Six Months Out

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The dogs waited patiently in the way back, tuckered out from a trip to the park, while we sat in the parked car and talked. It was a shared routine that had been absent from our lives for most of the past six months. But last Sunday, as the early evening sun shined a bit longer and the temperature released its chilly grip, lingering just felt right. We had stories, thoughts, and insights to share, so we held this moment for one another—a volley of talking and listening—as the sky changed from blue to grey.

And then he said it.

 “I miss this, you know.”

And I nodded in agreement.

This being the camaraderie of and conversation with someone who knows you so incredibly well, who was by your side through two formative decades of your life. Someone with whom you made big life decisions; who had your back through cycles of flourish and struggle; who knows your health, your wealth, your dreams, and your fears. Who laughed with you, cried with you, ate cookies with you . . .

Having a friend to talk to—and who will listen to you—about all the big and little, brilliant and mundane things in your life is a gift. What makes it priceless is its dependability. I don’t take that responsibility lightly—or for granted. I’m still figuring out how to gracefully move forward while carrying with me the healthy and vital pieces of my past. It’s a lot to juggle—and no small feat. But I’m committed to seeing it through. It’s what I do.

The season is changing, both literally and figuratively. Boston’s long winter has finally come to an end. It’s time to shed those protective layers. Like the crocuses and daffodils that are poking their heads up from the earth, I, too, have been in a gestation period.

These last six months have been abundant ones with their life lessons and experiences. I’ve gotten to know myself—and voice my feelings, opinions, hopes, and desires. I’m traveling, striking up conversations, connecting with people, and smiling more. My heart has been reawakened and my spirits are sky high. I see nothing but possibility and potential. I’ve found my way through those dark, challenging times and am better—wiser, stronger, more comfortable in my own skin—than ever before. Simply put: life is good.

As time has passed, I’ve welcomed new people into my heart: a dear friend; a charming boyfriend, too. I’ve strengthened existing friendships and gained a more conscious respect and admiration for all of the people who’ve played a part in my life, including—and especially—my ex.

In the days following our split, a coworker had suggested that I put a six-month reminder on my Outlook calendar. She wanted to be sure I’d remember to pause and reflect on how much has changed—how much I’ve grown and how much I’ve learned—since then. I stumbled across that reminder a couple of weeks ago. In the notes section of that calendar reminder, I wrote:

“Celebrate how far you’ve come and how exciting these times are that lie ahead. Just love. Just joy. Just truth and trust.”

Indeed, I’ve noticed the incremental changes in my life. But the big, sweeping differences? Quite simply, they astound me. How did I do it? No doubt, with a little help from my friends—and a whole lot of deep-dive introspection, too. A whole, whole lot.

I am excited for the times that lie ahead. I’ve learned to step into uncertainty. I’ve learned to see the silver linings. I’ve learned how liberating it feels to speak—and act—from the heart. And most of all, I’ve learned that there is no finish line. The journey is—and has always been—the destination.

Soundtrack: “Half Acre” by Hem


Rules of Engagement

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For me, for you, and for anybody else who needs a list of reminders to follow—in life, in love, and everything in between . . .

  • Our self-worth has nothing to do with how many clicks, likes, comments, or messages we receive.
  • We’re all human and we’re all being vulnerable by putting our hearts on the line. Treat everyone with the same kindness and respect as we’d like to receive.
  • Don’t fear the long road. Good things come to those who show up and remain true to themselves.
  • A new message notification is not puppet string. An immediate response is not a requirement—nor is it a sign of like or dislike.
  • The goal is to meet new people and make connections. That is all. Trust that the other stuff will fall into place.
  • Life is not lived behind the computer screen. Get out and do things you enjoy—or think you might enjoy. Explore. Try. And then try again.
  • Smile. Say hello. Make eye contact.
  • Make the first move. Strike up conversations. Take the gamble. The real living happens across the line that bounds our comfort zone.
  • It’s not just in the doing—but also in the being—that positive, lasting change takes place.
  • There is no timetable or growth chart or other measuring stick needed for us to live happy and fulfilled lives.

Soundtrack: “Don’t Be Shy” by Cat Stevens


Getting to Yes

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I came to yoga looking for an easy way out. I was a junior in college and needed a gym credit–and bowling was already full. So, yoga it was for me. Dressed in leggings and the requisite ’90s flannel shirt, I made my way to the wrestling room in my campus’ athletic center. It was a windowless, padded, smelly cell of a space. I took my seat on the floor and waited to be told what to do so that I could follow the instructions, earn my credit, and get back to my life . . .

Funny the way those unexpected little things grab ya. 2014 will mark 20 years that I’ve been practicing yoga. Aside from writing (and reading, walking, and breathing), I haven’t stuck with anything in my life for that long. What started out as a easy way to earn a gym credit has grown to become one of the most important ways–mentally, even more so than physically–that I choose to take care of myself.

The mental benefits took much longer to cultivate. Or maybe they just took longer for me to realize. Whatever the case, their lessons have been both subtle and profound. My yoga practice has taught me:

  • To fall gracefully, and to enter into new things with grace, too.
  • That perfection is an unattainable moving target I shouldn’t be aiming for in the first place.
  • That feeling sensation–that experiencing experience–is the real beauty of it all.
  • That my body is a living, breathing thing. Embody it! Embrace it. Respect it.
  • To feel my heart beat, to quiet my mind with inhales and exhales, and to use these tools to return to my home base.
  • To go at my own pace, and not to worry about comparing my trajectory to anyone else’s.

I know there are plenty of other ways for people to learn these lessons. But for me, there’s just something about using a physical activity in order to tap into something mental. So, *that’s* what that whole mind-body thing is all about . . .

