Dear 2020

Dear 2020,

We welcomed you quietly–one kid in bed, the other at a sleepover, watching a late night movie on the couch at home. It’s too quiet in this house without Electra. Losing her right before the crush of the holidays and the long vacation from work somehow hurts more. I found myself caught between moments of melancholy and just needing to keep busy so I could stop missing her so much, so I could stop walking into the living room or looking out in the yard and expecting to see her there.

I spent several days grief-cleaning. I vacuumed, dusted, and rearranged Henry’s room. I moved Cadence’s room to the old spare bedroom/office, and then decided to redecorate a new spare bedroom/office/writing space complete with fresh paint and new furniture (which is due to be delivered next week).

And I gathered all Electra’s leftover food, dog treats, blankets, dog bed, kennels, unused medications–anything that could be needed and used–to donate to the local Humane Society. I didn’t want all of Electra’s things to be gone, but I sort of needed them to be. It made the pain a little more manageable. And I’m thankful that Stevie has been so sweet and patient as I fumble through the grief.

The calendar page turns, and a new year always brings excitement. You double down on all the things you’ve been wanting to do, meaning to do, procrastinating. You start out hopeful, start fresh. I’ve never been one to go overboard with a fancy New Year’s Eve party or a detailed list of resolutions, yet it’s hard not to buy into the magic and promise of a fresh start. The excitement this year has been tempered by loss and the introspection it always brings. It has made me think a little harder about my priorities, about the balance lack of balance in my life lately.

I need to be better–a better wife, a better mother, a better friend. I need to be a better leader at work. I need to be a better human in general.

And I need–really need–to make time to write again.

I made the mistake of telling one of my colleagues (who is also a writer) about the 365 Project I completed a few (ahem, like 9) years ago, and he threw down the challenge that maybe it’s time to get serious about another one if it will help me shake off the dust (and we’re talking about a real one, not the bullshit I tried to limp along last year by just finding random photos and quotes and lying to myself that it somehow counted). I’m swimming in ideas and unfinished projects–it’s starting to drive me insane. And since I just spent half my holiday break setting up a brand new home office, he kinda has a point. It might be time to get serious and actually get some shit done.

I mean, if I really want to continue to call myself a “writer,” I need to be writing. Right? That’s sorta how it works.

But I gotta be realistic–there’s no way I can do a 365 Project blog again. Not now.

A blog a week? Now that I can probably do. But to be completely honest, the pressure of trying to write something I actually feel like putting out there in the universe for actual people (other than me) to read is a whole lot of pressure and anxiety I don’t need in my life. I always want what I put out there to be good (or at least a couple levels above shit) so if someone does read it, they don’t feel like they’ve completely wasted their time and burned off precious brain cells.

What I am committing to–seriously committing to–is writing every day. Just writing. A journal entry, a letter, a chapter, a scene. Hell, even a poem if the mood strikes. And who knows, maybe some of it will end up here, but a lot of it won’t. And I’m okay with that. What matters is I’m making space for it, and I’m holding that space sacred. That’s my gift to myself this year.

So here we go, 2020. I’m walking in with no expectations and no specific plans (because dammit that somehow seems to be what always works out the best for me). I’m just going to be here, doing the best I can and then getting up and trying to do even better the next day. And in this new decade, I promise I’m going to have more meaningful conversations. I’m going to connect with old friends and make a few new ones. I’m going to read more books, taste (and cook) new foods. I’m going to travel to a few new (and visit a few favorite) places. I going to live and learn and love, and I’m going to try like hell to fall into bed each night knowing that I’ve squeezed as much joy as I possibly can out of every day.

Sounds like a pretty tall order, but I’ve always sort of enjoyed a challenge. And lucky for me, I’ve got some pretty rad people along for the ride.

Day 152 – What darkness did you conquer?

So true.

What darkness did you conquer?

Day 148 – Your kind of crazy

So glad I’ve been able to find a few.

