Preparing for the New Year.

I didn’t want to ring in the new year from home. I wanted to spend the new year in California, but that didn’t work out. So I’m in Texas.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been making the most of my time here to prepare for the shift in the calendar, which I am willing to be a shift in my life.

I’m cleaning out closets and drawers and getting rid of stuff. Last night, I cleaned out my coat closet and found that I have more saved gift bags than I could possibly use in five years. Please, friends, if you need a gift bag for any occasion, don’t buy one. Come pick from my stash! I also found games and puzzles I had forgotten I had. (Scrabble, anyone?) I’ve thinned out the contents of the closet, so now I can see everything that’s in there. How satisfying to turn chaos into order.

But I have more to do.

For a year and a half, I’ve had boxes in my living room and home office of things I brought home from the last “permanent” office I had. When I left that job and moved my things home, I found a new position right away, but the new position was supposed to be a temporary position – three months of covering for someone on maternity leave – so I never moved all my boxes into my new office. Here I am still working at that “temporary” position, and those boxes still sit in my home.

I thought about finally taking the boxes to the office and unpacking them, but I figured that if I hadn’t used the contents of the boxes in the last seventeen months, I probably didn’t need to keep what’s in them. Since I’ve started sifting through them, I’m largely discovering that I was right. It’s a bunch of stuff I don’t need or want. Purging them has been a wonderful exercise.

I’ve dealt with the boxes in my living room, but I still need to tackle those in my office. The office is actually quite a chore, even beyond the boxes. This is how it currently looks:

Between now and December 31, I will deal with every bit of that mess and turn it into something beautiful. When I’m done, it’ll feel good to be in my space to ring in the new year. It will feel to me like it was time well spent.

Going Places in 2013.

I didn’t plan it this way, but 2013 may be the year of travel.

I have three international trips planned. I’m going to Spain in March to see my friend Erin and run the Barcelona Marathon. I’m going to Germany in July for a family reunion. I’m going to Austria in October for an early celebration of my 40th birthday.

I also have a number of domestic trips planned. I’m going to Rochester, New York, in February to see an old friend and boarding school roommate. I’m doing an Ironman next year, so I’ll spend a week of June in Idaho. I have a reunion of dear childhood friends planned in Iowa for the first part of August. It’s also looking likely that I’ll be doing Hood to Coast at the end of August. Then just now, I got an email from my friend Jennifer about planning a trip for her 40th birthday. When and where that will be, I don’t know, but I plan to go.

Those are just the confirmed trips. I’m considering traveling to St. George in May for a half-Ironman. I have my eyes on an out-of-state marathon in December close to my actual birthday, but I won’t know until January if I can get in. I also suspect I’ll be traveling some to just see friends in various places.

That’s a lot, huh? Maybe 2013 is looking a bit better than I thought…

Wednesday List #4 – What I Want In Another Person.

I’ve been giving thought to the question of whether it’s better to be married or alone. I have dear friends who are dealing with divorces – painful ones. I have heartache now and again, but I suspect my heartache barely scrapes the surface of the suffering involved in ending a ten-year marriage or having to continue to deal somewhat intimately with an ex because of children. If someone is going to leave me, I’d rather they leave me six months, a year or even two years into the relationship than five, seven or ten years into a marriage.

I believe marriages can work. I believe I am capable of making a marriage work. But the success of any relationship depends on the commitment level of both people. Both people have to decide they are in the relationship no matter what. If they don’t, it will fail eventually.

The older I get, the less confident I am that I will find someone just right for me. I have moments of wanting to throw in the towel and just accept that I will be alone. It’s possible that I will be alone, and if that happens, I will be okay. But I don’t want to become someone who doesn’t hope. I want to continue to hope and dream about finding someone who will share my commitment and accept me, flaws and all, 100 percent.

So today I’ve been daydreaming a bit. What do I want in another person? I thought it might be a long list, but it turns out that my list is rather short.

