2018 – Honesty

Every year (or nearly every year), I write a little something that speaks to the intention for the up coming year. It typically centers around one word couched in a cute, anecdotal story, tied all up at the end with a cute little “go get ’em” bow.

I have been trying to write the 2018 piece for over three weeks now.

I looked through old writings, new blogs, unfinished journals. I thought about revisions and memes and philosophical literary quotes. I contemplated all the strong woman, be positive, get motivated, you are amazing sources I knew.

I still had nothing.

So I did the only thing I knew to do; I just dropped it. This wasn’t the year for that. 2016 and 2017 had been overwhelmed with so muchness, maybe it was just time for a breather year. So I shelved it with promises of schedule keeping (which I have never done), gentler self talk (also not a strong suit), and greater honesty. Little did I realize the one thing I thought I had on lock would be the very thing that got me.

If you asked me if I was an overall honest person, I would immediately say yes because I am. I am not a thief or a liar. I am not a rule breaker, generally speaking, although I really like to play one on TV.

However, if you asked me if I was an always honest person, I would say no because, well, I’m honest. I would go so far as to say there are times when honesty is not the appropriate course of action. I would go further and say that I wouldn’t even want people to be honest with me all the time. And I think that’s mostly true.

This topic has my brain going in a hundred different directions. I am going to back up just a second and try again.

I shelved the idea and counted that an okay thing to do because 2018 was the year of schedules, gentle self talk, and honesty. As life is ought to do, it decided to test my gangster right off the bat.

I have been known to say often that I am a jealous woman. It is typically tagged with something to the effect of, “and I don’t even feel bad about that” or “that’s just the way I am.” I have even gone so far as to justify holding on to the trait explaining that I have very good balance on my jealous nature because I realize that it is often irrational and, as long as I have that level of self awareness, it’s okay.

I have come to the very uncomfortable conclusion that it is not okay. All of that up there is inherently dishonest. In a cute twist of irony, I came to that realization while utilizing that acute self awareness to enforce some balance.

Let me be clear that this is not a moral edict on jealousy. Jealousy just happened to be the fear based emotion that spotlighted my particular moment of intellectual dishonesty. And make no mistake, jealousy is a fear based emotion.

I was ate up with jealousy yesterday. The funniest part is that it was all of my own doing. All by my little self, I worked my brain up into such a tizzy that the distraction was consuming. It was all completely fabricated in my head, so I set about doing the self aware work to talk myself down.

Me ~ Oh my effing shit I think I am about to give myself a panic attack.

Other Me ~ Honestly, April, you are being a tad ridiculous.

Me ~ I am aware. This is all very silly and I am working on sorting through the asinine.

Other Me ~ Great. Let’s start with things you know to be true. [Super private stuff that I am not sharing here. #sorrynotsorry]

Me ~ Yes, all of that is true.

Other Me ~ So now we can safely say that all these things [more super private stuff] are not true.

Me ~ Yes we can say that. I feel much better. Thank you Other Me.

Other Me ~ You are very welcome. Now, how do we keep this from happening again?

That bitch. I really hate it when she does that. Especially when I am not ready. I wasn’t ready. Other Me did not care.

Side note – if you think I have complete control over The Many, you are wrong. While I have leashes for all and muzzles for some, complete control is not a tool I possess.

Me ~ That’s super sweet of you, Other Me. I’m good for right now. Just a little bout of jealousy and we all know I am just a jealous womaHHHHHH. SHIT!! What is that????

Other Me ~ The onset of another panic attack. A really good one too. I made it for just an occasion as this. You like?

Me ~ No. No I do not like. I do not like at all. I already did the work, sorted my brain, talked myself down. We are done here.

Other Me ~ Nope. You did the easy work. April 2016 work. It’s time for the advanced level 2018 work. The real, get your shit together work.

Me ~ Fuck you. I’m taking a nap.

And that’s just what I did.

While that course of action worked for the duration of my nap, the seeds planted still sprouted and this “what do we do with it now” idea hung around demanding that I address it.

“I am a jealous woman” is a dishonest statement. I can make it true if I used the fiercely protective or vigilant of one’s rights or possessions definition. I will defend me and mine with my life. But I don’t mean it like that and I know that I don’t. When I say it, I mean feeling or showing envy of someone or their achievements and advantages and feeling or showing suspicion of someone’s unfaithfulness in a relationship. That, my friends, is fear not love. And I have committed to living a life of love and not fear.

