve outgrown my neighborhood and my apartment. I’m pretty sure my neighbors’ dog is partially responsible for my elevated blood pressure.

I’m also just to the point where I can breathe again financially. I’m scared to upset the balance.

Can I make a beautiful life in the place I am? I see little shards of beauty occasionally.  But the big beautiful I have loved before and miss terribly doesn’t really fit there.

Every place I find that’s bigger and still has the amenities that I want (washer/dryer connections, for example) is significantly more expensive. Like…sometimes double. That’s before you add the extra utility cost and extra gas it will take to get to work on a daily basis.

Which would be fine if I had a partner with an equal or greater salary. Even if we could both afford to pay only what I’m paying now, we could easily pay double. We could even make a substantial house payment if we found a place we loved that much.

There are not many areas of life where I would say I NEED a husband. Want one, sure. But need? Don’t be ridiculous.

A husband with a job would certainly come in handy here, though.

People who are single often are treated like we are less mature, less stable, and less adult than we are. This is annoying. Just because marriage or child-rearing was the impetus that flung some people into adulthood doesn’t mean that those of us without those particular circumstances didn’t have equal motivation to mature. There are many, many reasons to grow up. Partners and parents don’t have a corner on the market.

It’s easy to understand, however, how single people could appear as second-class citizens in this world. It’s hard to be seen as a proper adult when you’re still living in an apartment that’s no bigger (smaller, actually) than the one you had in college and is still in a college neighborhood. And it’s hard to afford a bigger place on one income, unless you happen to work in an industry where incomes are higher (I don’t.).

I know the progress I’ve made. I do. It just doesn’t look like progress unless I’m looking closely. I have to really want to see it.

I’m tired of working so hard to see so little.

 

I’m linking up with Marvia Davidson’s Real Talk Tuesday, where we are talking about broken and beautiful things. Join us?

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I sometimes feel like my table as seen through a glass. All my marks show, even the ones that should have been sanded smooth a long time ago.

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Marvia Davidson has prompted us to write about authenticity today. That seems like something I’d like to talk about. After all, my word of the year is “true,” so that goes right along with it.

So I set out to make a list of things that are true about me, but I only got to three.

Who am I? I am…

…an idealist. I worry a lot, and critique a lot, but that’s because I see in possibilities. I see how good things could be. If only. Maybe. Hopefully.

…an information sponge. I’m incurably curious. In personality tests, I test as intuitive, but I feel like I’m cheating. I’m not sure it’s so much intuition as it is an abundance of information lurking in my brain. It just looks like intuition because I easily see connections and patterns, and I’ve already followed them down the rabbit hole while others are still defining the problem. Or maybe that’s really what all intuition is – gut feelings based on experience and knowledge.

…efficient. A coworker once told me that I get more done in one hour than most people get done all day. I teased that he should mention that in front of people who could give me a raise (kidding/not kidding), but I was happy that he noticed. I like that I can finish tasks quickly, and it frustrates me when I can’t. I frustrates me when my marks show.

Some things can’t be rushed.

I looked back this morning at goals I’ve set in the past. I found my New Years Resolutions from January 2013. They were interesting:

  1. Stop being such a jerk (it was after an election year. I have opinions and can sometimes be mean about them).
  2. Stop participating in Facebook drama (see #1, with the special note that opposing racism and misogyny does not count as drama. Drama is useless; speaking up is important.).
  3. Stop the compulsion to fill up every minute.
  4. Stop saying “Yes” just because I can’t think of a good reason to say “No.”
  5. Stop making excuses.

At the end of the year, I marveled at how far I still had left to go. Three years later, I see progress, but I still marvel at how far I have left to go.

Being who I am is easy. It didn’t used to be. I used to get so wound up about it. I don’t get so wound up anymore. Thank you, 40s (younger friends – it gets better).

Becoming who I want to become is s.l.o.w.

I make plans for a year and work on them for five. This offends my efficiency. It also allows for more in-depth information-gathering.

I am both-and, not either-or.

 

I am linking up with Marvia Davidson’s Real Talk Tuesday. Join us?

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Happy packages from Maggie!

