A word for the year. I had never really thought about it before, but this year cries out for something different. I make no apologies for how ready I was to have a new start, to put 2013 behind me. I am ready for something new.
When I saw a post from my friend Holly Barrett about choosing a word, I was intrigued and knew that this was the year to have a specific word to focus on. A word to remind me of my goals. A word to nudge me on in my procrastination-ridden life.
I spent more than a few minutes/days mulling over what my word would be. Because Holly had also given me the idea to have my word put onto a necklace, I had to find something that would fit. Literally. Some words were too long for the pendant. After weeding out the words with too many letters, or that didn’t embody the full meaning of what I was looking for, I finally settled on it. My word would be begin.
Begin again. Every day. Every minute. Every breath.
As long as we are still breathing, we are gifted with new beginnings.
But let’s be honest, taking that very first step can be the hardest. That’s why I haven’t posted on my blog in more months that I’d like to count. A minor family emergency in September got me off track, and I have failed to take that first step.
So this will be my focus this year. Beginning. Again. Over and over.
I will write that first word, take that first class, take the first step, etc. 2014 will be the year of new beginnings; a year of living with more intention than I have previously.
Even though we are in the third week of this new year, it’s never to late to begin, to make a change, to start a new habit. So here I am again, starting over but blessed to be given the grace to do so.
What about you? Where do you need to take a first, faltering step? I’d love to hear from you and maybe together we can encourage each other along the path.
My nerves were about to get the best of me. Walking into my first college class in over 13 years was beyond daunting! In a sea of 18-22 year olds, this 29 year old was feeling very out of place. Even though I had eagerly registered for my Into Journalism class, it took everything I had to walk into the class room. My nerves were at “first day of Jr. High” level.
I swallowed hard, trying to calm the butterflies in my stomach, and opened the class door. The scene that greeted me was my worst nightmare come true. I was greeted by the face of *Ellen Smith! In sheer panic I nearly ran out the door. How could that be? She was my 11th grade AP English teacher. And she did NOT like me.
Okay, so it really wasn’t Ms. Smith. But my wonderful professor, Rosemary Roberts, resembled her. It had been over 15 years since I joyfully finished my last class in junior English. And honestly, I don’t remember thinking that much about the class once it was over. But every emotion that I experienced years before came flooding back at warp speed. Papers were returned covered in red ink. Biting remarks and belittling were the norm in that class. I honestly don’t know why this particular teacher disliked me so much. And whether or not I deserved the treatment I received isn’t the point.
Both women have a gift for understanding the English language. Both women are teachers. And both women have similar features. But they had one huge difference – the way they went about their jobs. One inspired and encouraged while the other criticized and intimidated. One was pleasant, the other was crotchety. One I feared, the other I respected.
It’s no surprise that I performed much better for the teacher who inspired me. So that leads me to examine myself. How do I deal with those around me? My husband, my children, my friends and family; do I inspire or intimidate? Am I pleasant or grouchy? In all honesty I am both.
I think everyone has the ability to be both. It’s easy to casually spew criticism, blanketing those around us with seeds of self-doubt. But is it realistic to expect that anyone can always be …well, nice? It’s hard to live between the two extremes, balancing honesty with encouragement. No matter how hard, I will continue to try. More encouragement, less criticism. More inspiration, less demand. More smiling, less scowling. After all, I would hate for someone to run shrieking in terror because they saw someone who looked like me.
*Name changed to protect the grumpy.
The moment was surreal. Conversation flowed freely and laughter filled the air as Steve and I shared an order of nachos. A last minute date to a movie preview was followed by an impromptu late-night stop at Fuzzy’s Taco. As we recounted the movie we laughed so loud that other people began to stare. We were thoroughly enjoying each other’s company! In that moment, I couldn’t imagine being happier. For a moment I thought I was going to cry.
So what’s the big deal? Don’t all married couples enjoy times like this? I can’t answer for everyone, but I know that I didn’t. Stilted date nights and unmet expectations were the norm. Like being stranded on an island unnoticed by yet another passing ship, the lack of intimacy in my marriage left me disappointed and dejected. I craved a relationship where scenes like the one above occurred.
How did my marriage get from where it was to where it is? With a lot of hard work and determination! And, a lot of God!
