Good News

I’m one of those “happy by association” kind of people. Even on days when I feel I’ve been completely dragged through the mud, I can find joy in seeing a friend realize triumph.

It’s not that I don’t continue to experience my own circumstances; rather, I see them accomplishing some form of success, and I’m reminded that there really is a light at the end of the tunnel. Life is just a succession of tunnels. Some of them curve, some of them go on for much longer than we can really stand being in confined spaces, and others we pass through so quickly that we don’t even realize we were ever in a dark place. These happy moments experienced by others are like a brief glimmer, or even a skylight, along whatever tunnel I’m traveling through. Answered prayers are fantastic bursts of light.

I have a friend with a new work opportunity, another with a beautiful baby on the way (who is going to be ridiculously stylish), and most areas of my life are pretty good right now. Things aren’t perfect me, but I don’t think I ever expect perfect — that would just be setting up for failure.

My rollercoaster of a dating life is probably one of the tunnels I’ve been traveling lately. It’s been a really long time since I’ve been in anything significant, and that’s been weighing on me. Four years since my last relationship that got anywhere near the “L” word, and everything since has been so obviously temporary.

Even the latest muse. Fun when he’s around, but for the most part he isn’t anywhere to be found. I know his circumstances, and though I enjoy his company, I’m not expecting much. He’s not ready. Highly unlikely that anything serious will develop, so more than anything, I find myself looking out the window and wondering what’s next for me. That I was in a long-term relationship for the length of my 20’s, am I going to spend the whole of my 30’s alone?

I don’t want to force anything, and I don’t want to rush. I actually enjoy my own company, so I’m not looking for someone to fill my entire calendar. I just get tired of waking up alone every morning, coming home to an empty apartment every night. Everyone who checks on me is at least a few hundred miles away, for the most part. I’m not isolated the way I was in New Orleans, but I do recognize the value I put on real friendships, and those aren’t always easy to forge the more “mature” we get.

Even feeling a bit lonely myself, I’ve been over-the-moon happy for my friends. I’ve been praying for the both of them, and I know they’ve been through so much to get to these incredible moments. Through their experiences, they remind me to be humble, to appreciate what I already have, and to exude the positive energy that I want to come into my life. They give me perspective when it escapes me, though they probably have no idea the impact their experiences have had on me.

I will be just fine, no matter what. Even if I end up an old spinster with a million crocheted blankets or a houseful of cats. There’s always light at the end of the tunnel, but I think being present and having the peace of mind to enjoy someone else finding the end of their tunnel can, in turn, keep us moving forward until we find the end of ours.

Revisiting Storms

As I get to know my new colleagues — my counterparts– I find that we connect well, we team together often, and we agree on management styles, productivity, and creating policy. We fight the drama together, and we keep each other supported. I like this team.

Due to past experiences, I’ve taken my time getting to know them, having heard various accounts of their personalities and supposed tactics from my predecessor. I chose to form my own opinions under the belief that one person’s experiences don’t dictate the experiences of another. This decision certainly opened opportunities for us to bond and form new understandings based on our interactions.

Over lunch this week, the team began to share about family and grief, blogging and forms of therapy and detox. Another colleague mentioned journaling using the 750 Words app, so I shared that I’ve been blogging for 13 years now. That what started off as a purely organic mind dump each day, to lighten the burden on my shoulders, became my refuge for taking down the weight in exchange for a couple hundred words.

I shared my grief gingerly, unsure how it would be received by my colleagues, but they’ve been incredibly supportive and kind; they have been open and generous. The story has so many levels, intricately woven together to recount what happened when my sister died, how my parents were affected, and what I kept to myself.

After sharing, I was proud of myself,  mostly because I didn’t cry as I recounted what happened in the accident and during trial. I didn’t cry as I explained the effect of such a loss on my family. My colleagues were the epitome of support. Asking questions where they felt comfortable, offering short-term resolutions that could prove helpful.

I’m just grateful that we could connect, that they were respectful and kind, and honestly, that they have a greater understanding of how I operate and why I do what I do for my students. This was accomplished without a breakdown, or even a tear, in a solemn conversation that felt safe and delicately handled.

I can’t complain. Missing her is always heavy, but being able to tell others about her lovely personality and all her goals brings me a great deal of comfort.

Good talk.

