To You, Who Changed My Life

Dear you,

I guess I should thank you for coming into my life. I’ve been learning a lot about myself since Day 1 and not all of it is easy to stomach. Growing is hard, growing up even harder. You’d think that 25 years of life would have forced that second one on me already but everything I’ve gone through since meeting you has shown me I’m still a child in many ways, clinging to my fantasies and refusing to accept that life is seldom fair. I’ve come face to face with my selfishness, my pride, my sense of superiority. I’ve seen that even though I wouldn’t consider myself entitled, I believe I deserve answers and explanations for everything. In a perfect world I’d get them, but something I’ve learned is that I’ll go crazy if I refuse to move on with life until those answers arrive.

I want to make sense of things, because the world is often nonsensical and confusing. It’s loud and scary and overwhelming and knowing how and why bad things happened to me gives me a sense of security. Maybe if I know, I can avoid the same problem next time.

But sometimes the reason isn’t mine to know. I can’t even tell you how much I don’t understand that, but I know it’s true. Sometimes it’s just not up to me and I have to learn that I can survive in a world I don’t control. It’s terrifying and I hate it but it’s true, and I don’t know if I could have seen that without you.

I’ve been frustrated with myself because I’ve seen so much ugliness in the mirror lately, and sometimes I throw a fit and tell myself there’s no point in changing because I’m tired of other people and they can just deal with me as I am (see how easy it is to duck responsibility? I never knew how good I was at that, before). But I haven’t just scraped away my illusions on your unyielding indifference. You also helped me uncover passions I didn’t know I had, strengths I hadn’t dreamed of, and a sense of belonging I’d nearly given up on finding. Knowing it’s even possible to be that happy makes a huge difference in how I see the world. You clarified a lot of things for me, helped lift the fog for awhile so I could glimpse where I fit in the world.

I’m back in darkness now, but my eyesight is forever changed by the view you showed me. I don’t always remember there’s more out there than what I can see of my immediate surroundings, but the knowledge is there and it shapes my expectations, my actions. When I’m not too afraid to take a step forward, the things I’ve learned because of you are the path I set out on. It’s hard to accept the reality of things at times but I can’t go back to ignorance and in the end, that’s something to be grateful for. I don’t think I could really be as happy as possible if I was still trying to pretend I was more than I was. At least now I can fill myself out, become more of myself.

I still can’t decide if I truly want you to be happy, or if I just want you to be happy with me. But I can at least say I wish you well, because you’ve altered the course of my life in a way only a few things ever will. That wasn’t an easy task. But I believe it was worth it.

[Christmas] Traditions

The other day while I was picking up groceries, I found a bunch of marked-down “EZ Build” gingerbread house kits and couldn’t resist grabbing one. “This should be a fun activity to do at home,” I thought, after checking to see if it had everything we’d need (icing, candy decorations, a tray to set it in, and a little gingerbread man and Christmas tree!). I’m all for trying new activities and creating special memories with my family and friends as we share that experience together.

We didn’t get around to building our little chalet right away, but after a couple of days Josh came home and said “I think we should make a gingerbread house tonight!” So, after we ate supper and made space on the table, we cracked our knuckles and set about the daunting task of assembling a picture-perfect cookie home.

It looked like it would be a fun kit for kids and I didn’t think it would take us too long to finish. After all, we’re two adults in our twenties, with much greater dexterity and coordination than your average 8-year-old. It couldn’t be that difficult.

I was, of course, wrong on that front. The directions on the back of the box were clear and “EZ” to understand, but the execution of the last few steps was messy and time-consuming. That was mostly my fault; I cut the tip of the icing tube too much so we couldn’t do anything with finesse or delicacy. Just a big, roaring waterfall of sugary icing that we tried to channel properly.

Josh was actually a lot more excited about the decorations than I was, and he decided to use every last piece of candy from the kit. Some ideas worked well, and some…not so much (see our Christmas tree–there were little baubles on it before a huge spearmint leaf slid all the way down the front and knocked everything off). I wielded the icing throughout the entire project, attempting to outline the doors and windows with little success.

One of my favorite memes on the internet is the “Nailed It” meme, so we kept comparing our quaint cottage with the gorgeous chalet pictured on the box and laughing about how much alike they looked. We had such a great time laughing at ourselves, licking frosting off our fingers and throwing candy around.

 

My favorite part of the experience, however, was the following night when we were eating the last of the house in companionable silence. Josh finished his half first, looked over at me and said “I didn’t think it was gonna be good, but it was actually pretty great. This should be a thing we do from now on.” I joked about running back to the store and buying another dozen of the same kits to store for years to come, but I was really happy to hear him say that.

