Bold Goals 2020

Me, taking my time getting this blog post just how I wanted it as the new year came and went…

OK, it’s time. No more hemming and hawing – it’s already nearly two weeks into the new year, the moment for hesitation has passed, and intentions must be laid bare. When I put together my Bold Goals in 2019, I didn’t really know where I was going, but I knew I wanted out of the confines of where I was, spiritually, mentally, and physically. It turns out that even though I wasn’t able to do everything on my list, just endeavoring to stay true to the path did help me immensely.

My life today is at sharp contrast to where I stood in January of 2019. I’m in better physical shape. I know how to make pottery, dance, speak rudimentary Spanish, use an Instant Pot, give myself 1930’s pincurls, and put on makeup. I finally managed to read 52 books in a year. Through giving myself permission to pursue learning and art without self-judgment, I started learning to love myself, and exploring how to play, find joy, and be present in the here and now.

My father’s death, last March, also had a profound effect, and will continue to mold me in ways I’m only barely able to conceptualize right now. Overall, I have found peace with his passing, and in some ways, I feel more strongly connected to him now than I had for years before he left. When he died, I felt like his love for me was suddenly concentrated and laid bare on the surface of my life. I’d felt alone and unheard for years, but suddenly every day I feel him with me – no judgement, no depression, no anger, just fondness and support. Love. Belief. Like he’s there on the sidelines, so proud to cheer me on. I’ve been protected and adored without condition for the last 9 months, and whether that’s just my mind playing make-believe, or if it’s truly a dose of loving energy coming from a place we don’t yet know, I don’t really care. I feel it, and it’s good, and it has been instrumental in my healing.

Light and dark, these are the circumstances that led me to where I am now – in love with a kind, strong, and truly good man (even if he’d cringe to hear me say it), working at a new job where I negotiated a 15% raise, and looking forward at 2020 and beyond with hope and excitement. I am more myself today than I have been since high school. The world isn’t suddenly sunshine and roses, but I’ve always preferred dandelions and cloudy days, anyway.

My goals for this year, in no particular order, are:

