Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 in review

I just got home from my honeymoon, 7 days out from saying I do to the love of my life. I'm still in the process of writing out our wedding story, with all its redemptive twists and turns. But my friend Morgan posted these year in review questions and I thought i'd take a moment after all this business to reflect on the huge year that 2016 was for me.

  1. What were 3 significant events for me this past year?

Getting married was definitely a significant 2016 moment. Committing my life to another person, when I have a messy track record with love, is huge. Along with that getting engaged was a significant event, as it began a journey of examining what i believe when it comes to love and opening myself up to it. Its hard to pick just one event for my third most significant, because there were so many and i don't want to pick one and forget one that was perhaps more significant. But I think the deconstruction of my faith, while it was a process and not a single event, has been very significant for me this year.  

  1. What were a few of the most significant moments (think small, like noticing the beauty of the bridge of your daughter’s nose, holding your grandma’s hand, paying attention to the snow fall)
Realizing the sweetness of love through my long distance relationship, finding my tribe and feeling understood, and less alone. Connecting with another person in entirely new ways (physical, emotional, spiritual, mental...), these moments at work where this spicy child will fall asleep with her hands cradling my face, the sacred beauty of forgiveness by someone I wasn't sure I would be forgiven by, coming home to myself in strange new ways. and this current moment, my first night in my new home, smelling the lemon in my shampoo and listening to my husband play video games in the background, because i never knew if i would get this moment

  1. What did I accomplish this year? List all your wins (even ones that seem silly small, like introducing yourself to your neighbor and making a new friend).
I got my first full time job, as an early childhood educator. I got married. I made new friends. I finished college. I listened to my gut. I told the truth. I completed a yoga challenge. I overcame a lot of my fears. I survived my long distance relationship (and thrived). I did laundry so i had clean clothes and made sure i didn't die in dirt (guys, sometimes that is hard), i survived the loss of some friends. 
  1. What were a few of the surprise challenges you faced this year?
Being engaged was definitely a surprising challenge for me. I found it so hard to be in that space and yet felt like i had to be happy. College was another one of those surprise challenges for me. I loved my first year, so found myself confused when my second year was so very hard. I found myself in a state of deconstruction, pushing against these rules and guidelines that had been set in place for me. It felt like i was on an entirely different track than everyone else, which was a really isolating feeling. and as i worked through issues - personal, faith related and relational - i found myself deeply and painfully misunderstood. I guess work was another challenge, just because i underestimated the toll it would take, physically and emotionally.  

  1. In what ways did I heal this year (emotionally, spiritually, physically)? Where do I feel freer?
I healed in so many ways this year. The deconstruction of my faith was a huge way i healed, and in turn brought me so much more freedom. Just realizing I don't have to believe everything i was told growing up, or everything that my parents believe, liberated me so much. I started listening to my gut and what felt right for me in terms of working out my faith. I started really questioning why i believe the things i believe, and i decided to stop believing some of the things that no longer worked for me. as a result of this personal deconstruction i got passionate about social justice. i was able to have conversations with people i really care about on things like #blacklivesmatter. i began to openly identify as a feminist. i used my voice to speak up for those who need a voice, who need someone to stand with them. and i let my heart be broken by the injustices of the world.

aside from this huge healing, i've also continued to do some physical healing. i started listening to my body, and am still in the journey of this as i continue to work towards getting as healthy as i possibly can be. so much space has opened up in my body through my yoga practice. and then there is the work i am doing on radical self acceptance, on viewing myself and my body and my heart with love and compassion rather than with such a critical lens.  

