Tomorrow Will Be Better

My quote for today comes from Maria Popova – something she said in a post about a graceful and loving post-break-up letter Simone De Beauvoir wrote

“To give space when what one most yearns for is closeness, that is both the great test and great tragedy of love.”

I can’t help but feel a little bleak today. So I’m indoors with my dogs and a book. Veronica Franco: Poems and Selected Letters

It will get better. I have plans. Embryo plans, but plans nonetheless. Hard work is the answer to any kind of grief. And I worked hard today. 

I’ll work harder and finally accomplish something. “At last I can start suffering and write that symphony.”

I need a life that makes me excited to get up in the morning. 

Not a very insightful post, really, and probably more than a bit self-centered, especially in the wake of Manchester. 

I’m grateful for a lot of things. Friendship. Truth. Solitude. Books. Dogs. My beautiful brain. A paycheck. Two of them, in fact. Love, from a distance or otherwise. 

And tomorrow will be better. 

Do What You Can

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In that last post, I quoted a line from a book by Shauna Niequist. There’s a part of that quote – the part about not fast-forwarding yourself into a future you haven’t yet earned – that I’ve been considering a lot in the past several days.

There are a lot of things that I want in my life that I don’t yet have. And while I fully believe I’m the only one who can make things happen in my life, I hadn’t exactly thought of it in terms of “earning” my future.

I think I should start asking myself that question as part of my morning and evening journaling. What can you do today to earn the future you want? What did you do today that puts you one step closer to that future? Does the way you live your life now make you worthy of the future you desire?

I feel like that’s a good reflection exercise.

I’ve read from a variety of different sources about the value of writing down on paper, in very specific terms, where you want to be, say, 5 or 10 years in the future. I’ve always had a hard time with the specifics. I think that’s because sometimes the specific things I want to be part of my life are beyond my control. And I don’t want to commit to paper something I can’t guarantee.

But I had a very clear vision this morning as I was getting ready for work of what I wished I was doing instead – of exactly how my day would be carried out and who would be in it if I had my way. It was a lovely way to start my morning.

And then I went to work and got bogged down by a bureaucracy that only seems to be getting worse every day, and all I can think about now is that vision of my future. A future that – while it isn’t wholly in my control – could be exactly what I need.

I’m always harping on control, and I get frustrated sometimes because I feel like a lot of what I think will make me feel fulfilled is beyond my control. So what am I supposed to do?

“What I can” is inevitably the answer. Focus on what you can do and work your ass off for it, and ultimately everything else will follow. The result may not look exactly like what you’d envisioned, but if you put in the effort, it will be good.

It’s not scientific, but I believe sending out positive vibes will result in good things coming back to you.

So I’m going to spend some time today writing out my vision. It’s not for public sharing – not right now, anyway. It’s just for me, to give me a beautiful sense of direction (something I feel like I’ve been lacking a bit.)

And I’ll take what I write and develop a list of what I can do to make it happen. Something concrete I can review every day while I ask myself “Is the way I’m living now pushing me toward what I want?”

I already know that some of what I’m doing now is. And the major thing that needs to change is my attitude toward my work and where I want my career to go. It’s stagnant and has been for awhile. Ironically, it’s probably the one area I have the most control over. Which should be comforting.

I just need to get off my ass and get to it.

Getting Unstuck & Letting Go

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“Don’t get stuck in the past, and don’t try to fast-forward yourself into a future you haven’t yet earned. Give today all the love and intensity and courage you can, and keep traveling honestly along life’s path.” – Shauna Niequist

I stole that quote from a book called “Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace and Learning the Hard Way.”

I haven’t read the book – only a handful of passages. She has some excellent thoughts, but there’s too much god-talk for a good heathen to tolerate, and she often comes across as judgy and sanctimonious. I like those two lines though.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my past. I found myself recently (and somewhat defensively) telling a friend, “I’m not who I was at 23.”

I’m not. But I don’t think I should be so defensive. I’m not proud of a lot of my past behaviors, but I’m also not ungrateful for what I learned from them. They’re a part of my past, a major factor in the person I am at 37, a woman I’m genuinely proud to be. I still have a lot to learn, but – barring a freak accident – I probably still have a lot of time left in which to do so. I hope so.

Regardless, I know what I value in a way that I’ve never known before. I love who I am in a way I never have before. I possess a self-respect that I never before had. I’m not afraid of everything and everyone anymore. For the first time in my life, I am unapologetically me.

Two years ago, I sat in my bedroom, alone and in tears shortly after telling my husband I didn’t love him and wanted to divorce, and posted on my Twitter account, “I am not a good person.” I think I really believed that for a very long time. And I don’t anymore. I’m not stuck in a past I can’t change. I’m no longer making decisions out of a sense of shame and guilt.

So maybe now I can concentrate on the second part and stop trying to fast-forward myself into the future. My present is nice. I need to treat it with care. Another new favorite quote is this: “Stay in the present moment, and the past and the future will fall naturally and easily into place.”

I don’t know to whom to attribute it. A friend wrote it in her notebook and posted a photo on Instagram, but I suspect she got it from somewhere else.

I keep trying. I’m not a fatalist. I don’t believe things are predetermined. I believe in human ability, not divine intervention. But I also know I can’t control everything. Only myself. And when I let go of what I can’t control, things do seem to fall into place. (And I’m a much better person to be around.)

There’s still a person I want to be, and I’m not her yet. I’m not as graceful as I’d like (physically and emotionally). I’m not as mellow, not as understanding. Not as well-read and educated despite all my formal education. Not as productive. I still have a lot of work to do. And I have all the control over that.

About a year ago, I wrote a list of immediate goals. I didn’t look at it again until recently and was surprised how many of them I’d accomplished, without really thinking about it. Imagine what I could accomplish if I dedicated real effort to it.

