If I’m going to be genuine with you, I feel that I have to admit that 2014 held a gigantic amount of pain for me – the gritty, long-lasting, fell-on-ice-and-broke-my-tail-bone, growing-unexpectedly-taller sort. I beat myself up all the way into it and most of the way out of it, as well, but these past few days of clarity at home have rearranged a few things for me.
Throughout the pockets of pain, there was a great amount of sunshine as well. Things happened this year – the biggest things and the smallest things! And sentimental as I may be for a lot of the unforgettably wonderful events of this year, 2014 marks the first year I’ve made plans to leave a few things behind when the clock strikes midnight. Ugh. Not in a new-year’s-resolution-that-I-know-I-can’t-keep sort of way, but in a measured and very thought-out sort of way. In a way that makes me hopeful that 2015 will be full of far less strange full-body confusion and far more certainty. Not of you. Not of everything. Primarily just of myself.
I was going to write a post full of answers for you a la last year – lessons I’d learned this year that had changed me and the like – but I felt really uncomfortable with the prospect of haphazardly thrusting out answers and lessons as if I’m the final authority on things here. If I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that this life is full of questions, both beautiful and difficult. So I’ve decided to do things a little bit differently and break this into two parts. One part involves questions, the other, wisdoms.
Part I: QUESTIONS
Before any lessons are given away, I thought I’d dig into some important questions to ask ourselves, share some anecdotes and alex-esque ramblings (obviously), and some photos just to keep it interesting.
1. What am I not doing that I want to be doing? Why am I not doing it?
2014 was the year that hair as I’d always known it ended for me. A two-year long curiosity that I’d been too afraid to feed finally came to a head (ha. hair pun.) and I chopped it alllllll offfff.
Some of the conversations I’d had over those two years went something like this:
Alex: “I want a pixie cut”
Other Humans: “Dude, you’d look so badass/I think you’d rock it/OMG that’s so ballsy” (artistic license has been taken on my friends’ vernacular here)
Alex: “But I DON’T KNOW! WHAT IF I LOOK LIKE A BOY. NOBODY IS GOING TO LOOK AT ME THE SAME WAY. WHAT IF I’M NOT ATTRACTIVE. WHAT IF IT’S THE WORST THING EVER.”
Other Humans: [insert supportive comments here]
Until finally, one day, I had a conversation like this:
Alex: “I want a pixie cut”
Other Human: “Okay, so why not?”
Alex: “I mean, I guess I’m afraid of x, y, and z”
Other Human: “Well, if that’s your ONLY reason for not doing something… Maybe it’s time to do that something”
Before he said that, I knew it was. When I looked at it, I mean REALLY looked at it, I realized that my fear of going through with this silly little thing was so great that it was, in reality, pulling me around. I don’t like to live life by my fears, and so I chopped it all off.
No, I don’t look like a boy (probably).
Yes, I’m still attractive (apparently).
No, it hasn’t been the worst thing ever.
Yes, I love it.
No, I do not like it every day.
Yes, I have plenty of bad hair days.
No, I don’t care nearly as much about that last point as I did when I had long hair.
Hair is a silly analogy here, but I think it makes this question a bit simpler to wrap our minds around. When it comes down to it, there are plenty of things that I haven’t done or am not doing for no “good enough” reason. Maybe you’ve got a few things too. So why aren’t you doing them? Why NOT do them?
2. What do I believe and why do I believe it?
Lucky me, 2014 was also the year of a very huge overhaul and re-evaluation of what I am/think/know/say/do/believe/etc. Yes, this is primarily why I’ve been so confused.
Calling into question all of those deep-rooted things that we know, or that we think we know, is one of the most topsy turvy of all the decisions we can make. It means consciously choosing to launch ourselves into a period of uncertainty with no idea when it might all end.
I used to be the queen of rules and boundaries and it means that I’m known by plenty of people as uptight (which is really just entertaining to me). For reasons that I’m not completely sure enough to disclose here, those things flew out the window this year. Control came second to impulse. The moment came before the big picture. I did things… differently… for the first time since I can remember, and it was a wild ride.
It was also strange and painful. But maybe we need to strip everything away and see things as they truly are in order to understand what’s most important to us.
3. What does “letting go” mean to me?
In my head, letting go of something/someone is this lovely montage of catharsis culminating in hiking to the top of a mountain, screaming at the top of my lungs, and releasing it all into the wind.
I’ve never been told I’m an idealist, I swear…
In my own reality, though, letting go is far more exacting than that. It’s a process, a journey if you will, and it can be a long and arduous one from where I’m standing.