As Steve and I began to deal with his addiction there were times I was completely overwhelmed. We both were. The issues were much deeper than just an addiction. We were actually dealing with an intimacy disorder. I wondered if we would make it. And honestly, there were times when I doubted the effort was worth it. Part of me wanted to give up because in addressing his problem I had to look in the mirror. The reflection was more wicked step-mother and less Snow White. I had to hear and own how my actions were contributing to the problem. I had to swallow my pride for the sake of my marriage. In reality, I didn’t have to – I chose to. And I am so thankful I did.
I like my husband and I respect him. We enjoy being together and don’t need other people as a buffer. I don’t worry about how to appear sad if the police were to come to my door and tell me Steve was gone. We have awesome conversations, we have a fantastic sex life, and we inspire each other to be better. We can argue and it not threaten to ruin our relationship. And most importantly, we can just be. We can sit in silence without feeling the pain of a void. We don’t have to worry about keeping up walls to protect ourselves. We have dreams and goals and without wishing time away, look forward to an empty nest.
When I think back to where we were compared to where we are, I feel like we need some kind of medal. There are moments when I want to stop and shout to everyone around, “Do you see how amazing this is?! Do you see how far my husband has come?” But really, it wasn’t just him. It was both of us. We are reaping the fruits of labor from seeds that were sown in our tears. We made it. Do you hear me? We – made – it!
How? Because we didn’t give up! If I could give one piece of advice to a version of myself 10 years younger, that would be it. “Holly, don’t give up!” I can only credit God’s abundant grace with giving me hope and helping me persevere when I could only see the end. More days that not, I thought it was over. The last time we went to counseling, my motivation was to justify divorce. Today that sentence brings tears to my eyes. If I had given up, I would have missed the absolute best years of my life. Yes, it was hard, but worth every minute. Every tear, every fit, every day that I thought I physically couldn’t bear the pain anymore was worth it.
No, things aren’t perfect. But I know that there will be many more impromptu dates, moments of laughter and cherished memories. No matter what life throws, I have faith in us. We will get through it. Together.
“You can do it! I know you can! Look, it’s only this far,” I reassure, holding my arms out to give him a reference to the horizontal distance. He shakes his head no. Despite his overwhelming desire, he can’t make his feet move. Over and over he backs up the length of the picnic table and runs only to stop cold at the end. In his heart he is jumping. In his head he doubts.
To me, it’s so easy to see that he can do it. He has easily cleared that distance many times on the ground. But up there it’s different. Up there are things to fall off, onto and through. He has all the right ingredients; beautiful blue sky, a gentle breeze blowing off the Adirondack Mountain Lake, an encouraging mom, a picnic table and a gigantic flat-topped rock. However, the tiniest speck of doubt outweighs them all.
This incident came to mind last night during a conversation with a friend. The conversation bounced here and there, but eventually turned to me and my writing, or more accurately, my lack there of. While we don’t chat often, said friend always encourages me & asks if I’ve been writing. Last night I was in a particularly open mood and confessed that I still struggle with doubt. The realization takes me down a notch and reminds me of something from my childhood; something I haven’t thought of in years.
No matter how far I’ve come, at times I am still a 10 year old girl. The one who wants everyone to listen her recording of Christmas songs, but is told no one wants to hear them. And that realization isn’t pleasant. Haven’t I gotten over it? Haven’t I paid time and money to be healthy, to be happy with whom I am? The woman I am today knows in her mind that the comments weren’t meant to do the harm they did. The mother in me knows that a large, family holiday gathering isn’t the best platform for a tape recorded recital. In my head, I understand. In my heart I am still 10, and it still hurts. I have let ancient negative thoughts paralyze me.
So I wonder. Why is it so easy to see self-doubt in other people while turning a blind eye to it in myself? When will I get over it? And then I think back to a day last summer when I watched my son finally take a deep-breathed leap, throwing his hands up in triumph. And I begin to get it. No matter how old we are or how far we have come, believing in ourselves is still a daily choice. A perfect setting and good intentions can never take the place of actually doing. When I am tempted to give in and let doubt win, I will remember the conquering smile on Griffin’s face and tell my heart to jump.