  1. Work on becoming a better communicator. There’s so much I could say about this (hahaha get it?), but I know that being able to express my needs, as well as to listen and hold space for those attempting to express their own, will help me in all areas of my life. I’ve gotten better at this, but I’d like to make it more of a priority in both my personal and professional lives.
  2. Volunteer. I would really like to be of greater service, outside of my everyday job. Right now, I’m trying to get a volunteer position at a local hospice, but I’d also like to give more time to my local homeless shelter, and I definitely want to put time and resources towards helping foster kids.
  3. Nurture my relationship. I’m really happy with where I am right now with my partner, and want to work on making it even better. With time and effort, we can build momentum towards a functioning, successful partnership where we work on being our best selves together. I’m really looking forward to this journey.
  4. Dance! Not only do I want to go to Chorus Girl practices, I want to work my butt off, really learn those routines, and feel like I’m more than just someone on the periphery of the group. Of course, this also involves working to get to know the other members, and being brave enough to believe that I can make friends and fit in. I’d also ideally like to take some other dance classes, mostly either hip hop or flamenco.
  5. Make two new friends. Not a billion, just two, over the course of the whole year. Surely this is possible, right? I need more real, solid, “oh my god I’m so excited to get to see you” friends in New Orleans.
  6. Go on at least five camping trips. I’m so ahead of the game on this one! My partner and I have already scheduled several camping (and regular) trips away together all the way through until August.
  7. Sew three projects. I don’t care what they are, but I need to pick three things and use my sewing machine (you know, the one I bought on Black Friday in 2018, then never took out of the box?) to make them before the end of the year.
  8. Learn to do bead embroidery. This is self-explanatory, but I already started working on a project last night. Full disclosure: it’s a little harder than I thought it would be to figure out how to sew neat rows, but I think I’ll be good at this. I had to rip out my stitches and start over on a project, and it was sewed so tightly that I didn’t think I’d be able to destroy it and get my beads back. I get a lot of satisfaction out of knowing that my work was really sturdy, even if I didn’t quite have the hang of how to sew the rows. Today I tried a different stitching technique that seems to be working, so I’ll keep you posted!
  9. Read 52 books. I haven’t even read my first one yet, so I’m going to have to do some fancy footwork to make this happen. This year I want to read more memoirs, non-fiction, and career-related works, as well. Last year was fun, but I’d like to be able to use my reading list as a conversation starter, and that’s hard to do with romance novels and ghost stories.
  10. Pay off my debts. I’ve recently been presented with an opportunity that might give me just the right amount of space to really put a dent in things. I don’t want to count my eggs before they’re hatched, but I feel like I might be in a much better position at the end of 2020. Fingers crossed.
  11. Buy a vehicle. I don’t know how, exactly, but I’m adding this to the list to keep it fresh on my mind. I’m not looking for a fancy, new vehicle. I don’t need anything crazy. Just a reliable little car or truck that can get me from Point A to Point B safely, in air conditioning, with a functioning radio, affordable insurance, and low gas mileage.
  12. Make a home. I’d really like to move into a new place by the end of 2020, and am holding a plan in my heart for what that looks like. (Sorry world, I’m not feeling emotionally ready to let you all know all of my dirt just yet.) Even if that little plan doesn’t happen just yet, that’s still totally cool. I can still work at making my existing apartment a comfortable spot to land. I made some solid moves in decorating this year, but could definitely stand to make more. Maybe I’ll make one of those new sewing projects a new duvet cover…
  13. Learn something new every month. I’d like to take at least six actual classes as part of this deal. In 2019, I had a hard time finding classes that I could afford, but I’m going to hold tight with the hope that this year will be different, and I’ll be able to budget in education spending at least every other month. Thoughts on classes include baking, cheese-making, fermenting, herbalism, magickal topics, millinery, jewelry making, marquetry, the last two classes to get my certificate in copyediting, flamenco, hip hop, horseback riding, archery…ooooh, which just reminded me that I think I’d count being taught how to throw an axe as a “class.” And there’s an axe-throwing bar out in Metairie now, I think #yaaaaassssss.
  14. Publish the Camino memoir. It’s time. It’s been five years. Get it done.
  15. Get two tattoos. I have plans for the majority of my body, but only one tattoo thus far. Not saying that I want to look like a Russian mobster when I’m done, but I certainly would like a great deal more ink in my skin over the next few years. I’ll write about this at a later date, but for now I’m going to start by getting a small tattoo while my friend Jess is here in February, and then hopefully finally getting my Camino tattoo in the next few months, as well. Additionally, I’m going to get permanent eyeliner in March. Grandma, don’t bother sending me articles about people who’ve gone blind in freak eyeliner accidents. I don’t care. I just don’t want to have to tightline every morning.

Thoughts? Opinions? Wanna share your New Year’s Resolutions? Use the comment box! I’d love to hear from at least one or two of you at some point in our lives. It’s a little lonely, writing out here in this void. Hit me up!

What I Read in 2019 — Compass & Quill

After years of trying to read one book a week each week of the year, I FINALLY met my goal in 2019. Fifty-two books in 52 weeks was made slightly less difficult this year by reading a lot of ghost stories. Not exactly high-brow reading, but definitely the theme of the year, from Day 1.…

What I Read in 2019 — Compass & Quill

Wool Gathering for 2020

It’s almost time to make some more Bold Goals for the year ahead, and I’ve been mulling things over for a couple of weeks now. Some of the items I’ve considered are: How did my stated goals influence my life in 2019? Did they get me closer to where I want to be as a person, or maybe divert me? Did they have any impact at all, or would the changes that I’ve encountered have happened organically, due to situations beyond my control? Should I tweak and reuse any existing goals to push myself in any specific direction? Were there too many goals, or too few? Did I need more specificity, or less? Is there a better way to measure data and report progress?

A few nights ago, I couldn’t sleep. I just lay there, letting concepts wash over me. It occurred to me that with all of these questions, the best way to get started on defining useful goals would be to get a solid handle on what it is that I’m trying to accomplish now. I already know that my original reason for starting this blog was to provide an accountability tool to force me to seek out a bold, vibrant, adventurous life of purpose, but is that still my utmost aim?

Overall, I think that’s still the right ballpark. However, maybe the language should be updated a bit to reflect a lesson I’m just now learning: Passion. Not “passion” as a sexual experience, but as emotional fullness. Living life to the best of my ability each day. Deciding to be all-in, and choosing the right tasks to create a life of intention and joy.