This post may seem disjointed. Welcome to where I’ve been recently.

These last few weeks have been busier than usual, and I’ve handled it in my own stellar way – freak out, get sick, and cancel everything.

On the one hand, I’m pleased that I chose to say no instead of powering through and keeping my schedule packed when my body needed to rest. On the other hand, if I could make better (i.e., more life-giving and less exhaustion-producing) scheduling choices before I freaked out and made myself sick, that would be awesome.

No is important sometimes. But no is not always the best choice for me. Sometimes, what keeps me from getting to the freak-out stage is remembering that I’m not actually alone.

I live by myself, so if I want to engage in supportive relationships, I have to make an effort to do so. I’m not talking about the being-mentally-present effort that all relationships require. I mean actual physical effort. To be social, I usually either have to put on my shoes and leave the house or bring the people to me.

There are exceptions. Maggie is in Houston, and Michelle is in Fort Worth (ish), and we usually text on a daily basis. We get together when we can, but that doesn’t happen very often. We text about TV but we also talk about life stuff. It’s an easy way to keep in touch. Maggie and I have started reading books together again. We’re currently working on all Jen Lancaster’s (or JenLan, as we – and probably no one else – like to call her) memoirs.

But most showing up requires…well…showing up.

It doesn’t have to be an organized event. I like going to people’s houses and having them over to mine. I like reading in the wine shop on the square. I also like listening to live music and browsing bookstores.

I don’t mean for this to sound like a personals ad.

I want to do more than go through the motions of my day-to-day schedule. I want to be show up mentally and physically, and I want to have the energy to do so. Honestly, I’m afraid that I have forgotten how to do that in a way that is energizing instead of exhausting.

But I am still trying.

I am linking up with Marvia Davidson’s Real Talk Tuesday. Even though it’s Thursday. See? Disjointed. Hurry up, Spring Break.

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For much of my life I have often been treated like the smartest person in the room. Whether or not I have been said person is highly debatable. But even when – especially when – I know I’m not, I like the challenge of this expectation. It motivates me to dream big and set go-for-the-gold, be-all-you-can-be, insert-your-favorite-inspiring-cliche-here goals. And can I meet them? Of course I can. I’ve been told my whole life that I can.

The downside to this is that I tend toward perfectionism. I can set ten lofty goals for the year, meet nine of them, and still feel like a complete failure because I missed one. That means I can’t be the smartest, because the smartest would not have missed that tenth goal. That one will haunt me. I will miss sleep over it. I will write long, whiny, navel-gazing blog posts, most of which I won’t actually post (you’re welcome), about it.

But that feeling? It’s not the truth. And I’m writing about it today not just because I need to hear it but because maybe you need to hear it, too.

Meeting goals – any goal – is not failure; it’s progress. It’s growth. It’s not losing ground or even remaining still; it’s moving forward.

[This is not to say that if you don’t maniacally set goals like I do that you’re stagnating. I’m sure you’re growing, too, even if you don’t have a compulsive need to document it.]

So when one of the activities in Beth Morey’s Your Fearless Year 2016 was to list twenty achievable but big and fearless goals, I was equal parts excited and scared to commit to that much of a plan. Okay – four parts excited, one part scared – my love for this list is pretty big. I’ve mentioned some of these already this year, but they’re all important to me.

The list:

 1. Get a job (or a way to generate income) that is better suited to my strengths.

2. Move into a house (or again- a place that is better suited to me).

3. Finish a complete rough draft manuscript of at least one of my current works in progress.

4. Submit at least ten items (articles, poems, flash fiction, essays, or the aforementioned manuscript) for publication.

5. Read 100 books.

6. Start a newsletter.

7. Launch my writer website.

8. Choose and use social media outlets better (more coming soon on this).

9. Showcase coffee picture project in a public way (calendar? Book of poetry? Step one – choose a medium.).

10. Replace one worn-out or not-really-me item at my house per month. Late December/early January was a three-for-one deal – bedroom curtain, shower curtain, and a WIP shelf. I think the shelf is my favorite:

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11. Send holiday cards with a picture I’ve taken myself.

