Writer/director dream hampton asked this question on Twitter and shared a steady stream of responses. People taught their children to read, nurtured loved ones in times of sorrow or ill-health, quit jobs they hated, and traveled or moved overseas.
Some took classes and learned things that allowed them to radically transform their ways of being. Others wrote books, got married, took a chance on love, or learned to love themselves.
It’s a beautiful question, and one that requires no external metric. I’ve been thinking about it, and while there are lots of things I’m glad I accomplished or tried or read, I think the best thing I did was push beyond my comfort zone. There were several times this year where things felt risky or scary or I was unsure how they’d turn out, and I decided those were great reasons to try them anyway.
Comfort with discomfort is pushing me toward new goals for 2014, and I’m intrigued and excited about how they will manifest.
But enough about me. What was the best thing YOU did this year?
March was a great month of endings, beginnings, and transformations in general. I updated this space every day while in the midst of a whirlwind. The high energy and nonstop pace is in full swing for another couple of days, but I wanted to take a breath to share the top posts from last month.
So I just moved. And I don’t know about you, but for me moving is a special process full of resistance, excitement, and everything in between. I was slow to get started, but eventually, I did start packing. I’ve only spent one night in my new place, so no, I’m not settled yet.
I’m always fascinated by narratives and the power of story, and maybe some of you are too? This blog about knowing your family’s narrative, got a lot of attention.
Early in the month I wrote about the importance of telling your own story – if not to others, then at the very least, to yourself. I didn’t know that post and subsequent events in the real world would set the stage for me to share my own story of sexual violence. I’ve been investigating my rape narrative for nearly two years now, and I felt moved to share my side of things with the ex who violated me. Readers and friends asked me what I hoped to gain by all of this. I wrote this in response. I found myself writing so much about sexual violence in March, I added a new category (sexual violence). I’ve been quiet on the topic as of late, but I expect to be writing more about it in the coming months.
Violence of any kind takes place when there is an absence of love. I don’t believe individuals and subsequently, society, can truly be whole without a serious infusion of love.
I’ve reached that point in the packing process where the acoustics in my apartment have started to change. And really, the energy has been shifting all along in concert with my mood. Anticipation. Excitement. Stress. Sadness. Joy. It’s making the packing go slowly. Which is fine. Packing, moving, like anything else in life, is a process.
It’s my favorite time of day – the dark before the dawn. First light alerts the world to the coming sunrise. This morning my cat is snuggled next to me as I write in my darkened bedroom. I have long favored early morning because it’s nearly silent, mostly still. Hints of noises and shadows of movements as many of nature’s beings prepare for the day ahead. Daniel once tweeted his praise for early mornings: the world is quiet, Spirit is loud. Yes. It’s a time of hope and possibilities. Beginnings. Today is also an ending of sorts.
Today marks my 30th post in as many days. I’ve completed my personal challenge. The last time I wrote 30 posts in 30 days I found the process wearing. I was glad to develop the discipline, but I felt it wasn’t a sustainable practice. The daily writing was (mostly) sustainable, but the writing daily for public consumption (while also fielding multiple obligations) was not. This time around, I dunno. The experience was very different and things evolved in a way I hadn’t planned. I guess that’s reflective of life generally. What’s truly alive is not stagnant.
Tomorrow marks a new beginning. Blue arrives! In a few days, we’ll be heading home.
So I’m moving, that much is clear, but it seems the where to is a great deal muddier. The short answer is, back home. It’s second nature to call Atlanta home, since that’s where I was born and raised, but honestly, I feel funny about it. In the technical sense, it is or was home, but as I wrote in November:
What is home, exactly? A place or a moment that resonates. It’s gathering of old friends around a good game of Taboo. A visit to the tried and true corner barbershop one Saturday morning. Sometimes home is less fleeting. It’s a city where sunshine runs rampant. A house you’ve built with your partner. Whenever, wherever your heart feels welcomed and your spirit feels at ease, is home.
Moments and people in Atlanta resonated that way, but as a city, Atlanta never felt like home. At the time I penned that post, I felt pulled to leave this place, despite the fact I am definitely home here. It seems I was in Tampa for a reason and a season, but not a lifetime; and here at the dawn of Spring, it’s time to make a new start in an old haunt.
I’ve decided to travel home lighter than I left. There is at least one table, and possibly two that won’t make it across my “new” threshold. All the books (of course) are going, but all the clothes are not. And that’s where things have gotten interesting.
I’ve had the pull to purge my closet since January. Time, location and will have kept me from it. That is, until today. The suits were the first to go. I bought several suits for a job I began over 6 years ago. My favorite two will make the trip, but the others, including three I’ve never worn, are being donated to Dress for Success.
Although I don’t desire those and many other items in my closet, forming the donate pile with those first few pieces was tough. It didn’t matter that they no longer fit my lifestyle, body, or personality. I got comfortable with them being there, just in case.
