Well, this year didn’t go as expected….
I jest (kinda), but really, has any year ever gone as planned? I feel like most years we find ourselves excited for something new. Just thinking to the last few years for me: 2018 was a year of intense conflict and ultimately led to some heartbreaking realizations. 2019 was a year of positive self exploration, but also some really difficult prioritizing and strained relationships.
Then we have 2020 with a global pandemic and weeks that seem to last forever. For months we thought our lives were going to be temporarily inconvenienced, but now we are coming to terms with a new reality. I think the reason it has felt so difficult (even for those of us who have kept our jobs, health, and loved ones) is because of this shared experience of fear and isolation between all of humanity.
Everyone has faced huge and difficult changes this year, but there are some silver linings. It has challenged us to be more compassionate with each other and forced us to communicate more thoughtfully, and about issues that really matter. The best we can hope for in any year is to have some moments of joy and a few good people beside us during the hard times. When I think about 2020 that way, this year has been pretty amazing. Despite all the isolation, this has not been a year where I felt lonely.
I miss the big things like not worrying about the health and safety of my loved ones, as well as strangers. I miss the personal things like travel and face to face conversations, smiling at strangers in public and hugging family, live concerts and last minute plans, but I have realized that the most important things don’t really change. The people who matter most are still my priority (kid, family, etc). I have also rediscovered my appreciation for phone calls and the postal service in the age of video conferencing. Something about physical isolation has made communication and generosity more essential as we all try to make it through unprecedented changes to our daily lives.
This year has brought a lot of difficulty—Many of us have lost loved ones, income, or set aside dreams and goals we had worked toward. As a parent, it has challenged my patience and as an American, it shined a light on the morals and integrity of the people around us. For those of us who cannot compartmentalize issues of human rights or stand by when people are being hurt, this year likely brought some stark realizations about those we considered friends. For many, it has strained relationships with family as well. But with that comes a deeper appreciation for those who make us better versions of ourselves. For the people who are willing to fight, rather than giving in.
I will forever think of this year as the one where I learned what honesty and connection really feels like. Especially given the personal challenges so many of us have had to face this year. My appreciation for the people in my life who get that parenting is really damn hard, racial injustice needs to be challenged, women should not be shamed for their body, and that friendship is about letting people know you care about their feelings but never sacrificing your integrity.
Despite the physical isolation from most people in my life, this year has been one of the most romantic in the depth of communication and understanding I have found. From late night talks and shared music to intimacy. It has brought emotional challenges and brutal honesty. It has brought longing and pragmatism. It has made me see myself in new ways and understand my worth and limits. To set boundaries and let go of perfection in exchange for real connection. This year has been hard, don’t get me wrong, but it also has made me see people more clearly and to accept life as it is. To not make excuses for our choices, but to take people at face value. This year has reminded me that while love and friendship in your 40s comes with decades of experience and baggage, if you have honesty, that’s not always a bad thing.
2020 will forever be a time in my life that pushed me to appreciate what is important. Where the game of “what if” and “if only” were replaced with finding what is and accepting that. This year I started really paying attention to what I need and asking for it. In doing so, I let go of many people I had considered friends and found my voice by speaking up for myself and others. This was easy to do with people around who offer fierce and unapologetic support. These friendships have carried me through the anxiety and difficulty of this year. If this year has seemed like a decade, the people I have gone through it with are now some of my oldest friends. I am so grateful for the lessons I have learned.
Rather than lament the loss of freedom and spontaneity, I choose to celebrate my growth with gratitude. To feel blessed for the time I have spent with those I love and who I will see on the other side of this. I have no idea what the future holds, but am looking forward to whatever comes.
I started this website and my Instagram account almost 2 years ago: about to turn 40, heartbroken, and trying to pull myself together by sharing music, poetry, and travel. I was amazed to find a community of vinyl collectors, mostly men. I talked with many about divorce and heartbreak. They said my words and posts helped. What I found was that speaking from the heart draws people to you.