You know who you are. 😉

Day 144 – The little things

You know, Dolly is one brilliant lady…

Day 139 – The meaning in the chaos

I suppose you could view being human as both a blessing and curse. We’re here on this earth experiencing all the challenges and wonder and uncertainties alongside all the other living creatures, yet we’re different. We were given this extraordinary ability to ask “Why?” We search for meaning in the chaos. It’s an ability that has the potential to both inspire and destroy us. It’s a heavy load to lift–to question one’s existence and search for greater meaning. And it’s an immense responsibility to do something about it, to follow a path of purpose once we recognize it stretching out in front of us.

I think we spend a lot of time not trusting ourselves, second-guessing our choices, worrying over the what-if’s instead of appreciating the journey. There’s a lot to learn from our bad decisions, from the detours we’re forced to take in pursuit of our goals. And there are times when what we thought was the “right” path doesn’t even scratch the surface of our potential.

I think a lot of people get tripped up thinking there is only value in setting and achieving lofty, long-term goals. We end up measuring our value as humans and the quality of our lives by our ability to compete with others–to do bigger, better things than someone else. The side effect of this is that we miss out on the wonderful experiences and the small victories right in front of us. We start living for the future, focusing our time and energy on things that may never happen, while the very real and fleeting present moment passes us by. We start measuring ourselves and our self-worth by someone else’s standards.

It’s hard to live in the now because, frankly, the now isn’t always a great place to be. Maybe you’re stuck in an abusive relationship. Maybe you’re struggling to pay your bills. Maybe you’re battling an illness. Maybe you just lost someone you love. Maybe you’re stuck in a job you hate with a tyrant of a boss who takes credit when things go right, shifts blame when things go wrong, and thinks repeatedly telling rape jokes is funny.

Yeah, the present can fucking suck sometimes.

But it’s all we’ve really got, isn’t it? Life gives no guarantees. Life doesn’t even promise the next moment, so how do we keep deluding ourselves that it’s going to promise us next week, next year, or even the next item on our endless To-Do lists?

Maybe some people feel like that’s a pretty grim worldview. I don’t. I think it’s the most powerful move a person can make–to learn how to live in the present moment, to learn how to navigate and appreciate moments as they come instead of ignoring them to obsess over a future that doesn’t even really exist (and may never come).

So, it’s our burden and our blessing to be here now and to make the very best of it. And yes, it can be hard, but it can be beautiful too. And what I’ve discovered is that the good moments, the really magical moments, far outnumber the bad ones. We live in a world and on a planet built for growth. The default design is for us to continuously evolve, to move and grow along a positive trajectory in such a way that even the challenges and setbacks we face serve to propel us forward.

All we have to do is hold on and learn to appreciate the ride.

Day 131 – On learning and change

“Learning is change”

I love that statement. I love that it’s true. Learning changes everything. It changes your day, your perspective, your stance, your biases, your vision of the future. It erases the limits of your worldview.

Learning is change, and it’s what we’re here on this earth to do. What else could possibly be the point of all this?

Every situation, every connection, every moment that we live and breathe and exist on this earth is an opportunity for learning. Shit…just thinking about it makes my head spin. What an incredible gift! The unfortunate part is most people are too caught up in the daily drama to recognize the opportunities as they come along. We’re just too damn busy to see them.

We’ve got to give ourselves time to think. We’ve got to give ourselves room to breathe.

We’ve got to carve out the space we need to let ourselves sit with those moments and dig into the learning.

If life is smothering you, make a change. If you feel trapped, start looking for a way out. If you feel miserable at your job, look for another one. If you feel neglected or used by your friends, find a new group.

Humans are not meant to stand still. Our lives shouldn’t be stagnant. We shouldn’t be barely brushing up against the limits of our potential–we should be busting through the barriers every chance we get, constantly questioning what we know (what we think we know), actively seeking opportunities to learn and grow and evolve.

Humans have limitless potential. Look at all we’ve done. Look at how far we’ve come, the amazing things we can already do. This is only the beginning. We haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of our potential. If we could stop fighting with each other, even for a moment, we would be utterly astounded by the things we could do.

My God, there is so much more than this. If we could just get out of our own way.

So it has to start small. It starts with you–one day, one decision, one person, one learning moment, one change at a time.

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