Inner Circles

So I’ve been facing some health challenges lately – ones completely out of my control. It’s been really scary, really eye-opening, and a looming reminder of mortality. Nothing is immediately life-threatening (that I’m aware of, anyway), but I have this sense of anxiety that I am fighting each day.

What if I’m stuck with these challenges for the rest of my life?

I’ve always been really headstrong, independent, and a big supporter for others going through their hard times. I’m finding that, of course, I could really use a friend. Unfortunately, the friends that I’ve been wanting to confide in have basically fallen off the map, and so I just end up internalizing all of the things I’m thinking and feeling. The “what ifs” and the fears, some tears and many sleepless nights. I tend to reserve these particular subjects for only the closest of friends, but now I’m questioning our true level of friendship.

If someone is always there for you when times are trying, is there any commitment to reciprocate? I don’t believe friendship is obligation, but I do believe it is mutual. Shouldn’t we support each other, or has this friendship always been about you?

I’m reminded of friendships attempted in Los Angeles and how shallow they were. I had great difficulty forging true, lasting friendships, though I lived there for 12 years. It felt like everyone was trying to “make it,” and you were only a good friend as long as you could benefit someone else’s trajectory to stardom or notoriety. I made a small handful of friends, but I met so many people over the course of those years, and it really took a toll on me that so many friendships fell flat or ended in someone trying to take advantage.

Maybe I’m just too nice, too gullible, or too naive. But when I look in the mirror, I don’t see those things. I am generous, I am kind, and I do genuinely care. But I’m no doormat, I’m not afraid to voice my opinion, and I’m definitely not afraid to walk away if I feel someone is taking me for granted. Perhaps the lesson is simply to take a look around when things are generally good to see who is still there.

You always know who needs you, but who sticks around once things stabilize? For you? Some people are in your life for only a season, and from where I’m sitting, winter is definitely over.

Snowcation Reverie

Being cooped up at home lends to reflection, especially when you’re alone. Even trapped in it, there is something so magical about the snow to me. I’m in awe. And it’s crazy, because this is the first time I’ve lived somewhere that gets a snowy winter, a hot summer, a gorgeous spring, and a true fall.

Blizzard-like conditions are said to be upon us for at least the next 24 hours, and though I’m cozy at home with plenty of movies to keep me entertained and food to keep me fed, I find myself drained thinking about work. I struggle to prove to myself that I’m not a workaholic, but work seems to be my primary stressor these days. I find myself worried about whether I’ll make the right decisions. Whether my efforts will be seen as such. Whether I will be a good leader here.

And it’s not that I haven’t been just fine elsewhere. I’ve certainly been challenged, and I think I ultimately handled myself well. I learned some important lessons along the way, personally and professionally. It’s just… I find myself waning. Questioning what I really want, whether I’m really happy or just happened to find something I’m relatively good at. Do I see this as a job or a career? It makes a difference.

In my mind, if I’m going to work 7 days a week, I want it to be something that I love. I’m not loving this, and if I’m really honest with myself, I haven’t loved this for a year or two. When you love what you do, it doesn’t feel so forced. Right?

Is it time for something new? Is it time to take some risks? Am I ready? I’m not really sure.

Per my usual, I’ll pray about it and mull it over. I never make rash or uninformed decisions. And who knows, maybe this is just a season, and the tides will turn for the better.

A friend of mine talked to me last week and helped me put some things into perspective; made me think about where I am and what I prioritize. What can I be doing to affect the change that I want to see? As much as I’d like to believe all of my motivation is due to my most recent muse (who may be a done deal at this point, who knows), the talk I had with my friend still weighs heavily on my mind. Lovers tell you what you think you need to hear (which is really what you want to hear), but friends tell you the truth. It may be a hard truth, it may be a humbling experience, it may show you where you where you went wrong. You may have to swallow your pride. The important thing is, coming from a friend, it’s always meant to build you up and steer you in the right direction.

If I’m not prioritizing myself, putting first those things that I really want to do/achieve, how can I really be happy with all of this other stuff? How can I meet the personal goals I’ve set for myself? How can you publish something you never finish? What’s a reasonable amount of time that I can devote to myself and my craft? Heavy stuff, my friend, but you were right on time.

Thank you.

Resolute

Hello, 2016.

I find myself in a new place this year. New city, new job, new home. The biggest difference is that I’m surrounded by friends, family, and a beautiful city full of history, gastronomy, and real seasons.