I’m looking for someone who:

  1. Is smart.
  2. Is hardworking.
  3. Is funny.
  4. Loves to laugh.
  5. Believes in family.
  6. Believes in being active.
  7. Loves to travel.
  8. Loves being at home.
  9. Will talk to me right away about anything I say or do that might be hurtful or damaging.
  10. Will say, “I forgive you” as quickly as I’m willing to say, “I’m sorry.”
  11. Will say, “I’m sorry” as quickly as I’m willing to say, “I forgive you.”
  12. Will not say, “I love you” until it means, “I will always love you, even when doing so might be hard.”
  13. Will not say, “I want to marry you” until it means, “I will never leave you.”
  14. Believes that life will always be better with me in it.

That’s what I’m offering. That’s what I want. I may be getting older, but who knows? I might still find it.

A Good Sign.

It’s been a rough few days. I had a wonderful time at Enchanted Rock on my birthday (Saturday), but I spent most of the day thinking about the things that were missing rather than the things I had. Sunday was better because I spent the entire day working on an editing project. I enjoyed it and got my project done, so that was a huge victory. On Monday, I finished getting ready for Christmas, which included mailing some packages and finishing some last-minute shopping. I got all the shopping done and managed to pick up a couple of things for myself. I bought a couple of prints for my new bathroom, so now the walls aren’t quite so bare.  What do you think?

Finding them was fun, but the evening felt pretty lonely. I was happy to leave my sister’s house and get back to the security of my own.

Today was better. I started my day by sleeping in and then going for a run. Then I had Dad over for coffee before heading to my parents’ place for the day. I spent much of the day playing games – Apples to Apples, Rummikub, and Backgammon – and then came home, paid bills and wrote thank you notes.

The best part of today was that I caught myself humming. I do that sometimes, but I don’t think I’ve done it much, if at all, in the last couple of months. But tonight, as I put a few things away around the house, I realized I was humming. And I thought that was a good sign.

Merry Christmas, dear friends. I hope you got to spend the holiday with people you love.

The Big Birthday Next Year.

So tomorrow, I turn 39, which means I’m entering my 40th year. To honor that and to try to make the most of it, I came up with 40 things I want to do. Here is the list I put together over the last few weeks:

  1. I will take a trip with Mom in honor of our 40 years together.
  2. I will create a 40-minute wind-down routine for my evenings to set myself up for quality sleep.
  3. I will spent 40 minutes each Sunday looking at the week ahead and setting up a game plan for how to make the most of it.
  4. I will do 40 Bikram yoga classes in 40 days.
  5. I will read 40 books that I already own and haven’t yet read.
  6. I will hand write and snail mail 40 letters to 40 different people.
  7. I will ride my bike at least 40 miles 40 times this year.
  8. I will take 40 spin classes. (Yes, I realize this is a lot of cycling, but I’m doing an Ironman in June. I need to log those hours.)
  9. I will watch 40 movies through Netflix – and by this, I mean that I will sit down and watch movies and do nothing else. No multi-tasking.
  10. I will schedule and protect 40 nights where I schedule nothing and allow myself either to be spontaneous or have a quiet night at home.
  11. I will donate 40 pieces of my clothing.
  12. I will give away 40 non-clothing items that I own.
  13. I will donate $40 a month to the Calling the Circle Foundation.
  14. I will write 40 poems.
  15. I will go 40 days without spending money on anything but utilities, gas and groceries.
  16. I will give away 40 books I own.
  17. I will submit 40 queries to magazines.
  18. I will spend 40 hours in state or national parks.
  19. I will read a book about Ronald Reagan, our 40th president.
  20. I will try 40 new recipes.
  21. I will do 40 pushups and 40 crunches a day.
  22. I will send thank you notes to 40 people I don’t know – writers, musicians, artists, people on the street who randomly do nice things, etc.
  23. I will have a drink one-on-one with 40 different friends.
  24. I will go media silent (no Internet, no TV, no cell phone) on 40 days throughout the year.
  25. I will read 40 short stories.
  26. I will try out 40 new coffee shops.
  27. I will visit South Dakota, the 40th state to join the union. (Anyone up for a trip to sort of a random place?)
  28. I will solicit postcards from 40 friends.
  29. I will get rid of 40 items from the various “miscellaneous/junk” drawers in my house.
  30. I will get rid of 40 items from the “miscellaneous/junk” closet in my office.
  31. I will put 40 cents each day into my change cup and buy something fun for myself at the end of the year.
  32. I will make 40 cards, in the fashion of SoulCollage.
  33. I will do a 40 day fast from television.
  34. I will do a 40 day fast from all sweets.
  35. I will start 40 conversations with strangers.
  36. I will make a list of 40 things I like about myself and post it on my bathroom mirror.
  37. I will identify 40 marathons I’d like to run in the coming years.
  38. I will make a list of 40 cities in the United States that I’d like to visit in coming years.
  39. I will make a 40 item bucket list and do one item on it.
  40. I will write a mission statement for myself for the second 40 years of my life.
Exhausting, right? That’s what I thought too. What was I thinking weighing myself down with such a list?
It’s been a hard few months. I’ve felt somewhat alone and without direction. I’ve taken some great trips and done well at work and had a wonderful week celebrating my birthday over dinner with a different friend or two each night this week. (Thank you, friends.)  But this list – I think I was trying to distract myself from the fact that I’m aging and how I alone I feel by giving myself an enormous list of things to do. They’re good things, but I don’t think this list will change anything. It won’t change how I feel. I think only time will.
So here’s to the start of my 40th year. So much could be different a year from now. I look forward to being there and looking back on what time offered in that year.  My fingers are crossed that it’ll be amazing.