12. Take a trip for fun.

13. Take a dance class.

14. Try one of the new crafts that my crafting friends have been inviting me to try.

15. Throw my Hemingway party (food that is simple and good – like Hemingway’s prose – and drinks laden with booze – like Hemingway).

16. Learn to speak better Spanish.

17. Find (or make) a place to play piano on a regular basis.

18. Go on a date.

19. Participate in a Couch-to-5K program (projected start – late May with a race on July 4th).

20. Take a cooking class. Possibly knife skills. Or cake decorating. Or overcoming chicken phobia (is that a thing that people teach? Because it should be.).

So there they are, and here’s to making progress.

I’m linking up with Marvia Davidson for Real Talk Tuesdays. Join the conversation!

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photo (58)It’s arrived. The push back.

Every year when I make resolutions or choose a new word for the year, I start out optimistic. I am looking forward to the year. I am excited about what it might bring or what exploration of this new word might teach me.

Then comes the push back.

It came early this year, which was to be expected, I guess. Choose a word like “true,” and one should expect all sorts of “yes, but…” and “…not yet” to show up.

I see in possibilities. Possibility is where I’m happiest. It’s hopeful and shiny. It’s like my empty coffee cup, waiting for the French press to be ready, telling me that the glorious nectar of the bean will surely soon be mine. There’s a lot of true – about who I am and who I’m becoming – in possibility.

There’s also reality, and sometimes it pushes back so hard that it packs down the bricks in the wall it’s building.

When friends couple off or get married, I’m about 90% happy for them and 10% lonelier (hey – progress – those percentages used to be switched). Lonely likes its protective walls.

When people I respect and love say “liberals” like it’s a dirty word, revealing the limits of their respect and love for me (the dirty liberal), I add more bricks around the parts of myself that their vitriol has taught me they can’t accept.

When I give more to my job than my pay grade warrants but can’t quite find a tangible reason why I bother, I want to build the wall higher.

[Aside – to a GenXer, “tangible reason” = “promotion and a raise,” not just a pat on the back. I can pat my own back, thanks. Match those words to some cash. Or at least a bathroom break. Maybe a taco.]

When I write and write (and revise and revise), and it’s still not enough to be the thing I’m doing with my life, I want to make a little brick cubbyhole, fill it with pillows, and take a nap.

I like my walls. They’re comforting and familiar. They say nice things to me and smell like rain. They tell me I’m right. They tell me I’m pretty.

Then true comes along and whispers, “Tear them down.”

So that’s how beginning is going. *sigh*

 

I’m linking up with Marvia Davidson’s Real Talk Tuesday (heh – how about Thursday?).

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Shoes - Anne Klein

When asked what my favorite part of my body is, my typical response is “my feet.” I was admonished once when I said this, because the person didn’t know me very well and thought that I was just answering that way because I felt bad about the rest of my body. Never mind that 1) if she didn’t know me, why was she asking me such personal questions, and 2) was she implying that I should be ashamed of the rest of my body (?!), because rude. But I responded to what I hoped was the heart of her comment and said that no, I just really love my feet. I love the way they curl and stretch. I love that they support me – literally.

Also, my feet are super cute. I mean, Anne Klein gets part of the credit of the picture above, because that’s a badass shoe, but let’s be honest – most of the adorable in that picture is what’s inside the shoe.

(Also…I miss those pants. I wonder what happened to them?)

Lately (meaning, in the past year), though, my feet have been a source of both physical and emotional pain.

I don’t typically view getting older as a burden. When I turned 30, I didn’t joke that I was turning 29 again. When I turned 40, and people told the joke for me – “So 39, part 2? Har, har” (again…rude) – I corrected them with, “Oh, no. I am 40. I have earned every year, and I am proud of it.” And that’s generally true. My life does not look like what I thought it would look like at 40, but I have to take into account that it was a 20-year-old me making those plans, so…grain of salt. I might have been a smart 20, but I was still 20, and there’s only so much perspective one can shove into that short a time spent on the planet.

But my feet feel the burden.