  1. What day was of 2016 did I feel the most alive and why?

I saved this question for last because honestly i don't know what day this year i felt most alive. i could say it was my wedding day, and that is true in a sense. i could say it was the day i got engaged, and that also wouldn't be wrong. i could say it was the day i walked out of college for the last time, and i had this sense of being able to breathe and figure things out for myself and make mistakes, and that would also be true. I could recall our family trip to the mountains this summer, or the road trip i took to new friends' wedding, or these past few days of being away with the person i love most. i don't know if i just have one day that made me feel most alive. I think 2016 was a year of being fully alive for me, the good, the bad and the ugly. i had a string of most alive days. But i think the day i felt most alive was the day i was driving back home after getting engaged. it was my first alone road trip, and i was listening to the radio and i had one of those "if this isn't beautiful i don't know what is" moments. and i had this sense that i had made it. all those hell days, all the days when i didn't think i would make it, all the days when i wanted to end it, all the pain, they had brought me here. and i didn't know what would come next, and it didn't matter. for a moment, just a moment, i felt this perfect peace, this freedom, this knowing that i was on the right path, that i was deeply, beautifully, amazingly alive 

  1. What day or season of 2016 did I feel the most discouraged and why?
I had a long season in 2016 of wilderness, of liminal space. Sometimes i feel like i am still there. This summer was an especially hard season for me in that regard. i had just gotten engaged, but we were still doing long distance. i was in the throes of deconstruction, and feeling alienated from the community i once had. there was a while where i didn't have a job, and then it was the transition into the new job and feeling overwhelmed. and in all of it i felt like i wasn't sure where to land. i remember that season most clearly in painting the fence at my parents house, listening to podcast after podcast, hoping to find someone who would say something that would speak to me where i was at. i just wanted to know i wasn't alone. i was fighting against my heart and my body and i was discouraged. some of that has passed as i have moved along that journey but some of that discouragement is still there

  1. What did I complete, release or surrender?
I completed a forgiveness journey i have been working on for years. There was always this sense of not being finished with my abuse story, and i couldn't figure out why i kept clinging to it, why there was this feeling of something in it not being finished for me. but after a few tough conversations i was able to release so much of that. I had to give up on some dreams for reconciliation, just because it became clear to me that those people cannot be a safe space for me, not because they don't want to just because of where they fell in proximity to the situation. i was able to make a lot of peace with myself, letting go of guilt and shame and moving on from the pain into the healing journey that allows me to move forward.  

  1. What am I holding onto that still needs closure?
I'm still holding on to a lot of body issues that i thought i had closed the door on a long time ago. my body has a lot of stories to tell, and i'm realizing i didn't make peace with them like i thought i had. so the story of my body - health wise, in terms of my self image, my femininity - those are all things that still need closure. 

  1. In what ways did I pay attention to others and bless them or help them meet their needs? Who did I grow closer to this year?
During this year, especially in the spring, i was able to volunteer at a women's shelter. being there was probably as much a blessing and healing to me as it was to the women and children i was there to work with, but i was able to touch so many lives that way. And then daily now, through my job, I am learning how to pay attention to others, to meet their needs and meet them where they are at. 

the question of who i grew closer to this year is a tough one to answer, because this year did feel so isolating for me. in the obvious sense, i grew closer to my husband this year, as our relationship changed from dating to engaged and now to being married. i grew closer to other people who were in the same stages of deconstruction that i was, as we had this common ground. i grew closer to my sister, as we began to talk about things that really matter like racism and sexism and how it affects our daily lives. and i grew closer to myself. 
  1. Where did I lose myself this year (what were my biggest time wasters and energy-sucks?)  
people pleasing. I am a recovering perfectionist and codependent so i lost a lot of myself trying to keep the peace and keep people happy and do what i thought they wanted. i put so much pressure on myself to make people like me and make sure they thought well of me that i burnt out. 

I lost a lot of myself in caring for other people too. my work is a huge outlet for that, and college was also like that for me. i put so much into caring for other people, even if that is a "good" thing that if i'm not careful i can forget to care for myself and end up exhausted. 

And as always i probably wasted too much time on social media. I wasted too much time caring about what i looked like as opposed to whether or not i was enjoying myself. 
  1. What did I do right? List what you feel particularly good about. (Working out regularly, keeping a journal)
I started practicing yoga more regularly, which is something i feel really good about. i started making self care a priority. i showed up for myself, moving away from what made me feel bad and towards the things that excite me. i was able to show up for other people, which at the end of the day is something i feel awesome about. 

