“All that was great in the past was ridiculed, condemned, combated, suppressed — only to emerge all the more powerfully, all the more triumphantly from the struggle.”
It is startling how long I have put off this post. The "Big Things" was a list of life changes that I penned several years ago, prior to my 40th birthday, and have been living by for nearly 5 years. It is something that is so ingrained in my being, with intent, every day. It is something that I am wildly proud of, because it is, equal parts courageous and terrifying. I had intended to share the Big Things as my very first post for SeasonedSenses, then deferred it to my second. I deferred it further, vowing that it would become the first post following the death of my father. Then, I deferred it yet again, with the promise that it would become the post dedicated to my 44th birthday. And then my New Year's post for 2019. I kept putting it off, putting it off, putting it off. Fear and trauma had paralyzed my ability to communicate, because it was so deeply personal. On the eve of the one year anniversary of SeasonedSenses, I figured that time was up, I needed to commit, and simply forgive the imperfect delivery that will likely ensue.
Growing up, I was heavily rewarded for keeping up appearances. From a very young age, I came to believe that obsessive overachieving sealed cracks in any pavement. Everything could be concealed in beautiful and perfect packaging. I became a very skilled artist. I very much recall the day I decided to become "someone else". I remember the day I decided to become "someone else" again. And again, and again. I managed to become a bit of something to everyone who demanded it, eventually becoming unrecognizable to myself, which at the time, seemed like a relief. These faces cloaked, soothed, and comforted like a massive, protective fortress. And this is how I thought, I hoped, I could and would survive life. Truth be told, I evolved into a high-functioning disaster. I recall thinking, at one point, that I had managed to lock myself away, deep inside and with such skill, that I don't even know if I could find my own key anymore, even if I wanted to. A surprise to no one, the walls eventually crumbled and it became very dark. For a very long time.
"The Big Things" came about as a proverbial Hail Mary and consisted of a series of life adjustments that would essentially serve as my new foundation. It would involve a dizzying degree of unraveling. This master list, that reflected years of imbalance, shame and pain, was organized, structured, restructured and honed into an annual focus every year of my 40's. The first was the most important, the most humiliating, and the one that would ensure the success of the other nine. I honestly held little to no faith that I would have the self-respect to follow through with any of this.
On January 1, 2015, and two months into my 40th year, I embarked on "Big Thing #1", along with a suffocating case of anxiety.
It's been four years since this photo was taken. New Year's Eve, 2014. And what you see here, my friends, was my final glass of wine. The benefits versus the disasters of alcohol in our modern society can be passionately debated. I am by no means against it; in fact, at times I really, really miss it. What I have come to know, however, is that I cherish my clarity much more. The ritual of consumption, something that I had long associated with celebration, confidence, and even sophistication, had delivered everything but to me. Enabling, however, often offered the most attractive reward, in order to discourage change and protect the status quo. The cycle of dysfunction needed to be disrupted and it needed to be disrupted by me. This is an awkward, anxiety inducing, confusing, infuriating, and at times, very lonely process, as the solutions reside within ones self and a tremendous amount of honesty is required. A humbling endeavor, no doubt. Long imprisoned feelings of dread and despair were none that I had any intention of ever confronting through a clear lens. And just for the record, life did not magically improve simply because I finally decided to be noble. There was work to be done.
Unraveling and rewiring years of conditioning, expectation, shame and trauma through a clear brain is an experience, but I can tell you, reconciliation would not have come about any other way. To be honest, I felt worse for a while. I felt discouraged and gutted and alone, until I eventually put myself to work and reacquainted myself with some rusty skills that hadn't been nurtured in quite some time, if ever. Patience. Faith. Perseverance. Grit. And eventually, slowly, something emerged which I previously withheld from my undeserving self as punishment. Forgiveness.
Today, I am grateful for many things, but I am keenly aware, that nothing in life is guaranteed. It makes life vulnerable, delicate, and worthy of care. I often wish the occasional glass was for me, but it just isn't. Humility has proven itself to be a very essential and favored character trait.
This is what I considered: Step Two. There is no better way to achieve harmony of the body, mind and spirit than through movement. I am such a believer of this. The darker side of my emotions had reigned for so long, that immobility and despair were unfortunate side effects. I was ready to put those days behind me.
