Monday, January 26, 2015

Unlucky in Love

I send men back to their ex-girlfriends, their former love-interests, their old flames.

A palm reader once told me that I am unlucky in love. She said that the men I want never stay and the men I don't want won't go away - but she could help me out with that for another $50. I declined.

So now I send men back to their old flames. I'm not being dramatic. This is statistically significant. I'm a scientist. I have the data. In the last six months there was the CrossFitter, and the Engineer, and the Lobbyist. And those are the ones I know about (some guys disappear without a Facebook-trace...).

I guess I could be offended by this. Take it to mean that I am so horrendous as a potential love-match that these fetching men have no choice but to seek the comfort of someone they had previously discarded, or previously lacked the courage or the space or the time to pursue.

But that's not really my style.

The way I see it, it could just as easily be my too much (rather than my not enough) that sends these men back down old roads. They come into my life looking for fun, looking for pretty, looking for amusement, and probably distraction. I provide all that. But I also have an inquisitive mind, an open heart, and a passion for the world. A vision. A direction. A life.

I am so much more than a one night stand.

And while it doesn't make logical sense that my too much would bring old embers and ashes back to life, I don't begrudge any of them. I might even understand.

I carried a flame for a man who was not my boyfriend for quite a bit of 2014. It was a shrinking flame - no bigger than a tea light or a birthday candle - by the time September rolled around. But it was a flame nonetheless. In September I also had a seemingly good - and different - man vying for my affection. Paying me attention. Taking me on adventures. Writing me poetry.

And I spent one frigid night in Alaska on the back deck of our wilderness lodge, bundled-up and worrying-out-loud to my travel-partner-soul-sister. Because you see, I was at that point: If I moved even one step closer to the Adventure-Poet, I would have to turn and blow the old flame out. No birthday wishes allowed.

Photo credit: the best photographer I know.

Things took a different turn with the Poet. So I didn't have to take that big breath in the end. But if I had, would it have worked? Or would that change in my gaze, that momentary increase in focus, have brought to mind all the reasons that I struck that match in the first place? How much I love birthdays?

Dim as it was, that flame was the only illumination for an imaginary ideal life. Would I have had the courage to snuff it out and make way for a bright but unknown reality? Or would I have rather poured on gasoline?

The harder question came after the Poet went away (long after, actually, but that's not the point): did I have the courage to extinguish that flame for myself? Without a well-read cowboy stoking a campfire somewhere nearby? Was I capable of making that wish and then sitting in the dark for a while?

If I had spent that $50, I might never have found out...

Friday, January 2, 2015

Resolutions Start on the 2nd

(everybody knows that)

Even my little sister - who refuses to make New Year's Resolutions - understands the importance of giving yourself January 1st to recover.

Last year I spent New Year's with her. I flew down to Florida on Christmas morning and spent 10 days camped out in her guest room. We went on a few walks with her dog. I went for a jog one time. But otherwise we relaxed and read books and shopped. And we agreed that we both needed to start a new workout routine in the New Year.

I had moved a few days before Christmas and didn't have a gym or workout strategy mapped out. My sister had canceled her gym membership for lack of use. So we both decided that we would follow We each downloaded the app, which is amazing. And we prepared to start. On January 2nd.

New Year's Day is just too much pressure.

First, I'm always hung over, or at least tired. I don't stay up past midnight very often. And I definitely don't drink champaign after (a lot) of liquor. Ever. So New Year's Eve is hard on my body. Second, lucky New Year's foods aren't exactly diet-friendly. I don't usually resolve to improve my diet, I'm allergic to enough as it is. But it's the principle of the thing... And also there is football to watch. And other equally-important reasons to stay on the couch, like new Christmas books to read.

So resolutions start on the 2nd. And today is January 2nd.

I've mentioned before that I always share my resolutions and goals for the New Year with DrLindsey. We keep each other accountable through email. And provide support when things go off the rails. It's amazing. We check in with each other every quarter. We reevaluate our previous goals. See what we've already accomplished. Replace any that don't make sense anymore - now that life intervened. And encourage each other to succeed.

This year, tho, we took a different approach.

