My Hopes for the New Year

I have never really been into “New Year’s Resolutions.”  I think I made some attempt at it a couple of times.  In some ways, I thought of resolutions as promises I made to myself, and they invariably ended up being promises I couldn’t keep.   It was always discouraging, so I’ve pretty much sworn off the making of resolutions.  However, the turning of a year is a natural time to reflect on the year past and the year ahead.

2013 for me was a year of change.  It actually started back in 2012.  In the months between April 2012 and today, I have changed jobs, said goodbye to a kitty I’d loved for 18 years, adopted a new kitty, had an attempted break-in at my apartment that was foiled by my awesome fuzzy-mutt, joined Weight Watchers and lost 75 lbs (only to gain about 25 of it back at this point), had significant department changes at the new job, gone on an extensive apartment hunt, sold my Jeep Wrangler that I’d had & loved for 12 years, bought a new Jeep Patriot, gone on two (and a quarter) significant vacations, had an almost-relationship that I am still processing/recovering from, moved into a new apartment in a new town, started a blog, and drafted a novel.

It has been a challenging time, to say the least.  I wish I could say with certainty that I’ve grown or changed for the better in this time.  Perhaps I have, but that is one of those areas I find difficult to judge objectively in myself.  What I do know is I still have a lot of learning and growing to do (and I always will).

Tonight I put 2013 behind me.  I hope I can store away the memories worth treasuring, retain the lessons and knowledge worth knowing, and let slip away everything that would hold me back.

While I won’t make “resolutions,” I am contemplating the year ahead and what I hope it may hold.  I hope for financial stability.  I hope for increasing physical and emotional health.  I hope for the courage to chase my dreams and capture them in words.  I hope for the strength to overcome my self-doubt.  I hope to build up existing relationships and establish new ones.

Happy New Year!


My Prayer for 2014

May fear become courage
May doubt become faith
May anger become grace
May curses become blessings
May trials become triumphs
May grief become joy
May apathy become action
May hate become love
May despair become hope
May each day begin in hope and each night end in peace

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Home

“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”   – Maya Angelou, All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes

The last few weeks have been busy ones: Thanksgiving, a visit to out-of-state family, a huge deadline at work, Christmas, my birthday, and a visit to family on the other side of the state.  It should settle a little bit now that the holidays are over (I have every intention of having a quiet night at home for New Year’s Eve). This time of year is often somewhat stressful for me (as it is for many others) because my introverted self needs a fair amount of “down time” to function well and I just don’t get enough during all the busyness of this time.  However, amidst the hustle and bustle of this year’s hectic holiday season, I am once again reminded of what home means.

“I wonder if it will be—can be—any more beautiful than this,’ murmured Anne, looking around her with the loving, enraptured eyes of those to whom ‘home’ must always be the loveliest spot in the world, no matter what fairer lands may lie under alien stars.”   – L.M. Montgomery, Anne of the Island

I often lose sight of what home truly means.  Because I live alone, I tend to forget that home is not necessarily the place you live.  I love my new apartment, and am working on making it my own.  But the truth is, while these walls make up my “comfort zone” (the place I feel most comfortable and can be most myself), and I call it home, this is mostly just a place that I live.

Home is so much more.

Home is where a little boy tells his mom and dad he needs to help Aunt Becca get there and then is so shy he won’t go near her until she’s about to get on the plane to leave.  Where the magnetic letters on the fridge spell out SciFi references.  Where four people sitting quietly reading (while the fifth plays “Batcave” in his room) is the best companionship.  It’s what makes you fly almost 1,000 miles to go to a movie.  It’s long discussion and occasionally dissension about the movie afterwards.

Home is the place you’ll drive hours through snow and ice to get, questioning your sanity the entire time.  The place where a little girl works so hard not to wake you up early, only to wait outside the bathroom for you because she can’t wait to build Legos with you.  It’s a little hand nestled in yours on a car ride, and later that little hand waving, accompanied by a little voice calling goodbye, as you’re pulling out of the driveway .  It’s hugs that feel more like tackles, reading stories (with voices), and being used as a human chair until your foot falls asleep.  It’s laughing too hard and too loud.  It’s the Ugly Sweater Cookie Contest and sledding-induced bruises.  It’s staying up way too late, sharing struggles, joys, advice and prayers.  It’s the occasional squabble and sincere forgiveness.  It’s heartfelt gifts and the ultimate gift: time.

“I don’t care if we have our house, or a cliff ledge, or a cardboard box.  Home is wherever we all are, together.”   – James Patterson

Home is not always quiet, peaceful, or comfortable.  Sometimes it’s noisy.  Sometimes it’s confrontational.  Sometimes it is angry, or sad, or frustrating.  But it’s that place you feel you belong, and leaving it makes you sad.

Home is 30 minutes North, or 3 hours West, or I don’t know how many hours South (depends on if I drive or fly).  It’s a campground in Tennessee.  It’s the shores of Lake Michigan.  My home is my family, wherever they are.

“When I speak of home, I speak of the place where — in default of a better — those I love are gathered together; and if that place were a gypsy’s tent, or a barn, I should call it by the same good name notwithstanding.”   – Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickelby

The Sad Truth about This Photo

I was rather bored one Sunday afternoon a couple of weeks ago.  I started playing with the camera on my laptop and the photo program that came with it.  I took this photo in my living room.  It isn’t filtered.  It isn’t Photoshopped.  The only “trick” of this photo is that it was one of about 800 or more (no joke) taken while I played with all the different functions of the program.

