I was going to write about one thing before I realized the one thing is part of a bigger thing. I mean, it almost always is, so it's not a huge surprise.
The past four years have seen a tremendous amount of growth, surprises, setbacks, and more growth for me.
Just looking at the surface items I can rattle off in bullet points with no context seems pretty impressive to me.
- Baby! (on the way)
- Year two of being in a relationship, and living together, and realizing I can be in a relationship and live with someone and have it grow over time
- Watching my son grow and be kind and smart and funny and making the most of the time I have with him even though I get sad that there isn't always enough time
- New apartment
- New apartment in a city I have wanted to live in for at least 20 years, a city I love that has enough to keep me busy and engaged and is on the ocean and hits almost every check mark of where I want to be
- New job which is okay, gives me some freedom, and despite my frustrations with it at times at least has bosses and coworkers who are supportive and not dinks
- Friends, old and new and all that, but man, I wish I had more time to see them
- The love and support Leslie has gotten from my family, my friends, and our friends on the East Coast who have made her feel at home (and the continued love and support of West Coast family and friends
- Probably more stuff
Good lord, that is a busy year already and totally off the track of where I wanted to take this. You are really lucky I didn't write this as a status update and that everyone gets to ignore it, except for those bot programs from Romania who used to comment on my blogs way back when people and bots used to read blogs.
But what I originally wanted to talk about, and what has brought me some degree of inner joy, and pride even, this year are the small steps I've taken that make me feel as though I will be able to travel to the place of being the person I want to be. (Sorry, there should have been a tortured metaphor warning before that sentence.)
For years, there have been things I've wanted to do, or be, yet I've held off from doing them, or working too hard to be that person, or approached it haphazardly. I'm still far from being that person, but as I've sat here getting all reflective and shit, I've accepted that I have done things this year which show I am not afraid of the journey, and that I am walking in the right direction.
Should we go into another bullet point list?
Nahhhhh, because it really isn't a lot, but it's a start.
Really, the start has been to realize that even though I am dealing (dealing in a loving, happy way, mind you, but still dealing) with everything in the bullet list, I still need to find time to do the things that make me, me. This is best for everyone, since a miserable me is a sullen, unhappy thing indeed.
Writing. Oh, how I love to think of myself as a writer, or have loved, without always doing as much as I should to, well, write. And this year I still haven't done enough. But I have tried to put some structure on it. Since starting the new, non-married phase of my life four and a half years ago, I have seen the writing come and go, sometimes even at a decent clip. I have a stack of half-filled journals filled with embarrassing revelations (even more so than this, probably) to prove it.
Then the pattern of I say I am, I say I am, I say I am going to start organizing all these dark mutterings and half-formed thoughts and start submitting to magazines and journals and zines and all that, like I think I may have done before and I'm going to keep to at least some kind of regular schedule of writing more than once or twice a month and then throwing the journal to the back of a bookcase and forgetting about it and then buying a new journal because the only thing holding me back has been a fresh notebook, again.
So here I am, now, with something resembling a writing plan, which although in its infancy, has provided me with a structure that seems workable.
Which brings me to the tea.
The tea is related to the writing. Only because I made it so. For whatever reason, I decided to start drinking more tea this year. Maybe I'm getting too old for afternoon coffee, but I still like going out for my walks, which bring me to any of a half-dozen places in town that serve tea, often in nifty looking teapots that make it seem more like a relaxing ritual than it would be if I order a medium regular in a styrofoam cup from Dunks.
And I enjoy these rituals, the walk, the quiet, the hot tea. I bring my (manly) bag with me, with its ready supply of books, and notebooks, and pens. This is the deal I've made with myself. I love these walks. I love stopping for the tea, and relaxing, and people watching, and maybe reading my book. But I will not allow myself the tea, the ritual, unless I pull out my notebook or journal and write for thirty minutes. I shoot for five pages with some words on them, but the page count is not as important as the effort. I call these excursions my intensive mini-writers workshops. And I'll be damned if there isn't that five pages with some words on them every time. Amazingly some of the words are even good, or at least not embarrassing, or at the very least, workable into something that isn't embarrassing at a future date.
But I've done all that before, in some shape or form, even if it hasn't been as diligent or structured. The trick is the next step. It's always the next step.
This is where I reached out and asked for some help. I asked a friend, who does the writing, and the submitting, and in a very talented way, for some resources, and she sent me some resources. I know I am using them. A list of publications that can be used to find other lists of publications and so on and so forth, and there I was, one night, taking the next step, going through notebooks, finding the words that could be made or shaped into other, better words, and reviewing those few good words I've saved from the past, and reading through the lists of journals, perhaps most importantly finding in some of these journals words written by other people that simultaneously made me feel "Hey, I want to do that," and "Hey, I could do that." And I gathered and I revised and I formatted and I sent that first serious submission in years out and I filled in the spreadsheet my friend had sent me and I felt for the first time in long time that there is a structure where I can do this and it is not a series of fits and starts dragged on decade after decade.
Expanding what has been in me outward and taking steps to be who I think I can be. Trying to put structure on what have been haphazard, at best interests. Hoping I take the next step, to make me and those around me better, this is ultimately what has excited me about the past year and what I hope I continue.
At some point in the past decade I picked up a book on Buddhism, because, just because probably and I pick up a lot of books on a lot of things. Eventually I bought more books on Buddhism. I started a meditation practice that was about as consistent as my writing practice. For years, I have google searched for local Buddhist practice house temple place things and meditation practices. For years, I have never taken the step beyond bookmarking what I had found during the google searches. Several weeks ago, I took the step, and wandered (rather too loudly I was afraid as I opened the door) into a Zen practice space in Beverly. And I even went back a second time. It was a new experience, and interesting, and encouraging, and a place where I felt welcomed, even if 70 minutes of silent meditation was way longer than anything I had done before and I nearly did a face plant onto the Zen wooden floor from a leg that had fallen asleep when I stood up. I have only been a handful of times, and with baby, and work and life in general, I know I won't be, nor do I have the desire to be, taking the six month Zen Priest Silent Retreat. But I do know that I will be back. I know that at the very least it is a chance to take a step into being a part of a community, and to disconnect from the every day noise, and distraction and lights and screens and sit and just be.
Which ties into wanting to be, especially as baby is on the way, part of a community that helps and gives back. Very small steps in that this year. But every step forward is a step where I'm not standing still. I've made the decision (it's kind scary that I feel like I have to dictate things to myself) that every pay day I will make at least some small contribution to a worthwhile charity before I pay for anything else. I know that is is a meager gesture, and the next goal is to find charitable causes close to home where I can volunteer my time.
In years past, that may have seemed like a pipe dream I told myself to help me think I really am a good person. But this year, I know that is it something I can work toward, will work toward, and will achieve.
Maybe 2015 was a crappy year in the grand scheme of the outside world, filled with fear, paranoia, and hate. But I know if we all take a little time to be the people we want to be, and do the things that make us, us, we can make things at least a little better.