Christmas is in the past for this holiday season, but this time of year always makes me think about traditions I’ve seen and experienced, and why they’re so powerful. I like this quote from Augusta E. Rundell:

Christmas…that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance. It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance…a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved.

That’s the heart of why I think traditions are so special to us as families, friends, and individuals: they’re moments in time that span past, present, and future to connect us with loved ones and happy memories. Once something is a tradition, it ceases to be a simple activity done with other people. The activity itself really isn’t important at all. It’s the fact that it’s been done before and will be done again, together.

It strengthens the bonds between us when we share traditions, because we have something to look forward to together and a special, sacred knowledge that we’ll still be in each other’s lives when Christmas rolls around again.

We recently found out that Josh’s grandmother is terminally ill, and family has been gathering around her to share memories with her one last time before she passes. Time marches forward, and people leave us. The moments and memories we share will someday be the most important things we have left of each other. It is a wonderful blessing that we are given as much time with each other as we are, so that we have something good to look back on.

I believe that even as our loved ones pass on, they will be with us in the traditions we shared, the photos we took, and the difference they made in our lives. Remember not to take these things for granted, for they are often the warmest moments we’ll ever know.

2015 Goals: Focus on Friendship

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I’m going to share my goals for this year in a series of posts (I also post them on Instagram). The most important thing to me is becoming a better person and improving myself this year, and specific resolutions are a must to guide my path.

My first goal is to develop more and stronger friendships this year. It’s been so easy for me to let things slide and ignore my friends until I need them (whether for something tangible or simply because I’m in need of a shoulder to lean on), and the people I once considered my closest friends are hardly friends at all anymore.

What I’ve learned is that we’re all happier when we have solid friendships in our lives. They help us create good memories, feel connected in this big world, and lend us strength to weather storms. People are actually so amazing when you get to know them, and they enrich your life to an incredible degree if you let them. So I want to give more meaning to my life and let more people in, to learn what they have to teach me. And I want to learn to serve others, to think of them first, to be an active force for good in their lives.

One book I’ve read on the topic of friendship and people skills (and will be reading over and over again every year) is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It’s a fantastic book with solid, timeless principles that are pretty commonsense, yet shockingly lacking in the average person’s life.

It was a bit of a tough read for me at first, because I struggle with every single thing the book addresses. In some cases I grumbled about how I didn’t want to stop complaining, or how it was too much work to remember everyone’s name. I then realized I had to work first on the desire to change before I could even get started on the actual principles.

The biggest thing I’ve taken away from only having read it once is that the key to great people skills is to stop thinking so much of myself. It’s not about me, it’s about them. For example, if I spend most of my time thinking of things only I would care about, doesn’t it make perfect sense that everyone else is doing the same? Which means that asking someone to talk about himself is a great way to make him feel like he matters to you, instead of feeling unimportant as you natter on about yourself.

So my focus this year is to force my thoughts away from “me, me, me” as much as possible and center them on what I can do for others instead.

I’m going to ask more questions, listen more, and smile as often as possible. I’m going to say hello to strangers and start conversations with people I see around town but don’t know. By the end of the year, I want to know that more people than not were better off for talking to me. And I want to know a lot more names than I do right now. It’s time to take an active interest in the world and the people around us. Let’s make this year a huge step forward, friends. ♥

Q: What’s your best memory from 2014?

On My Struggle to “Let Go”

I’ve been doing well enough to write for a week or so, at this point…I’ve been meaning to do so, but I haven’t been sure what to say. Sometimes, the best writing comes after letting thoughts simmer and stew for a while. At least, I can hope that’s the case.

I always struggled with the concept of “letting go,” especially in practice. It sounded really nice, being able to let a load drop free of my shoulders and move forward with a smile on my face. But whenever I was faced with something difficult, something I couldn’t change that I nonetheless hated, I clung to all the negative feelings with a death grip I couldn’t figure out how to break. Over and over I’d run the same thoughts through my mind, the “whys” and “hows” and “it’s not real, right?” I’d examine the situation from every angle, desperately searching for a way to fix it, to change the outcome, no matter how pointless it was. I would KNOW I was doing something that would make my life harder, but I couldn’t stop.

I’m still that way, for the most part, and I don’t know the “secret” to letting go. But when it came to being dumped by Josh, the breakup led to a breakthrough.

Continue reading “On My Struggle to “Let Go””