Earlier this year when there was backlash on Instagram for how women posted with records, something snapped in me. Previously, my posts had included feet, the occasional shot of lace, and posts that people classified as “classy.” But, after seeing such blatant sexism get a pass, I became emboldened to express myself in ways I never thought I could.
There are some who feel sexy posts are about follows or getting male attention, that it detracts from the music.
Here’s what I think:
Men like breasts, feet, whatever (women do too!), but that doesn’t mean they are not capable of being respectful and they absolutely are looking at the record too.
A sexy post does not mean a woman doesn’t have body issues—it’s likely part of her journey. There is power in a woman owning her body and her sexuality and other women connect to that vulnerability and strength.
I have been told some people are turned off by my posts on this issue, that my tone is divisive. But we have divisions when there is a choice. We have big problems in this world and they sometimes manifest in the smallest ways. Change does too.
When women tell me how much they appreciate my pictures and what I have to say, that it inspires them in some way, I know how they feel, because I am inspired by women here too. I will always stand by a woman who chooses to share her body and own her sexuality, rather than one who will tear her down.
*I took this picture some months ago, unfiltered with no makeup. For some reason I thought it was too intimate to post, but it’s probably the most honest and happy picture I’ve taken of myself in years, so I decided it was worth sharing.
People are often surprised that I identify as an introvert, but I do not thrive in social situations and need lots of time by myself to recharge; Time that is not scheduled, where even small interactions are up to me. It is one of the reasons I love music. It really is the best company. I don’t like going into draining situations full of small talk and, while I can do it, I prefer not to. My down time is for friends and myself. But, when I decided to start a blog this past January, I was in real need of connection. Especially connections around mutual interests. I figured I may meet a couple of friends who were like minded and imagined they would be akin to pen pals.
I never expected to find so many soul mates and true friends as part of an online community. People with whom I have shared heartbreak, loss, fear, laughter, and some of the most intimate details of our lives. People who have filled my life in ways I did not know I needed and were not scared to be honest about their boundaries or desires.
The value of having people who check in on each other, who say good morning and goodnight with no expectations, is immeasurable. I never would have thought so many would be people that I would also able to throw my arms around and hug.
I started this year with a broken heart and a resolution to not let being alone hold me back from experiencing more, traveling more, and to see more music, but what I found was people all over the world (and some at home) to keep me company in airports, hotel rooms, concerts, and record stores. Last April, I took my first solo trip to a new place and lamented the loneliness I felt alone wandering around Austin. I also reflected on finding balance as I explored New York City twice (once with friends and once alone). As the year ends, I can now gush about the camaraderie I felt in Chicago and being able to have a community and good friends both there and in Portland.
I really pushed myself out of my comfort zone this year with the help of people who reminded me that life is about adventure, not escape. I mean what kind of introvert travels thousands of miles to stay with and visit people she has never met?! Someone who has learned to trust her gut. Someone who is able to trust their intuition after they thought they never could again.
Someone who realizes that it wasn’t my intuition that was off, just my timing.
This year, I let myself be broken. I still am in many ways, but I have accepted that the broken places can be beautiful and that the right people see that and accept it for what it is. This year took me all over the country, from coast to coast and many places in between. I saw three of my favorite bridges, walked across two, and found the ability to be with myself in a whole new way.
And the music. So much music. I have to say, this year has categorically sucked in lots of ways, there have been a plethora of personal challenges at home and work, but having a community of friends and strangers who remind you that the music you love is important, universal, and can hold you through the darkest times has been so unexpected. As I travel and meet people who are just as honest and amazing as I thought they were, I am so deeply appreciative.