I crawled out of bed this morning, and my feet told me how long they’ve been walking. I limped to the living room to stretch and get a towel out of the dryer (because I’m managing to get out of bed early enough to make coffee at home, but not quite early enough to complete a round of Pilates, but I want my body to get into the habit of going to the living room first. Baby steps.), and it took longer than it has before to get the kinks out of my feet. On the surface, this does not seem like a big deal.

But in my soul, it is a very big deal.

I’ve watched beloved older friends and family lose mobility. I’ve watched them slow down and not be able to do what they were able to do before. Even though I know this is the normal way that life goes, it feels like a betrayal.

I feel like their bodies have betrayed them. I feel like mine is starting to betray me. I’m mad about it. In every other area of my life, I am 20 years better than I was when I made those goals. It doesn’t seem fair that my body is not keeping up. I want it to be able to do the things it did 20 years ago, and I want it to do them just as quickly. I want to double-up on efforts to fight this inevitable decline. I want to bombard it with vitamin-rich foods and lots of activity (that’ll…teach…it? I’m not good at threats.). I am willing to work at it twice as hard as I used to have to work at it. I just want my body back.

That, however, is probably not the way things are going to go.

This morning reminded me that I need to learn to live in the body I have this decade, not the one I had in decades gone by. As much as I want to demand that it adjust to me, I need to adjust to it.

I find this necessity supremely annoying.

I probably can’t stop the aching altogether. But I can listen to it. And listening to it will be good for both body and soul.

I’m linking up with Marvia Davidson’s Real Talk Tuesday. Click to read Marvia’s post and join the conversation.

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The quiet season has begun.

November and December are busy months in the everyday, but they are quieter months as far as blogging goes. During the last two months of the year (particularly November), it’s normal for me to average a post or two a week. Part of this phenomenon is taking a break after the madness that is 31 Days. Part of this phenomenon is due simply to my writing being directed elsewhere.

Mostly, though, I’m just more reflective during these days.  While reflection tends to make me more melancholy, it also makes me more…me. When the weather starts (finally and hallelujah) getting cooler, my soul cools down its surface angst and mindless busyness as well. I am more content to get slow. I am more content to savor small things.

I am more content – happy, even – to focus on simple things and to focus on one thing at a time. Other times of the year, my mind would be focused on what is coming up at work or my to-do list. Those things are there, but they stay at work and on the list until it is their turn. That leaves focus for important things, like inviting the spider family who keeps trying to come in from the cold to hang out in the tree outside instead.

[Seriously, spiders.  Just feel free to make that whole tree your home. You don’t want to come in my house anyway.  It smells like tea tree oil and lemon (and, coming soon, cinnamon and peppermint). You would hate that, spiders.]

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I am more content to go to bed early – and to get up early – to read.

A good predictor of my mental state is whether or not I am reading or writing. If I’m not reading or writing (or, God help us all, if I’m doing neither), I am not myself. All the ordinary, wonderful things become just more annoying things on my list to get through and check off. I forget this so easily. I am relieved to be in a season of remembering and watching again.

I am re-reading Barbara Brown Taylor’s An Altar in the World.* I am reading it a chapter a night and making room for it to sink in. It’s no coincidence that I’m taking more walks, drinking more tea, and seeing the daily activities that I often view as chores as spiritual disciplines.

I’m linking up with Marvia’s Real Talk Tuesday. Join us?

*Affiliate link

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I am taking liberties with the goal of NaNoWriMo this year. I am writing 50,000 new words, but instead of fiction, I am writing a book of prompts for a course I am planning to launch next April called Feast. Here’s a teaser of the course-to-be.

Sometimes life just needs celebrating.  And by “sometimes,” I do mean “pretty much all the time.” Any excuse for food, really.

This is my favorite reason to feast – nothing.  No reason at all. I am prone to making elaborate dishes on a whim to savor just for the sake of savoring them.  If you were to ask me what the special occasion was or why I was doing it, you would get an answer like, “Because…Tuesday,” or “Because I can.” I might even turn it around on you – “Why not?” It’s not that there isn’t a reason but rather that life itself is the reason.

You are alive.  Celebrate!

But it’s not quite that easy, is it?