I had a talk with a friend yesterday, and it was thought-provoking for me. Lord knows I take my time to reflect, but fresh perspective is far more valuable than hindsight, because there is still time to act.

I’ve made several resolutions this year related to my writing. I want to blog once a week, work on my novel at least twice a week, and publish one of my novels by the end of the year. While this is certainly feasible, to put it plainly, I’m already making excuses. Work, work, work.

I’m currently questioning my position, the amount of time and effort that I put into this position, and whether this industry is where I want to be. Honestly, I questioned these things before I moved, but in those moments, all I knew was that the move needed to happen. Personally, I’m so happy that I relocated. Professionally, I’m still finding my way.

I think that the adjustment will take time, no matter whether I determine that I’m in the right career path or that I need a change. I just know that I need stability and support – in whatever I do – because then I feel more free to really give it my all. I’m happier, I sleep better, I’m more focused and committed. I’m more motivated, and I contribute more, when I feel like I have what I need.

I think that we all have moments of reflection where, no matter the challenge, we wonder whether we made the right decisions. Looking in the rearview mirror, did I choose the right education, the right career path, the right city, the right people to surround myself with? Am I where I need to be? At the end of my life, will I be able to say that I really went for what I wanted? That I really lived?

In my mind, I can do anything. In my heart, I’ll always be a writer. Writing has always been my very best form of communication. It’s the only way that I know that I can truly express myself, where I won’t be misunderstood. I get nervous speaking sometimes, because in my mind’s eye, I’m watch the words formulating and rearranging into the sentences that I need to say, but the articulation of these words isn’t as clean when spoken. When I write, I can take that moment to backspace and edit in a way that I haven’t mastered when speaking. Words tumble out of order at times, missing the mark or impact that I’m hoping to convey. But when I write, I can spin the story in any direction. I can evoke the right emotions. I can help people relate.

Though I feel that I’m being pulled in many different directions, I’ve neglected my writing for so long that often I feel guilty when I finally allot time to this craft. Where would I be happiest? Honestly, in some cafe with a cappuccino, my laptop, and my book notes. I could spend the rest of my days doing that exact same thing, because each day would still be different. Watching characters come alive on a backlit page, telling the stories through the eyes of others, finding ways to relate to my characters and their idiosyncrasies. Seeing all of the puzzle pieces come together in a literary work where you can visualize the story as it unfolds. That’s where success lies.

Books were my escape as a little girl. Deep within their pages, I found refuge from whatever was going on at home, from whatever my own feelings were. From reality. I devoured books quickly, often checking out 5-10 books per week from our local library, sometimes reading books twice if I read my pile too quickly.

Writing helps me to create for someone else that escape that was so vital for me. An alternate plane where obstacles aren’t your own, but those of fictional characters. It’s time to get back to this. To make time for this. To acknowledge self by believing that this time is deserved and not squandered.

This is how I make what I want a priority.

 

Building a Sisterhood

The end of June is always a tough month for me and for my family. June 26th this year marked the 11th anniversary of my younger sister’s passing.

Some years are harder than others, and this year has been especially rough because she would have turned 30 years old this fall. I think my family has been hit especially hard this year. I can hear it in my mother’s voice.

I miss her. It’s like the air I breathe is thinner without her. My quality of life is different. My longing for her and the relationship we built grows stronger each year. My wondering what she would be or how she would be now rack my thoughts all the time.

A dear friend of mine pointed out to me last week that I make great efforts to build a strong network of sisters around me, not necessarily just for my own benefit, but to support and encourage each other. I’d never thought of it that way before, but it’s true.

When I feel my lowest, I look to these sisters I’ve found over the years. A few particularly special ones have helped me keep it together when I couldn’t do it on my own; when I didn’t feel I had enough to take care of myself after taking care of my family. They’re who saw me grieve when I couldn’t allow my parents to see; they’re who checked on me and sat with me as I dealt with family complexities.

When I was the one who had to be strong for the family, to be their rock, these sisters made sure they were mine. And, in turn, I make sure that I do everything in my power to take care of them. I don’t look to them to replace my sister that is no longer with me, but I look to them for outlets to provide support, love and encouragement that I can no longer use toward her. It’s still in me, and it has to go somewhere. She would approve.

I think of my accomplishments, and I think of the opportunities I’ve had to be there for people the way that I’ve wanted to be there for my own sister. I hope that she would be proud. I hope that she would smile and laugh, and when I meet her next in heaven, I hope she does a little dance before she throws her arms around me. I can’t wait.