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But this photo hides a truth.  It is a truth I still hesitate to share, though I know it is something many others experience. Even as I draft this post with every intention of publishing it, I don’t know if I will have the courage to do it.  In doing so, I will expose something I’ve always kept hidden deep, hoping that no one would ever see.  But I’m getting tired of working so hard to keep so much hidden.

The sad truth about this photo isn’t something you can see.  It isn’t that the lighting wasn’t just right or that the photographer didn’t know what she was doing, though both of those are probably true.  It isn’t that the couch in the background is not the best backdrop.  The sad truth about this photo is the thought that goes through my head, every single time I look at it.

“If I didn’t know this was me, I would think that girl is pretty.”

If I can force myself to imagine that the girl in the picture is someone I don’t know (which is impossible, by the way, though I’ve been trying very hard), or even someone I know who just isn’t me, I think it is a beautiful picture.  She looks like a nice person, maybe kind of sweet.  Like someone I might like to know.  Something about her reminds me of my niece, who is gorgeous.  Even now, as I keep looking at it trying to be objective, I can’t get further than that.

The story changes when I look at the photo as me.  When I first posted it on Facebook, I couldn’t stop looking at it.  And when I remembered it was me?  This:  The eyes are nice, but the hair is crazy, and what color do you call that anyway?  My double-chin is hiding behind my hand, which is a chubby baby-hand.  I’m way older than I look in this picture.  I’m too pale.   It isn’t a true likeness at all, because you can’t see how overweight I am.   If all someone had to go on was this picture, they would not recognize me if they met me in the real world.

Painful to admit.  But sadly true.

Why?  Why, why, why do we do this to ourselves?  I know I’m not the only one.  From what I’ve read, it is evident there are a lot of people who struggle to look at themselves impartially.

I’ve been trying, lately.  I sometimes stop myself when I’m standing unhappily before the mirror (or when I’m thinking about myself at all – this isn’t just about appearances), and remind myself to try to look objectively.  Try to look at myself as I would look at anyone else.  It is painfully difficult.  I don’t know if I will ever truly achieve it.  My sight is automatically drawn to my flaws, and I list them mercilessly.  I would never do that to someone else!

I was taught to be humble and to avoid vanity, but somehow I learned those lessons too well (to be clear, these are both valid lessons, and I’m not discounting them by any means).   It is next to impossible for me to admit anything positive about myself.  Those who know me well know that I usually get embarrassed when someone tries to pay a compliment.  Seriously, compliments are very uncomfortable things, mostly because I find them terribly hard to believe.  On some level, I do know I have plenty of good qualities, but somehow I don’t believe it.  Even as I’m typing those words, I realize how ridiculous it sounds.  But so it is.

So why am I sharing this in such a public forum?   First and foremost, I’m hoping that putting this out there is a step towards defeating it.  Kind of my way of saying, “I recognize it, I think it’s stupid, and I can overcome it.  Eventually.  Maybe.”  (Wow self, way to display some amazing confidence!). Also, I know there are lots of people out there who experience this.  If even one such person reads this, and afterwards can get up the enough courage to tell herself (or himself) to think objectively, then it’s worth it.

NaNoWriMo Week 4 Update: I’m a Winner

It’s official.  NaNoWriMo 2013 is over, and I’m a winner. So, now that at least phase 1 of this mission is accomplished, here are some final thoughts on my first year as a NaNoWriMo participant.

My winning word count is 53,704.   I do not call this a final word count, for the very simple reason that I’m not done with it yet.  The story arc is mostly complete, but there are some holes I have to go back and fill in.  I’m anxious to get started on the rewrite/edit so that I can finish it, but I am trying to force myself to follow lots of WriMo advice and give it a few weeks before I tackle that prospect.

November was a fantastic month, thanks to NaNo.  I haven’t spent so much dedicated time on my writing in an extremely long time, and it was very fulfilling.  I loved the opportunity to dive into a blank page and fill it up with the lives of people I would be interested to know.  My writing is as much a process of discovery as it is an act of creation.   There is a kind of detachment when I write, where the world and characters take form before me, even though it is my fingers that do the typing and supposedly my creativity that shapes them.

Though it was an awesome month, there was, as in everything, a bit of a downside.  In the first week, the intense, joyful glow of writing again relegated everything else to the shadows where they became insignificant and unnoticed.  In the weeks that followed, that brilliance came to accentuate the harsh, cold reality of the areas where the rest of my life is less than fulfilling.  I wish I could write full time and make a living at it.  That possibility lives in Someday-World.  But in Today-Land, my insecurity and fear rear their ugly heads and tell me that I am not good enough, or outgoing enough, or ambitious enough and that if I spent all my time on something I love, I would grow to hate it.

I never imagined, when embarking on this journey, that a title would be my greatest challenge.  I miss the youthful tales of bygone years that almost always started with a title.  On Saturday I gave my novel a quick read through with the purpose of finally giving it a name.  I could not truly claim my winner’s status if the novel didn’t have a name.  It took all day and considerable brain-work to finally settle on one that I’m not even sure I like.  I’m even hesitant to share it, because doing so makes it a little more… indelible.  At the same time, having the title has given me a focus.  I have a feeling that when it comes time to re-write (in a few weeks), the title will provide a thread to unify and solidify.  So here it is, in all its insubstantial glory:  To Discover the Sky

Here ends my tale of NaNoWriMo 2013.  What a ride!  I’m excited about writing again; even if nothing else comes of it, that is enough for me!

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