But it’s nice to know – since I’m always talking about starting things – that I have actually started. I haven’t just talked about it and sat back, letting life go by.

And Spring is a good time to start more things. It’s easy to feel alive and energetic when everything else around you is coming alive.

Hair. Beavers. (As in “hair and beavers.” Not “hair beavers.” That would be silly.)

I had a bad hair day today. 

That’s a misnomer. The phrase “bad hair day” implies “I’ve made every effort I possibly could to tame this mop, and everything has failed.”

What I had is an “I don’t give a f!@k” hair day. I woke up this morning, looked in the mirror, and thought to myself … “That works.” 

So I took a quick shower to clean my face and body but didn’t bother with the hair. Conventional wisdom has it that it’s healthy to not wash your hair every single day.

Conventional wisdom and I aren’t usually drinking buddies, but I like to save time when I’ve gotten out of bed late so I was cool with that. 

Until I got to work (on time) and looked in the mirror again. 

Either I was still asleep for my initial assessment or sometime during my 30-minute walk to work, a beaver couple moved into my hair and started a family. 

They’d left by noonish, but I can’t say it was an improvement. 

I worked two jobs today and interacted with lots of people. Admittedly, none of them asked me if my hair had been acting as a halfway home for beaver families. But they were thinking it. Don’t think I don’t know. 

It’s a superficial thing, maybe. But the fact is appearances do matter. How you FEEL matters even more, and I’m here to tell you, folks, feeling like a family of beavers is squatting in your hair does not make you feel like a professional. 

And the moral of this story is clearly that not everything I write on this blog has to mean something. 

This Week

The post office lost my divorce paperwork, and I will most likely have to spend another $165 to file again.

The tax preparer I went to did not help me. Or even like me, I suspect. And I owe a lot.

One of my dogs has started to have occasional seizures.

I frequently feel like I’m under attack at my primary job by people who don’t in fact know as much about my work as I do.

I got about two hours of sleep last night.

But …

I gave someone going through real grief a new and comforting idea.

I know – even if others don’t – that I did good work this week and got a lot done.

I got some unexpected time with someone I love.

I listened to good music.

I had a couple of good ideas I can mold into actions. I think.

I came to the realization that I should not, under any circumstances, have more than two drinks in a day because it will only make me either sad or angry or both.

I worked my body very hard, and it will be better for it.

I walked a lot.

There’s always next week.

Anger Management 101: Porcupines and No Answers

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There are moments when I’m so angry, I think I could physically rip apart the planet and send it careening into space. And would happily do so.

This is not peaceful.

I attended a Yin Nidra class last night. I’m not much of a believer in anything so I have to ignore much of what the instructor says when it starts heading in the direction of communicating with the divine. I’m allergic to that kind of talk. It increases my heartrate and blood pressure and causes a completely understandable desire to run screaming from the building. Nobody likes that.

But I liked what she had to say about intention. It comes up in my Headspace meditation a lot, too: keeping an intention in mind, what it is you’re trying to accomplish with your practice. Last night I really just wanted a good stretch for my aching body, but my overarching goal in all this meditation work I’ve started doing is to cultivate peace.

I’m not a peaceful person. I’m a bit prickly. I’m very prickly. In fact, I just decided my totem animal is a porcupine. I’m small but armored. I tend to avoid conflict, but if it insists on finding me, I pierce things. (Metaphorically, of course. Contrary to what my sister will tell you, I don’t actually stab people with scissors.)

I’m not certain where this comes from because the other women in my family become raging banshees when they’re angry. I just get quiet(er) and cold. And, well, prickly.

I now have this image of me sitting on a stool at my favorite bar, hearing something that makes me angry and instantly sprouting a mane of sharp quills, like a porcupine version of the Hulk. I kind of like it.

Here’s a bit of fun etymology. The word porcupine comes from the Latin porcus (pig) and spina (spine or quill). A regional American name for porcupine is “quill pig,” which isn’t nearly as fun as the Afrikaans name, ystervark, which means “iron pig.”

There are also characteristics that differentiate Old World porcupines from New World porcupines (which, geographically speaking, I would be.) According to Wikipedia, Old World porcupines are large and their spikes are grouped in clusters. New World iron pigs are smaller, have quills attached singly, and are excellent climbers. (Initially I read that as dancers, which tickles me.)

You now have a very good illustration of how my brain works.

What was I talking about?

Ah, yes. Anger. Intention. Peace. Porcupines. A natural progression. 

I’m trying to become less angry, more peaceful. To cultivate less longing for what I don’t have and more content with what I do. To worry less about what I can’t control and do more with what I can.

It’s impossible. I don’t think it’s ever going to happen. I have always raged (albeit quietly) against the world. I really don’t know how to change that. Sometimes I wonder if the best way for me to be more at peace and worry less is just to accept that I’m meant to softly rail.

My favorite part of this cartoon from the Oatmeal that I linked to in my last post (and will link here again, because it’s worth looking at more than once) is at the end … “I do these things because I want to be tormented and challenged and interested. I want to build things, and then break them. I want to be busy and beautiful and brimming with ten-thousand moving parts.”

And sometimes I want to be still and silent, but even then my brain doesn’t turn off. It rages and rails and argues and counterargues and overthinks and keeps me up at night and will probably continue to do so until I’m dead. Which, to be clear, I intend to be very far in the future. If Billy Joel and Lori McKenna are anything to go by, I’ll live to a ripe old age.

So maybe if I can’t worry less about what I can’t control, I can at least *also* do more with what I have. I feel like I should be able to channel my anger, frustration, and cynicism into something creative. Something that matters. To someone, even if it’s just other lost and angry souls who are looking for something meaningful to which to cling.

I feel like every blog post I write is just another question. Why don’t I ever have answers?