Wedneday List #3 – Things I Won’t Do.

At Toastmasters today, I was asked during table topics (which, for you non-Toastmasters, are questions that require the delivery of a brief, impromptu speech) what career I would choose if I had life to do over again. My answer had more to do with life choices than career choices. I talked about how I would re-do college and be a party girl rather than a straight-laced responsible student because maybe then I would date more, get married and have kids blah blah blah. When I sat down, I felt like a broken record, and I felt broken.

That got me thinking. During this time of year, I often think in terms of lists, primarily lists of things I want to do. I think it’s time for a list of things I don’t want to do anymore.

  1. I don’t want to dwell on not being married.
  2. I don’t want to dwell on not having kids.
  3. I don’t want to dwell on relationships that failed.
  4. I don’t want too much work to be my excuse for backing out of plans or trips. 
  5. When it comes to writing, I don’t want to claim that I just don’t have time.
  6. When it comes to running, I don’t want to say that I just don’t have a faster gear in me.
  7. When it comes to travel, I don’t want to blame not traveling on not having someone who will travel with me.
  8. I don’t want being alone to be my excuse for not learning how to cook.
  9. I don’t want shyness to be a reason for not dancing.
  10. I don’t want fear of change to keep me from…anything.

These things need to exit my vocabulary and my mindset. Talking about them does me no good. Thinking about them does nothing to move me forward. I want forward movement. Better yet, I am capable of it.

Going Backwards in a Good Way.

It helped me a great deal to be in circle with Jeanne and friends last night. We  read some poetry, talked and wrote a bit. One of the writing prompts sent me in the direction of affirming myself a bit by considering some of the things I like about myself. I’m not perfect in relationships or in my family or at work, but when I think about it, I can come up with things about myself that I appreciate and that make me proud.

First on the list of things that came to mind is that I have a great capacity to love. I am capable of loving boldly and completely. One example is that I spent a decade loving someone who never really loved me back. There is one version of me who thinks I’m a big idiot for having done that. But the better version of me likes the part of me that was capable of believing in and loving someone for so long. I still believe in and love that person, and, when I’m my best self, I think that love and willingness to love makes me a better person, not a weaker one.