I’m just getting started in thinking about this, but I’m prone to believe that a large part of passion is connectedness – with friends, family, lovers, strangers, our own bodies and minds, nature, and creation. For a long time now, I’ve felt separate – disconnected. Like I’m floating along, for the most part watching this life happen without me.

It hasn’t all been a blur, though. I’ve lived some beautiful, delicious adventures that made me feel completely in-tune with myself and everything around me. The times of great joy in my life have largely also been times of great connection – walking the Camino de Santiago, traveling the world and exploring art and architecture, singing kirtan right here at home, dancing with the Chorus Girls, working the front desk at that little boutique hotel, spending time with loved ones (including the four-footed variety), and really using my body with intention to run, dance, and labor.

So what’s different? What is waking me up, and making me want to seek this passion, this light, in my everyday? Back in undergrad, I only got to take a few fun elective classes, and one of them was voice. I love to sing; it’s always soothed me and helped me concentrate when the world is getting to be too much. In one of the classes, we were assigned a final project – each student was given a particular song to learn, practice, and eventually perform in front of the class. I was assigned “Love Walked In,” by George Gershwin. At the time, and for many years after, I thought the song was goopy garbage. But a few months ago, I walked into a restaurant, made eye contact with a guy, and started falling in love. All of a sudden the song makes a little more sense.

What’s interesting about this, though, is that instead of falling headfirst into adoring my boyfriend at the expense of my own sense of self, for the first time ever, I’m with someone who’s really pushing me to be my own person, and give myself time, and space, and love. We’ve been talking about the future, not as some magical place of make-believe, but as somewhere concrete where we can put our gifts to work for us to make a home, and maybe even a family. For the first time, I’m with someone who is vocal about wanting to make plans – for vacations, for cuddling on the couch, for making dinner mid-week – and for the first time, I’m with someone who is willing to sit down and really talk about things, in depth, really listening, really trying. We’re building something. And in the midst of building an us, I’m even more inspired to work on building a me that will make that us even cooler.

So how do I turn 2020 into a year where I go all-in, to create a life of purpose and direction? I’m going to keep dancing, reading, and learning, for sure. I also want to begin living a life of greater service; for now that means volunteering at a hospice. I’m also going to start carving out time to research and move towards the next stage of my career, whatever that looks like. A devoted exercise schedule, and a regimented diet, to finish whipping this body into shape. Super focus on budget, and paying off debts. Greater attention to interpersonal relationships, and keeping up conversations with friends and loved ones who live far away. Two material things I’d really like to accomplish in 2020: buy a car, and move into a new apartment.

More to come in the next few days; this is just a first pass at general concepts. I’m happy with where I’m sitting tonight.

All I Want for Christmas is a Break

This was originally a Facebook post, but I feel like it’s important to share, so here you go.

Let’s be honest about dark feelings during the holidays. I feel like we should all be able to be forthcoming about how difficult this time of year can be, and I want to start the conversation. Let me be really clear that this is not a cry for help, or in any way a complaint. This is me talking to a wider audience in the same way that I would to a best confidant. I want to be more open, and I want you to feel comfort in being more open in your own life. So here goes. If you’re also having a hard time, please feel free to leave your own thoughts in the comments. I’m here, and I love you.

My memories of Christmas as a little girl are largely of doing all of the holiday shit alone – putting up the tree alone, decorating alone, painstakingly putting my own Christmas decor up in my room alone, playing with my Christmas presents alone. Christmas was overwhelming for both of my parents, in two different ways. Mum felt the pressure of thinking/buying/wrapping for my Dad’s whole family, and he really didn’t help, other than to throw out unhelpful ideas, and to bring her shit to wrap at the VERY last minute. Mum spent Christmas Eve absolutely frazzled and dreading the noisy, chaotic social interaction. Dad spent Christmas Eve acting jolly, a poor cover for pretty intense emotional pain. We spent many a Christmas Eve night first at the family gathering, then at his sister’s grave, him crying in the dark, me standing awkwardly, trying to understand. Money was EXTREMELY tight on Christmas, since the upholstery business wasn’t exactly a goldmine, and they were often not sure where my presents would come from – but somehow they always made magic for me on Christmas Day.