So the truth is I now have to replace the word “jealous” with fear and figure out the root. I have to. Anytime I find that the talk down answer becomes, “because I am afraid” I have vowed to go deeper and work that out.

What fear causes jealousy? The fear of being unworthy of the thing that creates envy or suspicion. Being unworthy. In case you are curious, that flies directly in the face of my other promise of “more gentle self talk.”

The honest truth is I am not unworthy even while I feel unworthy. That’s honest. That’s how I am committed to 2018.

Happy Thanksgiving

I have messed around for about an hour an a half trying to decide if I was ever going to touch these keys this morning. There is too much personal emotion to even think about my book. It is Thanksgiving, so while personal emotion is appropriate, I don’t feel like getting too heavy is appropriate. That same Thanksgiving gratitude is bringing me back to matters of the heart. I start to wonder at what point do I really need to write about something else.

I guess the answer to that question is simply when I don’t feel like writing about it anymore. In truth, that is one of the beautiful things about writing for yourself. You can really write about whatever it is you want. The downside of being overly concerned about what people think is that, in order to write about whatever you want, you have to spend two paragraphs explaining yourself before you just say…

Can I tell you how Thankful I am right now? My eyes popped open like a kid on Christmas morning. This IS my Christmas morning. It is Thanksgiving Day. It is my favorite holiday of the year.

The smell in the condo is perfect. Proof that the turkey is in the oven makes it all the way back to our room. It’s early, but there is no way I am getting back to sleep; not this morning.

But I do lay there for a minute. There is no reason to rush. He is so warm when he sleeps, the closeness is comforting. The ease in his breathing, the safety his form provides, the reach for me even when he is dreaming; there is no desire to move from this place quite yet.

The stark contrast to the Thanksgiving morning  a year ago is not lost on me. The thought feels a bit disloyal. That’s strange, I know. That is one of those feelings that I always get, right or not, when a condition of this life overcomes a condition of my life from ago. Like it is unfair to ask this life to make up for the other. But it happens and there’s no stopping it. I have come to the conclusion that the attempt would actually be worse. While it is true that it is not the responsibility of the others in the present to repair the others of the past, it is their gift.

Gift is so much different than responsibility. I have no expectation or right to a gift. The gift giver has no requirement or obligation to tender it. But, because love does what it does, it is there. Just what I needed, just for me, just because. And I have always thought it bad form to refuse a gift.

It is with this perspective that I choose to frame this morning’s recollection in tandem with the comfort of my present. The recollection is painful. It was the only point in the whole of the scorched earth that I cried.

I awoke Thanksgiving morning last year with a lot to be thankful for. There was a freedom I had never experienced before. The burdens that I had carried for so long, the eggshells I navigated were gone. My life was mine again, even if I wasn’t yet quite sure how to live it – it belonged to me. I had found what I hoped was going to prove to be unconditional forever love in the most unlikely and unexpected place. I had gratitude, I had love, I had hope.

I awoke Thanksgiving morning last year to an empty, quiet, smelless house without any prospect to the contrary. Preparation had not been needed. Cooking was not my responsibility. There were no children eagerly awaiting their next helpful task. No timers, no oven schedules, no setting up, no thawing out. Just me, in a house. I sat in my thinking chair and sobbed.

As the tears came to an end and I began to sort through the hurt, there was still gratitude. I was grateful that I still had the ability to be soft (I had begun to wonder). I was grateful for the prospects I did have. Although it was not the Thanksgiving I had come accustomed to (three days of cooking, mimosas, full house), there was a beautiful day planned with family, a road trip, a reunion, and the promise of connection. There was a lot to be Thankful for. Even though the heartbreak over what was no more was real, the gift of what I had and what was to come was worth it.

This Thanksgiving season, we have been on holiday since Friday. The children have had a excellent time taking in all the uncrowded, off season wonders to be had in Gulf Shores. They have been a delight and are delighted in. There are always smells and sounds and preparation.

This Thanksgiving morning I awoke to a full, anticipated, aromatic condo with all the promise that those things suggest on this, my favorite holiday. In truth, this is still a bit different from the Thanksgivings I have carved for myself in the life from ago. And, in the spirit of being completely open and transparent, there is a part of me that mourns just a bit for the rhythm that is familiar.

I have no guilt in that feeling. There is an understanding I have that I am not sure I am skilled enough to convey here. There are pieces of happy that I created in the life from ago. They were the things I clung to waiting for the rest to sort itself. I am appreciative of the work I was able to do there, the memories I was able to make. To miss those things that, not unlike a child’s security blanket, gave me comfort and normalcy, does not seem unreasonable to me. Missing the baby does not require the missing of the bathwater. That’s nearly terrible but I am at a loss to explain it any better. At this moment, I don’t feel compelled to.

