Embracing the Present

Ever have those days that just feel good? Not everything went perfect, but you leave feeling like you were effective, productive… competent even.

I’ve been dealing with some health challenges, asking a lot of questions without receiving any answers. Having a day like today made me forget about all of these nagging questions and worries. I’ve been praying, affirming, breathing deeply, and just reminding myself that I can handle whatever comes. I did ask a couple of friends to pray for me, but I’m determined not to be phased.

I don’t like to ask for much more than a prayer, and I don’t intend to now. Perhaps this is pride, or some other character flaw, but it’s how I am. I don’t want people worrying about me. Honestly, I don’t want to worry about me. Worry is stressful, and we don’t need that.

But you know what? It’s Friday. I’ve got osso bucco and gnocchi braising on the stove, I’ve got some good books to start this weekend, some writing exercises to get through, a nail spa pampering session scheduled, and there’s good wine ready for pouring (which will be followed by great bourbon). Let’s savor and really be present in this energy and this moment.

Let time slow down just for a couple days… One can hope, anyway.

Valentine’s Day

This post has been sponsored by Amazon and SiteGround, but all opinions expressed here are my own.

Such an interesting day. I get that Valentine’s Day is a manufactured holiday — one that benefits the card, candy, and floral companies — but I am enamored with any day specifically purposed for love.

I’ve never understood the folks who hate Valentine’s Day or the ones who celebrate “Singles Awareness Day.” Even if you don’t have a significant other to celebrate the day with, you have a special someone: you. Self-love is a real thing — a necessary thing — and I’ve never understood the amount of self-loathing that takes place on this day in particular.

Being single on Valentine’s Day doesn’t mean you’re a failure or that you should hide under a rock for the next 24 hours. A little self-love goes a long way. Pamper yourself. Go get a massage, buy yourself your own flowers or chocolate (just don’t eat the whole box). I used to send myself my favorite chocolates on Valentine’s Day as a reminder that it’s not really a big deal. Don’t allow the only way for you to feel special about yourself to be controlled by someone else. You can (and should) do that for yourself.

How do I spend the day? This weekend, I’ve been curling up with some good books, watching movies, I’ve been cooking and organizing the apartment, hosted a dinner, went to the salon, and I’ve enjoyed the peace and quiet. I love long weekends, and I am enjoying making my apartment a home. This doesn’t sound like some adventure-filled weekend, but it has been everything I’ve needed it to be. I’m relaxed, in good spirits, and I’ve removed some of the chaos at home (by cleaning and organizing my storage room). This may not be romantic love, but self-love is abundant.

Recently, I finished a book by Adriana Trigiani, entitled Brava Valentine: A Novel. Though the title is appropriate for this weekend, it’s not actually about Valentine’s Day. Rather, the heroine (Valentine) navigates a trilogy in pursuit of professional success, family business stability, love, and (in my opinion) self-realization. Through her missteps, she learns about what she wants for herself. Though she’s taken great pride in her work, she has an ah-ha moment and discovers that she really does want to be loved. She didn’t trust that honest love or passion were really possible, primarily as a result of familial infidelities.

Through the novel, the beauty of Italian country, good food, and funny quips come through. Brava Valentine is the second book in the trilogy, so I’m excited to read the third installment, The Supreme Macaroni Company: A Novel. As a writer, nothing gets me more amped up to write than reading a good book.

I’ve also spent a lot of time this weekend trying to optimize this site; to make this site really work for me. I’m so glad that I decided to self-host my domain, and that Siteground has been the absolute best choice for me. Though WordPress recommended Bluehost, I thought their service was awful, the attempt at transferring my domain was rough, and that maybe the company doesn’t have enough staff to truly support such a huge WP constituency.

Moving over to Siteground came with more than really responsive service. It also opens up the world of plugins, which you cannot use if you’re hosted on WordPress.com. Opening up the worlds of Adsense, affiliate programs, the editorial calendar, and a ton of options makes this process a little overwhelming but a lot gratifying. Taking 100% onus of the site means that it can be done my way, can make me money, can have whatever content I need. This part of my writing journey is coming together, which frees up more time and focus for my books. Finally.