Even with Christmas being kind of dark for me as a kid, I grew up mostly enjoying Christmas, and later Yule. It wasn’t until the last few years that my father’s sadness began to creep into my life. I’m pretty much estranged from my family, even though there’s no real issue to point at. It’s just a space that’s grown wider and wider, and I’m at a loss. So for the past few years, I’ve been spending all of my holidays alone, drinking in my apartment, avoiding my friends. I just couldn’t handle wearing a fake face 365 days. It feels like the holidays should be my break to feel whatever I want to feel and act however I want to act. And I didn’t want to act cheerful and excited, so it seemed kinder to everyone else to just keep my bullshit to myself.

Mostly, that’s seemed fine. But this year, now that my dad’s gone, the holiday dim is threatening to become holiday darkness. I am burned out from work. I am missing my father, because my mother, as sweet as she is, is not really available to be present for me. I am sick over my friend Andy’s recent overdose death, and selfishly wish he could have kept it together for a little longer, so that the rest of us could have, too. I am preemptively sad over my friend Josh’s birthday – this will be 11 years without his light, and it makes the drug overdose theme an especial downer. Add to that not having money to buy anyone presents, for like the 20th year in a row, and I’m just over this. I just need for it to be January 2nd.

Let’s get this straight. There are LOTS of us out there who feel something like this, for various reasons. I will be OK. I will be more than OK, actually. I have a sweet, if slightly Scrooge-ish partner in crime this year, and his presence keeps me anchored. I have plenty of wonderful friends that I feel comfortable talking to, and giving this much information to. Even without the friends, I am finally feeling comfortable enough in my own skin to say fuck it, and be painfully honest. I’m embracing the fact that I want the world to be more open about mental and emotional health, so I’m taking the first turn, in hopes that others will join me.

For everyone else who might be reading this, completely at a loss as to how someone could be such a Grinch – please just be open-minded. Keep in mind that even though you might just LOVE the holiday season and want to wrap yourself in Christmas lights and carol your way down the street for the next week, there are a decent amount of us who are just trying to keep our shit together to not bring you down. Go easy on us.

For the rest of you – if you’re feeling lost, you’re not alone, I promise. I PROMISE. It’s hard to reach out, but there are people out there within arm’s reach who want to help, who are happy to extend a hand and a heart. The world may feel cold, like no one’s watching, no one cares, but I can guarantee that’s not the case. I’ve experienced what happens when you can dredge up the courage to ask for help, and it gave me a new life. Here are resources that you might need this holiday season. Feel free to comment or email me if you need a friend to help you make a call. I’m not a mental health professional, but I’m happy to help you get to one.

Almost Over

Only 16 more days left in December. A whole year of changes under my belt. Today I’m grappling with a heavier dose of anxiety than usual, and it’s fucking with my head more than a little. It’s got me feeling like I haven’t accomplished anything, and that I probably never will. I understand that this is a FALSE NARRATIVE, but that doesn’t keep my brain from doing its own ridiculous thing. Right now, if you were to look into my psyche, I’m sure you’d see something like this:

It’s important in times like these, when your brain is careening off of the track, to sit back and take stock of what’s actually going on. Are you hydrated? No, actually I’ve only had two cups of coffee all day. My brain is probably shriveling up as we speak. Are you well-rested? Not particularly. Have you had enough to eat? Too much, actually. When was the last time that you had time to relax and just exist in the moment, no substances, no weight of expectations, just doing your own thing on your own schedule? Early November; more than a month ago. How are you feeling about going back to work tomorrow? Dreading it. How do you feel about your living situation? OK, we’ve asked enough questions for the day. That one hits too close to home.

I hate coming back to my apartment. The anxiety is making me want to purge my belongings, and if I’m honest, it’s making me doubt my ability to do anything of use in my life. I feel like I’m going to fuck up in every avenue. I feel like I never have succeeded. That’s obviously wrong, though. To any outside observer, I’m moderately successful. I’m a very good project manager. I understand deadlines and people, and can plan events and campaigns with my eyes closed. I get along with my coworkers, and am a supportive friend and partner. I have a lot of balls in the air, and sometimes it’s difficult, but I’m not failing. I’m OK. I’m going to continue to be OK. If I work hard enough, things will incrementally improve, until they’re better than OK. It’s an uphill battle, but I can and will persevere.