More recently, I’ve been more timid in my love. Rather than being bold, putting love out there – whether it be in a friendship or a relationship – and not worrying about what people think or whether the love would be returned, I’ve been cautious. I’ve been uncertain, timid, keeping score and even harboring grudges. When I realized that driving home from last night’s meeting, I started to get angry at myself. But I stopped myself from being angry and asked myself a question. Can I reclaim who I was when I wasn’t so afraid?

I’ve spent the better part of today trying to remember in detail the time in my life when I was my best self – when I loved most willingly and most fully. It wasn’t that long ago. It was a time when I was working hard and training hard. It was a time when I had the confidence to get up in front of a room full of people and make them laugh. It was a time when I was less calculated in who I invited to do what, a time when I forgave easily. I worried less about what people thought because I liked myself more. I followed my heart rather than questioning it and trying to measure the likelihood of success or a favorable return.

I really like the version of me that I’m remembering. It’s been a while since I connected with her, but I know her well. I’m pretty sure I can still reach her. I’m definitely going to try.

Thankful for Jeanne.

Years ago, I participated in a workshop based on the book, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I did the workshop with one of my best friends and ended up making a bunch of other really good friends, including the instructor, Jeanne Guy.

Jeanne’s way draws me in. She is funny, real, loving and without judgment. Since that initial workshop, I’ve continued to sign up for workshops that she leads. Every time I’m around her, I learn something. Every time I sit in a circle with her, I walk away feeling more full somehow.

Most recently, she’s been doing monthly workshops that last only one evening. She calls them Re-Story Circles and invites each of us to “re-story” our lives with intention, acting kindly towards ourselves and others. Tonight, I am going to one such workshop.

Each month Jeanne has a different theme. Recent themes have included:

I’ve often said that Jeanne’s workshops seem to be designed specifically for me. They give me what I need when I need it. And tonight is no different. Tonight, Jeanne’s theme is Saying Goodbye In Order to Say Hello.

I hate goodbyes, but I’m trying to wrap my head and heart around loss right now. I’m trying to feel my way through it. So Jeanne has done it again. For a couple of hours, I get to sit in circle with her and other women who, like me, come back for these gatherings again and again, and we will write, listen and learn from one another about making room for joyful hellos.

I’m thankful for you, Jeanne, and for the love and intention you put out into the world. I hope it all comes back to you many times over.

A Rare Sunday.

I slept in this morning. I think my body knows that weekends without long training rides and runs are coming to an end. I slept and then, for about half an hour, hung out in that place between sleep and waking where dreams happen. Even when I woke, I spent the better part of the day in my flannels. First, I wrote. Then I read a book I’m editing for a client. On both counts, I was productive in the best way, doing work that doesn’t feel like work.

This afternoon I did a workout and spent some time on the phone with a friend. Then I cleaned up and was amazed to find that I still had an entire evening ahead of me. Thankful for that time, I did what I often do. I picked up a book.

Tonight, I picked up The Wisdom of the Enneagram, a book a career coach friend recommended to me. It’s a personality profile system. I find the type descriptions to be sometimes disturbingly accurate about me and others. The last person I dated and I did the self-assessments and read through the descriptions and agreed that they are on point and helpful. I go to the book sometimes when I need help figuring out what to do in a particular situation. It helps me assess what I want and where I think the other person involved is coming from. It’s not a solution, but it’s a tool, often a handy one.

Within the Enneagram system, I’m categorized as Type 9, The Peacemaker. The Peacemaker’s basic fear is loss and separation. The basic desire is inner stability and peace of mind. Yes and yes. The book talks about how Peacemakers ignore the disturbing aspects of life and seek peace and comfort by numbing out. “They respond to pain and suffering by attempting to live in a state of premature peacefulness, whether it is in a state of false spiritual attainment or in more gross denial.” The book’s advice? “They must remember that the only way out is through.” This reminder is helpful to me.

Here’s to a lovely day at home and the determination to feel my way through the hard stuff.