Instead of our typical goal-setting-type goals (that often turn into one more to-do list) we have set... drumroll...

Goals with Soul 

(Watch the video. PS: I love how much she wanted to overcome her striving - I feel that way too).

I mentioned this approach last Spring, when I first found the Desire Map. I bought all-in to the idea of first deciding how I want to feel. And then - and only then - setting goals for the year that will help me achieve those feelings. I bought a copy for DrLindsey right away. And she agreed to take the leap with me.

It took me a while to discover my Core Desired Feelings. I worked through the process over multiple late-Spring evenings, sitting on my back patio. Often with a glass of wine. Basking in the soothing atmosphere. I didn't work on them after overly stress-filled days, or when I was in a rush, or when I had too much other stuff on my mind. I wanted to breathe. And do them right.

I discovered my Core Desired Feelings on May 9th. I was working through the final steps of the process, reading definitions, saying words out loud and sensing how they made me feel. Eliminating any that didn't sound right or feel right or look right on the page. And then - all at once - six little words ripped my heart out.

Authentic. Brilliant. In Awe. At Peace.

They hit me with a tidal wave of emotions. I still feel it breaking over me now when I see them all together in print. I was exhausted. And exhilarated. And overwhelmed. I had never seen anything so true about myself. In any shape or form. And I cried. Oh did I cry.

I tried them on for a few days, and then a few months. And I started to see the connection between those feelings and every decision in my life. The things I wanted to do. The things I didn't want to do. And the burning feeling inside of me that something was amiss - that action was required - when I wasn't feeling the way I want to feel.

I linked them to my work. I crafted them into a vision for how I want to exist in my basement cubicle. And I wear a reminder bracelet on my wrist. I told you: I am all in.

#truthbomb by Danielle LaPorte. Seemingly made just for me!

So, for the past few weeks I have been working on the next step: setting my intentions for 2015 based on my Core Desired Feelings. And that process has been equally exhilarating. You mean I get to dedicate my energy to feeling good? To feeling the way I want to feel? You mean my metric for success will be happiness?!? I'm in love with the whole thing.

I have four intentions for 2015. Well three and one that underwrites them all:

Build-up a robust and innovative team - this is my intention for work. My justification for pouring all my energy into enabling the people I admire most.

Dig into the depths of me - this one is for me. I spent 2014 rediscovering the girl I lost. And I like her! And I want to know everything there is to know about her!

Write like a motherfucker - this is a quote. And a call to action. Something I need to do. For myself - because I love it. For my work - because that's why they pay me. And for my relationships - because that's the best way I know how to send my love.

Prioritize my health and wellbeing - so that I have the energy to accomplish all the rest.

And they started today! I spent the whole morning working on a surprise for the team. And I know they're going to love it. And I'm writing right now. And I feel amazing. And I'm super blissed-out to have something so true to share with you. And that's the whole point.

I've also exchanged emails with DrLindsey. Because making a public declaration - as fun as it is - doesn't give me the deep, heartfelt support and acknowledgement that only she can provide. Sorry. I'm not sorry. You'll just have to understand...

Thursday, January 1, 2015

What I learned in 2014

It's that time again!

I get the feeling that I am late to the game with this post. Many of the blogs and news sites I follow spent the past week on their year-end wrap-ups. And I'm not going to lie: I've been thinking about this post for a few days, now. But I just couldn't bring myself to write it. First, because my January 1 post date is a tradition (I've done it twice!). And also, what if I had learned something amazing last night?

So here we are: January 1, 2015. Spending just a few more minutes looking back.

2014 was one of the best years of my life. Immeasurably better than 2013, for sure. Hanging out at the top of the list with the year I spent in Europe and the year I found my calling. For all the same reasons... This year was momentous and life-changing and deep and broad and bigger than I could have ever imagined.

And I learned a lot about myself, and my passions, and my desires, and my feelings. Way more than I ever could hope to contain in a single post. Or a single conversation. Or a single anything really. So after quite a bit of consideration, I've narrowed my lessons down to two. Two major lessons from 2014. Two big truths that I had not uncovered until this year.