This Thanksgiving morning I have prepped and planned. My heart is full. My children are asleep. My thoughts are sorted. On this, my favorite holiday of the year, I wish you and yours all the happiness in the world. I am going to go back and enjoy a few more snuggles from my happiness and steal a second Thanksgiving awakening with smells and anticipation. May your turkey be perfect, your mimosas mixed right, the pies free of calories. From our family to yours.

Hallelujah is Our Song

Do not abandon yourselves to despair.
We are the Easter people
and hallelujah is our song.

~Blessed Pope John Paul II

Thanksgiving is next week. I have been blessed to be around a bunch of folks who are taking this time of the year to intentionally reflect and name those things for which they are thankful. It is a glorious season.

Interestingly, this time of year also magnifies difficulties. Financial struggles become more pronounced. Estrangements and distances between family and friends become more noticeable. Fears about tomorrow and angst over yesterday occupy more of our minds.

There has been quite a bit of suffering, illness, tragedy, and death lately. I don’t know if it the hurts are increasing, if they are hitting closer to home, or I am just noticing them more.

I don’t have many words today (you are shocked I know). But even the chick who turns around Tuesdays finds some Tuesdays more heavy than others. In fact, I almost skipped today. If I myself have no words, then what is there to put out?

I can embody those things I always try to instill in others.

Today I encourage you remember the Easter, participate in the Thanksgiving, and be glad in the Advent, the new beginning that we are each afforded with every single breath. We cannot help others heal the ills that hurt our hearts if we wallow in our own. We cannot offer comfort to those afflicted if we constantly require comforting ourselves. We cannot carry on the mission of those who have gone before us if we are plagued by grief. We are human and we hurt. We are blessed and we sing the hallelujah song. Sometimes we just have to do them at the same time.

Gratitude and Generosity

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

Sir Winston Churchill, (1874-1965)

I hope everybody has had all the good food one can handle. Here’s also hoping the leftovers are just as good in your house as they are in mine. My mom still cooks the majority of our holiday meals. Those leftovers are wonderful.

We always have leftovers because Mom cooks for two armies – the one we know is coming and the one that might. Lucky for her, she has two refrigerators and a deep freezer. But we don’t usually have that many leftovers, being from the South and all.

I say from the South because I don’t know how they do it in the rest of the country. But down here, everybody goes home with a plate – either for yourself or somebody you know that couldn’t make it. Many times it’s both.

The end of Thanksgiving traditionally marks the beginning of Christmas. A season of gratitude followed by a season of generosity – what a wonderful tandem. I hadn’t thought of it until recently, but what better symbol of this time of year than the giving of leftovers.

The Christmas season can be chocked full of anxiety – business, personal, physical, financial, emotional – everything seems to be happening faster with a great urgency and significance.

Today I want to encourage you to remember that generosity provides the best stress reliever if we remember its true characteristics. It expects nothing, it can cost nothing, it can be just a little something, it can be a huge thing, and it is always born in your heart.

Thanksgiving is a Verb

Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.
– W.J. Cameron, (1878 – 1955)

There is no sincerer love than the love of food.
– George Bernard Shaw, (1856 – 1950)

You get a “Thanksgiving Two-fer” in the quote department (but GBS get the honored photo spot all by himself). Why? Because I couldn’t decide between meaningful and funny. Then I realized it was in fact my newsletter and I didn’t have to decide – you all would probably appreciate both.

I, like many others, have been incredibly busy lately. We knew this 2-3 day work week was coming…then the cooking…then the shopping…then the decorating…then everything else that comes with time of year. Makes me wonder about the madness of the holiday’s.

And therein lies the problem – we see the madness and forget the purpose.

Today I want to encourage you to be kind to yourself. The people who are thankful for you – and I am sure there are quite a few – do not feel that way because of your cooking skills, party planning ability, or dessert choices. They are thankful for you! Stress will only cause you to miss out on all the wonderful opportunities to enjoy each other as friends and family gather to remember how truly blessed we each are.

In other words – if you realize the smoke billowing out of the kitchen is in fact your prized turkey, don’t let your day be ruined. Grab a video camera, take some real funny shots, mail it to that video reality show and try to make a couple of bucks. Life is too short to let a crispy bird upstage your holiday time.