Web Hosting

Mindfulness

I’ve been chomping at the bit to blog the last two weeks, but (as you may have noticed), my site has been undergoing some changes. I’m officially self-hosting my domain (as opposed to having my blog hosted by WordPress. The transfer process took longer than I anticipated, but I’m finally master of my own site, and I’m excited to explore some of that potential.

I read a quote yesterday that stuck with me:

“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” ~Thich Nat Hanh

I’ve been thinking a lot about mindset lately, about making sure I’m in the right headspace when it comes to work, health, body. About being unapologetically, 100% me.

It’s not that I’m afraid to show who I am, insecurities and all. It’s more that I’m fighting with having these insecurities. I see some of them as silly, but here they are. They’re in my thoughts every day. And I’m working on many of them, but we are in this age and time now, where we want such instant results with everything. The truth is, none of these insecurities developed overnight.

There are things that I’ve found hard to accept over the last decade. Physical changes, professional challenges, loss, differences among friends. And I know that experiences help to shape who you are, circumstances can humbling, the people you cross paths with can influence you. But through all of this, I’ve been fighting with acceptance.

I let some really strong words from other people influence how I saw myself and my abilities, and I accepted for a long time that they were right. That all I amounted to were what they said. That they said what they did as some sort of “tough love” or “I’m your friend so I’ll tell you the real truth” kind of intention.

I never for a second questioned the people making the statements or their motives. Instead, I believed them. Blindly. Like a lost puppy. And I have to own that; it was my mistake to think their opinion mattered more than my own. That I could know better than others I held in such high esteem.

As I work on this novel, and I push her through some uncomfortable realities, I realize that I’m facing them myself. A part of my block is that I need to get to the other side of the tunnel as much as she does. I have to accept me for what I am now, and not who I can be, who I think I should be, or who anyone else believes me to be. I can strive to be more, try harder, and improve, but I can’t deny present time.

Sometimes, I think we worry so much about the future that we never really pay attention to right now. Where are we right now? Who are we right now? What can we be grateful for in this moment? When I saw “we,” I guess I’m talking about myself.

Anyway, one of my resolutions this year is to be more present, take more ownership, and really affect the change that I want to see in myself. If nothing else about me changes, and I’m in a vacuum exactly as I am now for the rest of my life, I am good with me right now. It’s taken a lot for me to be able to say that.

Do I see areas where I believe I can improve? Absolutely. But I’m accepting who I am, where I am, how I am. It’s all a testament of where I’ve been, what I’ve been through, and how I’ve handled myself. I can’t be mad at that, and I won’t apologize for being me.

I actually think I’m inherently good, kind, and generous to others, though often to a fault. I need to be more generous to myself, but I’m working on that. I’m really proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish so far, and I feel like there are some personal accomplishments that I’m not far from reaching. I’ll keep plugging along, but I’m going to stop and take breaths to enjoy moments as they happen.

Snow Days

I’m actually pretty grateful for this weather. I’ve been able to relax a bit, get my mind right, and put in work. And by work, I mean both the traditional sense and the creative sense. All with the backdrop of a beautiful snowfall. It’s been a quiet, cathartic snowcation. There was probably no other way I would have had a day off this time of year.

No, I haven’t answered all the questions that have been swirling in my head; I’m just going to take it day by day. I don’t know which way the wind will blow, and I’m trying to chalk up the butterflies I’ve been feeling as just being the new kid on the block.

This weekend has been baking and cleaning, laundry and reorganizing, adjusting this new home to rid it of as much chaos as possible. I want it to feel like that place of refuge at the end of a long day. It’s the first place that’s felt like “home” in the past few years. Maybe the past decade. It feels safe, and secure. It’s spacious enough not to go stir-crazy, but big enough to host my favorite people. It’s somewhere I could be stuck during a blizzard and not mind one bit.

All weekend, the one thing I’ve missed, is I’ve wanted to get away to smoke a cigar. LOL. Well, that’s a lie… Some company would have been nice, but a cigar is actually readily available. Craving is real, and I blame my friends for getting me started. Not that I fought them. My building, even my rooftop, are smoke-free areas. Not that I want to stand outside in the snow… Maybe it’s just the bourbon that’s been keeping me warm — cigars and brown liquors just make sense. I’ll switch to scotch tonight.