Just in case of what, I can’t say. But the truth is, they were taking up space. Physical space. Psychic space. They crowded out favored pieces. I even found the shirt I’d been seeking for months (months!). There it was, sharing a hanger with an outfit that no longer suited me. And despite the fact I don’t really need, want or even particularly like many of these items, I felt a pull adding each one to the pile. It was a weight. A mourning – saying goodbye I suppose. I took note of the feeling, but was resolute in my folding. It got easier. And now my closet is halfway empty.
I’ll have to start again. And really, that’s what I’m doing with this move. Not just starting a new phase of my life, but starting a new life. Professionally. Romantically. Everythingly. One should have the wardrobe to match, eh?
A funny thing happened on the way to work. No, not really. But I needed a way to start today’s blog post, and, why not? Nothing to make you chuckle, but I did find today worthy of note…
As I drove through the more rural areas of Tampa Bay, I was greeted by canopy trees! If you’ve never spent time in Tallahassee, Florida, you may not be familiar with the canopy roads. These are long streets lined on either side by huge oaks dripping with Spanish moss. They hang over the roads like umbrellas, providing shade for the passing motorists. Canopies! And although the sight in Tampa Bay did not approach that glory, it was lovely to see the familiar splendor.
It reminded me of Tallahassee, yes, but also of St. Pete which has its own share of mossy oaks, and of my first love away from home – Savannah. Memories of Savannah summers are incomplete if they don’t include the endless sightings of Spanish moss. And just like that, I had fond memories of Georgia, and found myself looking forward (finally) to the move.
I was excited when I debated the move, weighed the pros and cons. I considered the risks of moving versus the risks of staying. Did I want to chase dreams and new possibilities, or did I want to remain comfortable? I was excited when I put in my intent to vacate. It was official. The chase was on! But as we approach the actual day, my excitement has waned significantly. There’s a good reason for that.
I don’t know if you know this, but moving simply isn’t that much fun. Especially moving across state lines. There’s stuff to do. Mail to forward. Utilities to turn on. Boxes to tape and label. Items to donate. And even though I can pack and unpack my residence in two days on each side, I can’t say it brings me great joy. And despite the beautiful things I have planned once I relocate, I really do like my current surroundings.
Regardless, uprooting moving is stressful. I tend to bury stress, hiding it even from myself. Unless I’m really checking in with myself, I may not notice the tell-tale signs. I get a little quieter, more reserved. Maybe I’m not as patient. Perhaps I don’t laugh as much. My sweet tooth demands more attention. Excitement during these final days is hard to muster.
So I’m moving. According to my countdown app, in 10 days and 18 hours, the moving guys from Blitz will be loading up the truck. Once people find out you’re moving, and D-day is close at hand, they start asking questions. Really, it’s just one question, but it comes in a few different flavors:
Have you started packing already?
How’s the packing coming along?
Do you have a lot left to pack?
In order, the answers are:
It’s part of my process. As one who has moved several times in recent years with basically the same stuff, I know I can pack in 2 days flat. One and a half if I’m really not feeling it. All of this includes a great deal of focus and plenty of sleep in between. I don’t believe in all-nighters.
I’d like to say I delay packing because I’m always busy, but that wouldn’t be true. Usually it’s more resistance. Stalling. Waiting until the last possible minute while I lounge around the house wondering when I’m going to start. My writing looks much the same way. In fact, once I start resisting and doing everything else, that’s when I know I’m almost ready to get words down.
But I digress.
This particular time I havebeen busy. In fact, I’ve barely been home long enough to unpack, wash clothes and repack, so forget about getting some boxes and packing stuff. But this weekend I think I’m going to get some boxes, at least. Maybe even tape a few together.
Do you have a favorite quote that you return to again and again? What is it, and why does it move you?
If you summon your courage to challenge something, you’ll never regret it. How sad it would be to spend your life wishing, “If only I had a little more courage.” Whatever the outcome, the important thing is to take a step forward on the path that you believe is right. There’s no need to worry about what others may think. It’s your life, after all. Be true to yourself. ~Daisaku Ikeda
I first saw this quote in the November 2012 issue of Living Buddhism magazine. Sae Chonabayashi said it encouraged her to pursue her dreams. It encouraged me to do the same. At the time I read the piece, I was at a crossroads; I was unsure about quite a few things. That quote resonated, and I got clear on next steps in a hurry.
Life is short and no one wakes up in my skin every morning except me. I have plans and dreams, and it’s quite possible they won’t work out as I’d like…but I have to try. I’ve always been one to play it safe. But safe isn’t always satisfactory, and time passes way too quickly these days for me to waste it in any state of dissatisfaction. So whatever the outcome, in eleven days, I’m moving forward on a new path.