For the last four years, I’ve consciously kicked off my new year with my radiant friend Chanel‘s soul-stirring class. We flow, we stretch, we restore, and we rock out a little bit to one of her awesome playlists. At the end of it all, we grab a sparkly slip of paper and an envelope. On that paper, we jot down for ourselves just one word that we’re going to carry with us into the new year. Last year, I chose “truth,”–a word that has proven itself to be so daunting, so eye-opening, and so (deep exhale) right.

This year, I am going with “yes”–a word that came to me when I spotted a metallic wine-colored tote bag at the Cole Haan outlet last week. I’ve spent a lifetime already saying “no” to things. Not just “thing” things. To people, to opportunities, to possibilities. To my body, my soul, my heart.

I bought the bag–and a matching cosmetics case. I almost talked myself out of going to the outlets in the first place. Crowds. Sales. Chaos. Stuff. But I said “yes”–and then I said “yes” again. And then, as I drove home, I thought about all of the things I can’t wait to say “yes” to in 2014.

And when I feel the “nos” start to creep back in, I’ve got all those tools listed above that will remind me how to get to “yes.” Incidentally, there’s a negotiations book called Getting To Yes–and every time I see it on a bookshelf, my brain translates it to “getting toys.”

I sort of think saying “yes” is like getting a toy. It’s fun. It’s new. It brings about a smile, yes?

Soundtrack: “Blackbird” by Paul McCartney


Over the Rainbow

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Eating a bowl of soup alone at Panera while texting your ex, it’s inevitable that tears will fall. They have to; gravity won’t have it any other way. On the one hand, having my head bowed just so means that I don’t need to make eye contact with the strangers around me, or they with me. On the other, there I am–again–shedding spontaneous tears. My pockets all contain folded squares of tissues at the ready.

The soup was a mushroomy bisque. The text message had to do with logistics for the Frank Turner tickets I bought before we broke up. I knew he’d enjoy the show and I’d enjoy the front-row seats and access to the Foundation Room. Something for everyone. He texted me first, wanting to know if I was going to use them. Legit question–but I thought sticking them all by themselves on the fridge door was the unspoken way of saying, “take them, they’re yours. And, by the way, this blows.”

These “poor me” moments are frequent–but fleeting. There are “hell yeahs” interspersed in here, too, but they take a little extra encouraging. It’s not instinctive–at least not for me–to look toward the bright side. It’s a muscle, for sure–and something I’ve been working on for years. With a little coaxing though, the bright side is brilliant and blazing and vibrantly alive. Like those sunrises and sunsets where the sky looks like it is on fire–there’s magic going on all around, if only we can look up to notice.

I was reminded of this today when reading Kris Carr’s blog post about manifesting your desires. Getting what you want out of life–and then some–really starts with the power of observation. In that post, she suggests making a list labeled “Noticing”–and jotting down what, through the power of observation, you’re calling into your life. Reflecting back on these last six-plus weeks, here is my list:

Noticing:

  • An opportunity to find a new soul mate, fall madly in love, and life happily ever after
  • An opportunity for more dogs to be rescued from shelters
  • An opportunity to expand my circle of friends
  • An opportunity to travel
  • An opportunity to nurture myself with more rest
  • An opportunity to read more and write more
  • An opportunity to make my health and wellness a high priority

Like Dorothy Gale in dreamland, she had the power to go back home all along. And even before this break-up, all of these opportunities were in my power to achieve. But sometimes it takes a sudden and jarring journey–complete with legions of friendly and supportive people cheering you on from the sidelines–to learn some important (and perhaps very obvious) facts about yourself.

Soundtrack: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”–but the version by Ted’s band from Scrubs.


Strength in Kindness

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In packing for my move, I came across an old one-subject spiral notebook from high school. It was hot pink and tattered–a hodgepodge of dramatic and overly adverb-y short stories and sappy love poetry, all written between the ages of 14 and 16. Quality stuff, I assure you. But toward the back of the notebook was this list of goals that I wrote for myself the day before entering my senior year:

1991 goalsIn two separate instances, I told myself to (a) be a nicer person and (b) be friendlier. After coming across this gem of a list, I posted it on Facebook, which was met with a whole slew of “I remember you being very nice” responses. And I believe I was nice. Very nice. So, what gives?

My 39 year-old self chewed on these judgmental words from a 17 year-old for a bit. Knowing how quiet and shy I was, I think perhaps what I was trying to say was “be more outgoing.” I think “be a nicer person” was my way of expressing a desire to be more popular. More well liked. But, but . . . again thinking back to those days, I was well liked. Just not by myself. And therein lies the truth: I needed to be nicer to myself. And no rigid list of goals was–or is–going to make that happen. Just compassion. Just kindness. Just acceptance that who I am is wonderful and enough. As is.

Like those instructions from the flight attendant about fastening your own oxygen mask before helping others, sometimes you simply have to put yourself first. And that’s okay. Wise even. Human nature has us wanting to help others. To do things to make them happy. To do things that make them feel liked and loved, safe and secure. But I don’t think it’s possible to selflessly give your companionship to another person if you aren’t able to love yourself first. Otherwise, that companionship is a sneaky bartering tool. I gave you this . . . so you should give me that. (Insert hurt feelings here.)

I’ve been making lists for my entire adult life–some functional (return mirror, pay parking ticket, refill prescription, bake muffins), some more emotional. In fact, earlier this year, I did some work with a life coach and one of the goals I had set for myself was to “be more loving.” Again, if I can do something for another person, I think it will make me happier. And it may–for a minute. A day. A year. But then what? There’s always more to “do”–but what if, for once and for all, I decided to just “be more loving” toward myself?

“Don’t look for love in faces, places

It’s in you, that’s where you’ll find kindness.”

Soundtrack: “Be Here Now” by Ray Lamontagne

 

 

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