Serendipitous or not, it was around this time that I had noticed a common thread in those I drew inspiration from. Positive, encouraging, intelligent friends that I had the good fortune to meet at various stages of life. They all seemed to have one thing in common. They ran. This had deeply intrigued me, while I had spent a good portion of my life engaged in various sport and activity, I had never viewed myself as a runner. I didn't "look" like a runner and I certainly wasn't "built" like one. Instead of giving in to that mindset, I decided to take a leap of faith and tuck that voice away for a little while. I should mention it was about this same time that I vowed to never, ever diet in any manner, ever again. So, off I went, and I haven't looked back since.
The gift of movement in a daily routine is a blessing. It can be anything, it doesn't have to be running. To my delight, however, I turned out to be pretty okay at it. I began to compete. Sometimes, I feel as though running chose me. And I'm happy to report that my mind, body and spirit coexist at such a divine frequency, I can hardly keep up with them.
This year was a frustrating one. It seemed to be almost instantly overshadowed by an incessantly obnoxious, booming, "Now what?". I had grown accustomed to the success of the Big Things, that were transforming themselves into a very fortunate existence for me and had also become so beautifully...normal. In February, for example, I had personally escorted this stubborn declaration of, "I am never running a marathon", straight across the finish line at the Surf City Marathon in Huntington Beach, California. Never say never.
I was sharply reminded, though, that constant goal-chasing can risk burnout, which may actually have been the source of my underlying frustrations. I became aware, that bad habits can linger in the shadows and despite my successes, I was forced to admit that I was still a compulsive overachiever. Ouch.
At this same time, I had also decided that I was not ready to tackle what I considered to be the third most important Big Thing. That one would simply have to wait, whether it was due to procrastination, fear, or timing. Instead, I shifted my focus and set my intent for the year to, "Construct".
By construct, I mean, to reinforce this new foundation, solidify good habits, and continue to hone a healthy routine. To make these choices intrinsic to my well-being and to my purpose, in this improved environment. Funny thing is, 2017 proved to be educational and successful. The reason being, I learned that I didn't need to move mountains 24/7 to feel I held value.
The symbolism behind the bullfrog is to offer guidance and recognize opportunities during transition. Additionally, the bullfrog encourages the use of intuition to strengthen the connection between the physical and spiritual world. The bullfrog promotes power and integrity, via the intentional release of emotional baggage. I am a great fan of the bullfrog.
This year, I had intended to break through comfort zones and plateaus that had manifested in the year prior. Instead, 2018 shifted course and revealed a different plan. This year was to be the year of courage. At least I was close.
In January, I wrapped up my audit and tax season in record time, while training 50 miles a week for my second marathon.
In February, I revisited the marathon to conquer some pitfalls I had encountered in my first one. I achieved a 20 minute personal record and loved every minute of it. Immediately signed up for my third.
In March, I witnessed the launch of SeasonedSenses (which I had vowed to launch the year prior and had sheepishly procrastinated).
In April, I came face to face with the mortality of my father.
That one was not planned.
This is a sensitive and complicated story that I will respectfully protect at this time, but needless to say, my year came to an abrupt halt. I did not, however, risk compromising The Big Things and I can confidently declare that at no time were they ever in jeopardy. My father was and is, in fact, a major driving force behind them. Grief presents itself in many forms and in unique ways to everyone, so I was mindful to allow and accept whatever form it would find with me. The one form that I did not anticipate, however, was courage.
I had aged. Through my grief, I had gained this peaceful assuredness that I had not previously possessed. It was quiet and it was powerful. I observed this transformation, without judgement, for quite some time and still do. I know why it presented itself when it did, which I will also respectfully protect at this time. Regardless, I am filled with purpose and with gratitude. The remainder of last year gifted me with reconciliation, renewal, a complete house remodel completed by yours truly (I know, I gave myself a pass on the blatant overachieving here), a promotion, and a new level of goals. My mantra for 2019 was crystal clear: Level Up.
In case you were wondering which Big Thing I put on the back burner in 2017, it was this one. Communication. I am glad I waited. It makes so much more sense now. What does communication mean to me? It means effectively communicating my needs in a positive manner, by improving the value of my words, as well as my actions. It also means choosing when not to communicate and taking the time to listen. We all do far too little of that these days. It means communicating to inspire, to unify, and also to heal. It means finding new ways to learn and to share. It means continuing to share SeasonedSenses with you. The rest will reveal itself as the year unfolds, as it always does. I welcome that unknown.
SeasonedSenses was created in part by requests over the years to journal my plant-based recipes. It quickly transformed itself into a beloved coping mechanism to assuage grief; this site has become a dear friend.
I extend my utmost and heartfelt thanks to you for being a part of this little hobby of mine over the past year and hope that it brings value and inspiration to your incredibly important existence. As for the next Big Things and what they may be....stay tuned.