Now that I have another snow day scheduled, I can focus on getting more words on the page of one of my books. And maybe tomorrow, I will sneak over to the local cigar lounge for a little reprieve.

 

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.

Muse Worthy

There have been times when I meet someone and am struck by their charm, personality, and wit. The immediate chemistry that we have. The recognition of that chemistry mirrored in the eyes of my potential counterpart burns an impression into my mind that can take a while to shake. Not that I want to be rid of that impression.

Something about the discovery and experience of this type of chemistry brings about motivation for me. The special significance immediately puts me in a creative headspace — one where I can write for hours. In moments we aren’t together, I find pages pouring out of my fingertips like fresh iced tea on a warm day. It’s refreshing and rewarding because the productivity level is skyrocketing.

The oddity is that the endorphins I may be experiencing don’t completely relate to my characters. My characters don’t start off in some happy place. They’re broken down, being challenged by multiple personal obstacles, not sitting somewhere daydreaming about someone new. They are hurt or grieving or carry within themselves a self-loathing that they must shake to move forward. They try hard to break through the surface, only to be dragged down and submerged again and again.

But maybe this man becomes my muse because it helps me to see the light at the end of the tunnel for my characters. It opens the headspace for me where my characters are introduced to some new potential, new opportunity, new love. Where my characters get to see beyond their circumstances and hope.

I don’t think this muse helps me to see the light at the end of the tunnel for myself, however. I’m too cynical to be thinking that this one must be THE one and start mapping out our life together. And, in the majority of my past relationships, one issue was at the root of it all: timing. Something I have no control over, and something I would never want to manipulate for my own benefit.

Either you’re ready, or you’re not. Thus far, they’ve all fallen into the “not ready” category, which creates a bit of a hole each new muse must try to dig his way out of, because I now go into these situations assuming business as usual. They’re not ready, so why invest too much? I know this isn’t exactly an optimistic outlook, but thus far, I haven’t been wrong.

I’m just tired of living for “some day.” I have been patient, and I go over and above, but if I can see things lagging, I tend to err on the side of moving on. I don’t want to wait for some day, and I don’t need that second presence to create my own happiness.

Whomever my special person is, whether it’s this guy or the next, what I need more than anything is his presence. I don’t need a bunch of gifts or items, and I don’t need him to take responsibility for my happiness. I just need his presence and partnership. Love will find its way when it is right. But his love will complement my own, not be a substitute or replacement for what I already produce.

I don’t believe a partner fills a void; rather, I think the most successful relationships emerge when two whole people come together with mutual affection and respect, a willingness to work toward maintaining and improving together, and a level of support to help each other realize their respective aspirations. That would be my ultimate muse.

He’s out there.

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.

 

Be Still

I’ve been going back and forth with myself over how I’ve let so much time go by; how I’ve allowed everything to get in the way of something I really love: writing.

I’ve been doubting myself a lot. Work, love, family, friends. Writing is in that pile too. I let people get into my head and make me think their opinion mattered more than my own. I fell back from church, and I felt completely isolated, guilty, and stressed to my breaking point.

Slowly, I’ve been building back up. I could have come back faster, but I think it would have been premature. I needed to be still for a little while and pray. To get back to where I need to be with God. To remind myself of who I am in Him. To remind myself that self love is as important, if not more, than loving others.

I am rededicating myself to my craft. To blogging, to the novels. To “me time.” I allowed myself to be robbed long enough.

Autumnal

We’re still a month away from the fall season, technically, but I can feel it coming.

Autumn is my favorite time of year. Colors changing, cooler air, a little rain, boots, sweaters, and pea coats. I can straighten my hair, since the humidity isn’t so bad. I can use the air conditioner less. I love driving around the east coast in the fall, all of the beautiful trees. The brisk weather. The apple cider.

I think that I love the fall so much because change is everywhere. The colors of the leaves, the air, the fruit, the food, the fashion. And I love it. I embrace it, even.

I like change. I like new beginnings. Maybe that’s why I am such a tumbleweed and move around so often. Maybe that’s who no place ever really feels 100% like home.

I’ve decided to embrace my inner tumbleweed. Life is too short. Let the wind take me where it may.

Embrace your inner tumbleweed.