  1. What’s on my Best-Of List for 2016?
  1. Favorite Books?
I just finished Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult and absolutely loved it. I read Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell this year which was huge in changing the way i look at faith and God. Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton is definitely on the favourites list. 
  1. Favorite Movies?
I watched Miss You Already this year and thought it was one of the most honest portrayals of life and death i have seen in a movie. I really enjoyed foreign language films on netflix this year. i don't know if i'd say i have a favorite movie of 2016 but anything that made me feel something made the list of movies i loved
  1. Favorite Restaurants?
We went to this little french place in the mountains on our honeymoon and i made smart food network like comments about the food the whole time. i think what i remember most about restaurants is the people i went there with, which means my favorite of this year would be Olive Garden the day before my wedding, the cactus club with my choices family, always starbucks (so many of my dates have happened at starbucks) and boston pizza with family
  1. Favorite Podcasts?
This question was originally different but since i didn't have a real answer to that one i thought i'd share some of my favorite podcasts of 2016, since podcasts were so influential for me. the \Jesus and Yoga podcast is probably my all time favorite podcast. I am lucky to call these ladies my friends and their insight on life and yoga and deconstruction is amazing. The Romance and adventure podcast is also one i listened to regularly as i asked the big relationship questions (and its hosted by Morgan, who created these questions, and her husband). I am a huge fan of the robcast (Rob Bell's podcast) and the liturgists had some episodes this year that literally took me hours to get through because i had to keep pausing it to catch my breath. 
  1. Where did joy surprise me this year? How can I bring more of that into next year?

joy surprised me this year when i let myself be present. when i dropped the business and the trying too hard and the stress and thinking i have a million things to do and when i was still, when i was really present with the people i love, when i allowed myself to breathe into the moment and feel like i had time. joy surprised me when i listened to my gut, when i opened myself up to possibility and stopped trying to fit into the things that were no longer right for me. 
i desire to bring more of that into 2017 by continuing to listen, continuing to get quiet, continuing to show up. i want to be intentional with my time, in being where i am and to not try and be a hundred different places at once. i want 2017 to be a year of intention and getting honest about what matters, a year of showing up. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Love wins

When my old blog posts pop up on my facebook feed i love to read them. I marvel at the girl I was back in high school, so wordy and wise. I wonder if i lost some of that along the way, or if its still in there somewhere.
I believed I was destined to never experience love. I was broken, fragmented. I had been used and abused by too many guys and victimized by my own heart one too many times and all of it had left me very cynical towards the idea of love. It was out there, just not for me. For happy girls, for pretty girls, for girls with minds less full of noise.
As i approach this season of marriage, I find myself thinking about all those other loves. About the way i threw myself into them like an acrobat on a tight rope dives into a cup of water. They were never enough to hold me, but I told myself if I tried hard enough they could be.
I remember how it felt like my skin was too much for me, how I would scratch at it just trying to find some relief. I remember all the times I told myself this would be it. And i remember the last time, when it felt like my heart was literally falling out of my chest and all I could do was scream. I felt empty. There are still stories there, still words that can be written about my years of searching for love like it was water in a desert. But thats not the story I want to tell.
In 18 days I say I do to the man I love with every piece of me. All those pieces I believed made me broken but really were just in the wrong hands.
He found me not long after I had given up on love for the last time. I wasn't looking for him, or maybe i was. Either way I know those early months felt hopeful and dangerous and exhilerating. I waited, for a really long time, for the crash. For him to decide i was too much, too broken, to leave. I didn't want to be in love but at the same time I wanted it more than anything. I thought he would fix me. But in the end it was never his job to fix me, or to love me. I am healing me. I am loving me.
He is the ocean. He believes in me. He makes me feel whole. He reminds me that I need to love myself first.
I never wanted to get married. But I do know I want to love him well, for as long as i can.
I wrote in my notes a while ago that I love him because all the others told me what I wasn't. He tells me over and over again who I am.
In 18 days I get to be his wife.
The story is still being written. Love wins. Forever and ever Amen