I will continue my efforts and being who I am for her, in her memory. I am nothing if not dedicated to my sisters: my rocks, my inspiration, my advisors and confidants. I had almost 19 years with my own, and I have my entire adulthood to enjoy these new chances at sisterhood. That means everything to me.

Flake-ish

Are you the dependable one or the flake?

I find that, oftentimes, I am bothered by even the idea that people will say they’re going to do something and then they don’t. Without notice, without a reason, without any consideration for your time. And it could be anything — meeting you for lunch, calling you, going on a trip. Don’t put me in a position where I’m waiting for you, and you don’t even have the courtesy to call.

Worse still, don’t call me at the EXACT minute you’re supposed to be somewhere to tell me you’re running 20 minutes late. You probably knew that 30 minutes ago. At this point, I already know you’re late.

I do my best to surround myself with like-minded people, but it takes time to weed out who I can rock with long term. If you can’t respect my time the way I respect yours, this friendship will be short-lived.

I guarantee it.

New Year, New Opportunity

Are you one of those people that puts everyone ahead of yourself? I am, but I’m finding that to be a blessing and a curse.

I’m one of those people that would give my last to make sure everyone I care about is taken care of, even if it’s to my detriment. I want the people I love to be happy, to have what they need, and to feel like they’re progressing. I always figured that I would take care of me when everyone else was covered.

Slowly, I’ve come to the realization that needs are constant. Everyone always needs SOMEthing. And that’s not a negative, per se. It’s truth. At some point, we have to prioritize these needs, and I had to admit (to myself) that I can’t help you if I’m not helping myself. I can’t provide for you and yours, and subsequently leave myself in a position where I’m not cared for.

More often than not, I’ve found that some of the outreached hands will take and just continue taking, but they never offer anything back. They never reach back to try to lift me up when I’m struggling, nor do they try to provide for me when I’m in need. And I’m not saying everyone is in the same position to give in the same way or to the same magnitude, but you can always give SOMEthing. When you can’t give financially or tangibly, give encouragement, give kindness, give acknowledgement. Give from your heart.

In a nutshell, give a shit about someone other than yourself and your interests.

This year, I’m moving forward with an understanding that I’m not anyone else’s priority, especially if I’m not my own. I need to make sure I’m taken care of BEFORE I try to help everyone else.

BEFORE I give my last, I need to make sure I have a contingency. I can’t save anything for future or for emergency if I give everything away. There’s no rainy day fund. There’s no savings, because I exhausted it trying to help.

I find a joy in cooking and feeding others, but cared little about doing that for myself. About carving out that “me time” or making sure that I was getting what I needed emotionally, physically, spiritually, financially, or intellectually.

This year is my opportunity to begin righting some of those wrongs. And it’s not about regrets, life is about learning and progress.

How will your priorities change in 2014?

Taking Advantage

I’m no Mother Teresa, but I would say that I am generous with those that I care about.  I genuinely care for the well-being of those around me, and it matters to me that the people I love have what they need to get by.

That being said, I’m not stupid, nor am I a doormat.  My generosity and kindness should not be mistaken for weakness or vulnerability.  Attempts to take advantage or exploit are hardly going unnoticed.  But I think this is the point where people sometimes get a little lost.

Often, when people realize that someone is taking them for granted, they get down on themselves.  Maybe it cracks their confidence, or maybe it makes them feel like a prize idiot.  Damn that.  Don’t let someone make you feel bad for being who you are.  Remember that what you did came from a good place.  There’s no sense in feeling bad for doing something good.

People are taken for granted all the time.  Rather than let what happened defeat you or eat away at your will and drive, let it fuel you.  Use that experience as motivation, and most of all, learn from it.  At the end of the day, if you’re not making the most of your life, you’re giving in to the negative energy that came to steal away your livelihood.

I am a true believer that you get what you put out into the universe.  Call it Karma, call it an eye for an eye, Yin and Yang, call it comeuppance.  I don’t have to do or say anything, try to get even, yell, or even be angry.  I feel sorry for anyone that would take advantage, because it says something about where they are in their life — maybe they’re going through something.  And I forgive.  There’s no use in hanging onto negativity; it’s just a waste of energy that could be put to better use.

I won’t change who I am or how I treat people.  I won’t stop caring, because that’s now how I operate.  But I will keep my distance.