4. Am I paying attention?
Sometimes, I’ll be walking along or otherwise involved in a task or a thought and something will stop me in my tracks. Maybe I’ll drop my coffee on the ground only minutes after purchasing it. Maybe I’ll spill a basket full of thumbtacks. Or I’ll just trip. Whatever it is, it’s enough to jolt me out of my silly little head for a few moments long enough to make me realize that I’ve not been paying any sort of attention to what’s happening.
The world is big and there’s so much happening and sometimes it all just becomes too much so I hide out inside my head. I take these moments that break that “lost in my mind” focus as gentle reminders from the universe that I shouldn’t be missing out on the world. They’re these very pronounced chances to pay attention to and be a part of what’s happening.
Are you paying attention? If not, why?
5. What’s distracting me and my heart? What truths are these things distracting me from?
This has been a year wrought with distraction deeper than any “pay attention moment” for me. A lot of these distractions cut to the very core of me and left me so far from where I had hoped to find myself.
The way I choose to make my life play out allows for a lot of people to become distractions. This isn’t always a bad thing, but it’s something that I’ve learned needs to be compartmentalized occasionally so that it doesn’t detract from the truths that I am seeking.
I’ve found that it’s tough to admit that some things in our lives are distractions. We don’t like to believe that certain things or people or ideas are detracting from the truths that we seek. We don’t like to tell ourselves that some things may need to be shook off and left behind in order for us to move forward.
I’ve included this question because it’s only very recently that I’ve been able to answer this question truthfully and then take the necessary steps to make change. This year’s distractions have been very apparent to me almost since the year began, but that knowledge needed to wait to be paired with a bit of courage on my part.
Part II: Wisdoms
I follow a person on instagram who posed this question the other day:
“If you could write a text to the you a year ago to prepare yourself for 2014, what would it say?”
Now, I’ll be honest. Cheesy as they are, I’m a sucker for questions like this because I like the way they let me think about the world and how I fit into it. Advice to a former “me” is really just a nice way of providing the current “me” with some hints and clues and an opportunity to pay better attention.
I don’t have answers for any of you, but after thinking about that silly little question, I realized that I did have a few answers for myself. Maybe you’ll find some truth in them, but in the very least, I hope you take some time to think about what you might tell yourself a year ago and how you can carry those truths with you into this new year.
TO A FORMER ME
- Buckle up: there’s disappointment ahead, and you’re finally going to need to learn how to deal with it. Hint: it won’t be pretty.
- Nothing will benefit you more than cultivating your flexibility, particularly in your professional life.
- There will be people who you probably shouldn’t kiss, but you won’t know this until after you kiss them… so carry on!
- That gap that sometimes exists between friendships that fade is the silence that you could have filled with what was genuinely on your heart. Talk it out. Say what’s there. Say what isn’t.
- Pay attention to the ruts you find yourself in. Knowing why you’re there is the first step to pulling yourself out.
- There will be plenty of pockets of joy. Live inside of them. Let them carry you.
- Invest in a yoga mat early and start practicing all-encompassing balance.
- Ask for help. Do it again, and again, and again until you understand that there is no shame in it.
- Give yourself a break, you’re new at this.
- There are answers and people that you can’t seek. They will simply manifest when you’re ready. Be patient with that.
- Oh, and home? You’ll have to leave it, unless of course you come understand that home is everywhere. All those hearts you’ve encountered that are scattered across the world, all those spaces that you’ll create for yourself… Those are all homes. Don’t forget about them.
Okay, I know. If that were a text, it’d be an excessively long one. It’d probably convert to a multimedia message and I wouldn’t be able to bold things and and….. I’m just taking artistic license on this one.
Part III: The Part You Weren’t Expecting Because I Told You There Were Only Two Parts
Tricked you! Surprise part! I’ll keep it short, really.
I haven’t decided how I feel about the way we celebrate the new year. There’s so much complexity to it and some of it is light, but some of it is heavy, too. Yes, we’re stepping into a BRAND NEW YEAR! But we’re also leaving one behind. I think these celebrations mean so many different things for all of us, and maybe we don’t quite realize that in the haze of our celebrations.
So, wherever you’re at, however you’ve decided to celebrate or not, and whatever your reasons might be, know that you’re not alone in that midnight moment. Whether you’re holding a few hands or clutching at your own to keep yourself present, you’re here. Whether you’re waiting for it to pass or wishing it would last, you’re breathing and you’re alive and here you are. Just like the rest of us.
Whatever this means for you, I hope that you breathe it in. I hope that you live inside of whatever this moment is. That you experience it. That you make it yours. I’m with you.