L is for the way you look at me
O is for the only one I see
V is very, very extraordinary
E is even more than anyone that you adore can
~recorded by Nat King Cole in 1965, composed by Bert Kaempfert, lyrics by Milt Gabler.

Last year in my annual New Year’s post, I was still settling into a considerable life change.

A year later, I am still settling. I think about houses or wine maturing with age; one doesn’t settle into a new place or way of existence in a day, a month, six months. For whatever reason, I tend to think that I’m exempt from nature’s timeline. Because that has been my life experience – step-in and step-up whatever the cost. Begin ballet training about six years too late but start managing a studio and company by age 19. Finish high school a year early. Take the GRE’s without studying. Move to New York City with 7 days notice. Start dating someone within a week of moving to Pennsylvania. Run a 5k without having run at all in the previous six months. By giving a little extra effort, I think I can bypass everyone else. Well, bypassing isn’t really an option. Maybe I am able to separate myself mentally from uncomfortable experiences, but when I do that I pass on a lot of good things, too.

I love the rush of achievement, of betting on myself…hence the adrenal fatigue I wrote about last New Year’s. One doctor even termed it “cortisol (adrenaline) addiction/abuse”. All of these challenges/pseudo accomplishments serve as a distraction from my knowing myself and those around me. None of these accomplishments required commitment or endurance. I just went for it. You can call it boldness or ignorance, or a mix of both. It makes a tasty cocktail with gin. I have not built any muscle (mental, financial, physical, or spiritual) strength or memory for long-term relationships or goals.

Like many people, it wasn’t until a health issue manifested that I really considered my lifestyle management. Like many people, I discovered a long, tangled mess of roots in identifying the source of the issue. It has been a complicated year, folks.

I, of course, made substantial dietary changes which helped a lot. But it didn’t change everything.

In the middle of a relationship crisis, it suddenly became clear to me: I treat love as an obligatory transaction. That realization was very hard to acknowledge and necessitated a lot of apologies. But, I saw how clearly my life experiences primed me to view love as something to go without. Love gets in the way of things. Love requires you to slow down, pause, look farther down the road, consider things beyond your immediate circumstances. For a lot of reasons, I never felt like the option(s) were available to me to do that.

In reading and listening to resources from Shiloh Place Ministries, I heard a phrase I’d never encountered before: submitting to love. Yes, love is a choice. We choose to surrender to letting people into our lives. We choose to let people (and God) see us for who we really are. We choose to let others bless us. We choose to accommodate abuse. We choose to enable addictive behaviors.

This is what I’ve struggled with my whole life ever since a family member’s year-long health crisis when I was four years old: needing others and being needed. Throw in a couple incidents of gun violence in my teens and early twenties and you get the picture. I sought escape, which the rush of achievement temporarily provided. Since I lacked the capacity to maintain boundaries within relationships and needs, I chose to mostly bypass relationships (and love). I survived on the support of family and two or three external relationships which I’m sure has been draining for those very loyal people.

My life feels so small compared to previously; I now feel I’m seeing myself under a microscope and it is uncomfortable. It is also liberating and exciting. There is joyful hope. After some very hard conversations, there is peace.

2017: love for myself, others, my body.

photo taken at Grounds Central Station in Old Town Manassas during holiday travels.

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Rather than setting resolutions, last year I identified a couple ideas or themes to explore in my life.

For 2015, I identified a personal and physical concept. Personally, I sought to deeply focus on relationships. Physically, I investigated circulation.

Relationships.

I’ve had some great friendships, significant others, and wonderful times with family.

I’ve had some really terrible friendships, encounters with significant others, and trying times with family.

I think we all have.

How I manage the growing pains of relationships, when to be loyal or when to let go, proves most challenging to me.

Circulation.

Whatever stress I experience manifests physically, immediately in my body. Check out The Fear Cure for more on that.

I can’t eliminate stress. But I can change how I process and interpret information about my life.

As a former dancer, my body worked hard for me. I expect a lot from my body. As stress goes unmanaged, my body’s ability to respond to my demands declined.

I spent the last four years in the greatest city on earth, working at a great place, doing some great things.

But I was miserable a lot of the time.  And broke.  And exhausted.  And lonely.

I felt disappointing to and disappointed by everything around me.

As I stepped out of the shower one day, I caught a glimpse in the mirror of a ragged woman with blotchy skin, pallid complexion, and stiff joints.

She scared me.  I worried for her.

My dream life became a nightmare.

That’s when I heard God say, “the right thing for you is to be happy and healthy.”

My attempt at age 30 to consider my own health and happiness was bumpy but joyful.

I took a lower-paying job with less hours that gave me time for freelance teaching and writing projects I really cared about.

I embraced the nature of being friends. Previously, most of my relationships were not ones I deliberately sought out. For me, relationships just kind of happened (usually centered around work) and while mostly enjoyable they lacked purpose.

I asked for help and the input of others I trusted and respected. My godmother recently said, “I don’t care what it is that you’re doing. I care about how you’re doing. Are you happy?”

I prioritized with whom I spent my time, which meant limiting space for negative influences and making space for people living inspired, generous lives. I wrapped up a final chapter with a former boyfriend.

I investigated essential oils to activate deeper breathing. Along the way, it cleared up my skin and helped me sleep better. I also upped my Pilates practice.

I began foam-rolling and dry brushing to rejuvenate sensory responses.

In using “happy and healthy” as qualifiers for making choices, there were some terrifying moments. How to pay bills on a freelancing salary. How to graciously respond to questions about my professional choices. How to embrace solitude and quiet.

Finding gratitude helped me navigate this process. To be clear, it wasn’t smooth sailing – not even close. I offended and disappointed people along the way. When it was in my power to fix that, I made my best effort to do so and when it wasn’t, I chose to be thankful for what I’d learned and moved on.

Once tasked to consider my own well-being in my life choices, I found greater freedom and possibilities for my life.

I’m no longer living in that dreamare. When I focused on the things and quality of life that were necessary for me to be a happy, healthy person it turned into working at a university in central Pennsylvania. My current job is all about relationships as I act as a liaison and advocate for arts education. Freelancing also gave me a stark reality of the necessity for quality relationships. It was a short chapter in my life but a rich one.

I’m still embracing what my life looks like now, but it is a peaceful resolution.

As the hours wind down on 2015, I’m still measuring my choices. This afternoon, I just said no to something that while exciting certainly would have upended my life and yes to something that will involve a lot of trust but brings great hope.

2015.  When dreamstorming began.

2016.  Communication and Creative Practice.IMG_4723