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Abundance flows through my life right now. Nothing else quite describes it accurately. Through planning and a lot of hard work, my own and others, my team at work was going supposed to get some contracted help and grow by one last October. Unexpected delays meant the contract help didn’t happen in October as planned. However, through unexpected circumstances and chance, my team still grew by one in November. The contract help finally arrived in June this year. So in the end, over the last 10 months, my team doubled in size from two to four!
At the beginning of the year, inspired by my child hood best friend’s 50th birthday in July, I reached out to our high school friend group and started planning a get together. She is the first one of us to turn 50. The rest of us face that milestone next year. As we planned the location and set the dates, I realized this trip would be my first real vacation. A trip where I was going to see friends, not family. A trip that was not to a conference or a job interview. A trip that didn’t involve eloping or renewing vows. That trip will happen in about a week, and three weeks after I get home, I’ll be going on my second vacation. The second vacation happened purely by chance and it is an amazing opportunity that I can’t pass up.
Doubling my team, doubling my vacations, is there anything else I could call this year, except abundant? You know that each year around my birthday I choose a word for the year, a word that guides my thinking and interpretations throughout the year. My word for this last year was “balance.” So, I find all this abundance amusing. Not exactly surprising, but amusing.
We often only think about change in the context of upheaval and negative events, but accepting and adapting to good things, to abundance brings change as well. A larger team requires more from me, particularly right now when half of them are going through their first fall semester. My old work habits and routines don’t quite fit. Taking two actual vacations in one year forces me to adjust the way I think of myself. To confront the areas I’ve let myself believe I’d healed without prodding too deeply. Yet, everything is good.
And, well, as the title says, change is hard. All this abundance creates change that pushes at my growth edges, and I am not in a very comfortable place right now. I am grateful; I am joyful; I am excited, but I am not comfortable. I started noticing it when I made the first batch of granola in two years. When it became stronger, I made a pot of meat sauce to freeze for the winter, and rearranged two of my kitchen cabinets. That is when I realized I’d fallen into my old stress-relief patterns and that the general unease I constantly felt was that old piece of armor, foreboding joy, calling to be put back on. The cooking, the cleaning, the vigilance – I was trying to prepare for the disaster that must surely be right around the corner. It surprised me. I thought I’d put down that bit of armor for good a while ago.
Y’all have been around here long enough to recognize the Brené Brown lingo when you see it! As she laid out in Daring Greatly, gratitude and staying in the moment counteract foreboding joy. All I can do is say “Yes.” and “Thank you.” then enjoy it all. So, as we approach my birthday, it is time for me to choose a new word to help me navigate the year. Given the way these good changes are pushing at me, I think “present” will be my word for the year. Reminding myself to stay present will help me stay grateful and accept the abundance bringing change to my life … even when change is hard.
“Writing is a perishable skill.”
Last year, about this time, when I was first given the opportunity to give writing lectures to 200 students at a time, I started from this point.
Actually, I took a moment to challenge the room. I described how I’d already met so many of them in them center, signed them up for classes, workshops, and individual appointments. And, how almost everyone of those encounters started with the student stating some version of “I suck at writing.” I paused for just a second, made eye contact with various people, and I asked, “When was the last time any of you got better at something by walking around talking about how terrible you are at it?”
Some audible groans, chuckles, and head shakes filled the room.
I went on to tell them that writing is a perishable skill. If they hadn’t been writing in the last ten years – and very few of them had, then of course they weren’t going to be very good at it right now. I even did my level best to make a sports analogy about how if you stopped playing a sport for 10 years, you couldn’t expect to start playing again at the same level.
Last week, I did the same bit, but I sharpened it a bit, simplified. I still started with “Writing is a perishable skill,” but then I simplified, “which means writing is a skill.” A skill you can practice and develop. My lectures are a part of a series designed to shepherd the students through their cumulative degree process. At this point in the year, I’m trying to give them as much motivation, hope, and faith in the process as I can. Hoping they will start working on their writing skills to prepare them for the drafting work that will come in January – March.
I love this time of year, and I hate this time of year. I love the new class/new year energy. I hate the way I feel like a fraud for telling a truth I know I do not practice. Although I’ve journaled faithfully nearly every day of the last year, I haven’t done any sort of what I would call “writing” in that time. Nothing that I intend to share with an audience.
Looking back, when I wrote that last post about energy levels, I didn’t realize how depleted I was. I have perhaps needed this break. My entire life has been about pushing through, moving forward, which has been tremendously helpful. And, writing, specifically blogging has been one of the ways I’ve always kept pushing, even when I could only manage one post a month, or year. Yet, this past year, I couldn’t keep it up in spite of an excellent plan and outline for a series. I just had no more energy for writing. I didn’t have much energy for anything, so I rested.
My word for this year was “balance.” Thinking back, I can see how all the rest and all the pampering of myself I have done this last year helped to create a balance in my life. It taught me a bit about how to be in my new life. Yes, I am still trying to figure that out. My new life is full of abundance in just about every way imaginable and balancing in this environment has been about learning to embrace the time and space that abundance allows with massages, facials, retreats, and rest.
I felt like a fraud last year as I spoke about writing and that feeling only compounded this year. So, here I am. Attempting to work a muscle that I’ve let atrophy for the past fifteen months. It’ll take time and it’ll be clunky, but it’s time to get back into writing shape. Rowing for the past 70 weeks has taught me a bit about perseverance, but clearly, I’m still not the best at motivating myself.