I take up space in the Universe. 

I know what you're thinking: Well that's just silly. Of course you do! You're a scientist! How could it have taken you this long to realize that?! And you're absolutely right. Guilty. My only retort - and it's a whisper - is that our space in the Universe is much more than physical. Even though I had to learn that I do in fact take up physical space, too.

That was the easy part. The physical one. I achieved my goal weight in 2013. And then when that year ended badly I achieved much lower than my goal weight. And finally Rachel had had enough. And she took me out for dinner. And she told me I am beautiful. And then she told me I can't weigh zero. To be clear: I didn't have an eating disorder. I was sad. But the result was the same. I had to realize that I have to weigh something and it should probably be a weight that reflects my strength and vitality.

Recognizing my right - my birthright - to spiritual space in the Universe was much harder. I'm a giver, by nature. And probably by nurture. I was raised to think of others, to have manners, to take care of those around me. It's how we all co-exist helpfully in this world. But I contorted giving to also include not taking. The result is self-sufficiency in a lot of ways, which is good.

The result also is worrying that my thoughts or feelings or opinions might become a burden on the people I love. Taken to its extreme that worry becomes poisonous. And I spent years in a land of extremes, shrinking myself in service of another person's ego. At the time, it was the only way to stay safe. But then that became a habit. And then that became a lifestyle. And I applied it in all the rest of my relationships. And then when I didn't have to do it anymore, I didn't know how to stop.

Until June.

I had a disagreement with a friend. And it hurt me more than it hurt them. And the imbalance made all my concern about burdening them seem so ridiculous. I had to acknowledge my wishes and desires. Out loud. And once it was done, my fear about their possible response was overcome by my indignation and the truth came like a flash: I'm allowed to say what I feel. I'm allowed to take up space in this Universe. But then, that wasn't enough. It's not about permission. It's a fact of my existence. The sentence came forward in big bold print: I take up space in the Universe.

Thank you, NASA.

The only grades that matter are the ones I give myself.

This one was nearly impossible for me to learn. My last five years out of school were no match for the 22 years I spent behind the desk. The books and articles on living my best life were no match for my family's high standards for achievement. And definitely no match for my nature. Because you see, I strive. I get the A. I worry about what I could have done to make that A an A+. I seek challenge. I pursue perfection. I. Strive.

And I apply the same strategies I've honed over two decades for predicting what my teachers and professors will want from me - to get the A - to determine what everyone else in my life will want from me, too. And I don't see their expectations as a burden. I seek them out! They give me something to achieve. A target for my energy and creativity. A guaranteed reward once they're met. And wow, do I love a gold star!

But as my social circle expanded, as my career developed, as my responsibilities increased, all that striving became exhausting. And overwhelming. And stifling to my creativity. And a load that I almost couldn't carry. But how could I say no? How could I turn it off? How could I remove the outside expectations when I had internalized them so deeply? What about my gold star?!?

See what I mean? Nearly impossible. And then...

It seems to me that it always is the counterexample that finally drives a lesson home. Something happens that forces me to ponder simultaneously both sides of the same coin. And then the light turns on. And I get it.

I had a particularly vulnerable few weeks recently. I have been opening my heart and applying my lesson about my space in the Universe and speaking my truth. Especially when that truth will be positive and uplifting to the audience. In essence I am working to show the people I love all of my love, in as many ways as I can design. But all that openness and feeling can sometimes make people uncomfortable - especially the data-driven-science-geniuses I roll with.

And so recently when I opened the lid and poured out my heart, I tried to sit quietly, content in the fact that one of my favorites would get a smile because of me. But instead I sat in the center of my vulnerability. And it was terrifying. What if they didn't like it? What if they didn't understand it? What if it was too much? How would I get my gold star?

And there it was: striving. Only this time I was seriously considering making myself less to fit comfortably inside my imagined-worst-case-scenario of someone else's expectations. Less! How can I strive to be less? That ridiculous question doesn't even fit in my mouth. It is something that I never would say out loud. But I thought it. And all at once every other how can I strive to be... question came into focus. Both sides of the same ridiculous coin. And I get it.