The first seedlings of thought about this course sprung out of my need to bring celebration back into my everyday life. It’s so easy to go through the motions, looking forward to that next fun event on the calendar so much that I sail past all the rest of my days, eyes glazed and barely seeing everything that I’m passing by. If the next fun event is Friday night relaxing at home (and yes, this is on my calendar – it’s very important), and it’s Tuesday, that’s a whole lot of time to check out mentally.

This is no way to live. I want to make my days matter as much as possible. I don’t want to kill time until an acceptable hour to collapse into bed arrives. I want to live.

So I was going to call the class Celebrate because I wanted to explore all the ways we enjoy life.  While doing so is certainly part of the course, something was missing. Celebration alone didn’t seem like exactly what I was going for.  The word that kept coming up – the one that tied my vision together – was feast.

This was both exciting and terrifying.

I was excited because I love the idea of feasting. I love holidays where there is a ridiculous amount of food – ten times what the people present should actually ingest in the allotted time. I love the security and the hominess that excessive abundance implies. I love feeding people and being the one who supplies the ridiculous amount of food. I might not have a big house or a fancy car, but when you are invited over to my place, you will never leave hungry.

The excess is also the terrifying part.

Feasting and I have a sordid history. We can get a little codependent if I’m not careful. I love feasting so much that it’s easy for it to infiltrate my life on an identity level.

I was raised to be great at it. When people remark that hosting seems to come naturally to me, I take it as the compliment it was meant to be and say, “Thank you.” But let’s be clear – it’s not talent; it’s training. I have worked hard to become good at it, and I take a certain amount of pride in that. I love having people over, and they usually have a pretty good time. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s important to remember, however, that being a good host is a seductive minx to my ego, and because of that, it’s also important to remember that hosting the occasional flop does not define (and therefore cannot diminish) me.

At the heart of feasting is the food, and with the food comes the seedy underbelly of food issues.

In some ways, I do have a healthy relationship with food. I’m not really one for restrictive diets. I know a lot of them well, because when I have guests that are on limited choices, I prefer to know how to fix something they will eat without having to interrogate them about their dietary needs. I’ve been vegetarian or vegan at different phases of my life, but that was less a function of a plan to diet and more a function of a Lenten fast or having just read something like Fast Food Nation and thus simply losing my taste for meat. And I have to confess that I’m one of those annoying folk who, if I just eat like a normal person and get a moderate amount of exercise, the excess weight falls off pretty easily.

It’s that “eating like a normal person” thing that trips me up.

My issues with food are mainly emotional rather than physical. I am a chronic over-indulger. There are various things that I cannot keep in the house – soda, snack cakes, certain candy bars – because I cannot leave them alone. Since I am hypersensitive to sugar and most of my compulsive food choices are sweets, they’re extra bad news. I know in my head that having only one Kit Kat is the prudent choice, yet minutes later there I stand over four empty wrappers with a darty feeling behind my eyes, a budding headache, and no real memory of where one indulgence ended and the next one began.

I tremble to write that. As you are reading it, I am nervous, knowing that you know something that is a source of shame for me.

But shame doesn’t get to win.

I will remember that I am not what I eat.

I will remind myself that growth is a process and that by my mid-twenties, I had overcome my habit of bingeing to the point that purging was not physically optional.

I will go look at my well-stocked kitchen, full of real food, not junk food, and I will declare aloud, “I did that.  I made those good choices.”

And I will sit here and savor my half a glass of wine and my two little squares of decadent dark chocolate. And I will be satisfied.

And then I will drink a bucket of water, because wine dries me out. I will listen to my body and give it what it needs.

I will honor who I am, where I came from, and how far I’ve come. I will celebrate myself. I will feast.

Just because.

Journal prompt: What do you need to celebrate about yourself today? Where can you show yourself a little more kindness? What do you need to acknowledge?

Activity prompt: Go for a walk for a minimum of five minutes.  Don’t come back from the walk until you have noticed at least five things that you think you would normally miss. Go out and see your world today.

Marvia’s prompt for this Real Talk Tuesday is “celebration,” so I’m linking up over there as well.

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