The anxious part of me is also telling me that I’ve revealed too much about myself to my partner, and that this will surely end badly, with my heart trampled. This is patently untrue. I know my partner to be forthcoming, patient, open, and extremely loving, even in the face of what is probably closed off behavior on my part. My brain keeps letting me open up for a little bit, and then freaks out and runs off and screams into the void, as I appear to be doing today. I hate it. I love him. I love him so much. It’s not painful and intense and scary, like when we were kids. It’s just RIGHT. And I want to be right for him. I want to get my fucking head straight, instead of being so scared, always so scared. I’m just tired of feeling like I will never be good enough to be loved. I need to work on this.

But first I need to drink a lot of water, get a good night’s sleep, and go into work early to knock out a bunch of work before planners get into the office and start emailing me. Ahead of the game is how we win this, and I can affect some semblance of control if I start by getting my work done. Things aren’t dire out in reality, just in my brain (and OK, here on my blog, where we discuss my brain from time to time). I’m going to be OK.

Thoughts While Browsing Craigslist

I was just idly looking at apartment listings, as I do from time to time, and surprisingly, found one at a price that I can afford. After looking through the description and photos, wondering what was wrong with it (that it could be so cheap), I realized that it was in a not-so-great neighborhood. Next up in the thought process was, “I couldn’t move there, I wouldn’t be able to walk home safely.” Next thought was, “Plus, Daddy would be worried about me.” Right after that was, “Oh yeah, he died.”

That’s not a painful thought; I’m past the point where that kind of thing would make me cry. However, I thought it was important to share, for those of you who are also experiencing the many stages of grief and growth following the death of a close loved one. Everyone will eventually move on from this plane of existence, and unpacking the feelings associated with those passings will be a lifelong pursuit.

On one hand, it’s sad to know that I don’t have anyone there to care if I put myself in potentially dangerous situations. On the other hand, it’s good to know that I won’t have to explain my choices anymore. Also, just remembering that there used to be this guy on the other side of the country who really did give a shit if I lived or died makes me feel good. It means he’s still here, in some way. It makes me stay true to the spirit of that love, and make slightly better choices, because I know now that love energy is the same, no matter if the originator has passed on.

Day 9 Check-In

Today was fine, physically, but has been difficult, emotionally. Yesterday I waited too long in between breakfast and dinner, and I was SO HUNGRY and thus very dramatic. Not mean or anything, just privately hangry, and then I talked about it, and I feel ashamed of myself for having expressed myself. I don’t think that’s everything, but it’s definitely a start of why I’m feeling like this – anxious, reticent to speak, and afraid that I’ve fucked things up.

Logically speaking, I have not fucked things up. I know what fucking things up is, and telling an animated story does not qualify. But also, how do I know that? Who am I to judge what other people think is too dramatic? Well, there’s the solid knowledge that people ALWAYS tell me that I’m not sharing enough, I’m hard to read, and to get to know. There’s that. Just calm down. And now here I am having an argument with myself, as if we didn’t come off as nuts enough. Ugh.

I’m worn out. I was just at work again for 11 hours, no real breaks, just plugging away at helping people when I can barely help myself. I’m really tired of it. I feel like I’m getting nowhere. It’s just the same thing, every day, with nothing concrete to show for my efforts, just more wrinkles and less of a personal life. The best part of my day is my walk to and from work, when I get to sing and walk and breathe freely, as just myself, not worker bee Nova. Just the Nova who dreams and breathes and moves exactly as she wishes.

Why exactly am I feeling like I’ve done something wrong? It’s going to be OK. I think this diet is making my life harder because I’m not capable of keeping any kind of schedule, and trying a regimented meal plan with no structure in my overall life is just insane. I’m not experiencing cravings; I just feel like I’m losing my mind and I’m completely unable to cope with the little shit.

I also need a clean house, and I’m currently sitting in a garbage dump that kind of somewhat maybe might have resembled an apartment a month or two ago. Cleaning would probably help me a great deal, but I am so fucking tired that the thought of getting up right now makes me choked up.

I really need a hug. I don’t know how I’m going to make it through this month.