This year will always have a big “what if” hanging over it. I will always associate it with putting myself out there for someone who crushed me, with pushing past hurt, and being reminded that the right people don’t push you away. But I am slowly coming back. I am remembering that there are all kinds of ways to have deep connections and that looking for those rare “big loves” is not the only way to find meaningful relationships. As I start a new year I am pondering what I will be able to carry with me. Is this level of self exploration sustainable? My list of places to visit now includes faces that I want to see, the space to explore without tether, and people who share my not just my interests, but a sense of humor, a passion, and building an ever expanding community.
I know still need to find better balance, but I also know that throwing myself out into the world, spending time with the people who bring me joy, taking chances that both frighten and excite me, feels right. Remembering who I am and seeing myself through fresh eyes has changed me. Honestly, I think this has been one of my biggest years for personal growth.
I still long for what could have been. Still find myself crying a few times a week (sometimes for the loss of a friend, sometimes as I process my own insecurities). However, I have faced this year with little anger and a huge capacity for compassion for even the people who caused me the most pain.
Missing people who leave, by choice or death, has helped me to remember that life is short. That we should hold on while we can. That we need to say how we feel as we feel it. That the way to be kind to others, and to ourselves, is with trust and respect. I have no regrets about the choices I made this year. As hard as things have been, I know that I was honest. That I have said what I needed to say, left doors open where I could and set boundaries out of respect for myself, not malice or fear. I let myself be open and vulnerable and hurt, and that has helped me appreciate the laughter and pleasure more. It reminded me that pain teaches us things about ourselves we could never learn otherwise. That when we reach for someone who wants to be there, they will hold our hand in times of both joy and fragility.
What will 2020 hold? Well, I hope it will be a year of transformation. That honesty and love will lead us all down a path to better understanding. That we walk through the dark and come out surrounded by others who care deeply for each other and a shared passion for what sets our souls on fire. Mostly, I hope it continues to be filled with all the love I have found this year, from the most unexpected of places, as well as the people I am lucky to call family. I hope it continues to be a beautiful mess.
So this is a bit of a different post. I have been thinking a lot about how I have changed and the process of the last few years, and I have written at length about my feelings, my struggle to be honest with myself, to remain compassionate with a broken heart, to believe and trust people after being hurt, but I have not talked about what all of that meant to me physically. Like most women my relationship with my body is difficult and unhealthy at times, and there is a lot of struggle. Sometimes it is easier to talk about how we feel in our heart, than how we feel about our bodies. Depression and weight issues have always gone hand in hand for me, whether it was a gain or a loss, my body reacts to my emotions.
A lot of this started as a kid, but I have blocked most of that out. Being a teenager was the time where I really started to be more self aware. I always grew up as the guys best friend, you know, the one that guys always want to hang out with, but never want to date because you would “ruin the friendship.” The one girls didn’t like because I often spent more time with their boyfriends than they did, even though it was usually just listening to music, playing video games, or doing dumb stuff they were not interested in. To top that, my best girlfriend was the tall model type that every guy wanted and I was 5’4” with frizzy hair. So, I developed some screwy ideas about love and sexuality and preferred to date casually, because it is easier than having your heart broken by your best friend (which happened numerous times).
When I was in my twenties, I had a fling with a close friend and when he told me he loved me my response was to tell him he didn’t and break his heart. Something I really didn’t understand that I had done until much later. I really just thought he couldn’t love me. I mean, I didn’t even love myself. I apologized to him recently, because it had been eating at me for over a decade (even after we became friends again) and it was probably one of the cruelest things I have ever done to someone I care about. I guess it was just something I didn’t see until I had my heart broken by a nice guy who was maybe just feeling unlovable too.
So, this is 40. Huh, I guess most people either say they thought it would be different or things have worked out as they planned. But, I didn’t really think about it at all until a few months ago.
Every few years I do something to acknowledge being a year older. In the last decade, I celebrated three birthdays. When I turned 30, I went out for one of the best meals of my life at my favorite restaurant in San Francisco and then wandered around before heading home with the man I would marry soon after. It was memorable and nice. I had a party for 35 because I had a small child and birthdays were a thing for her that year. I celebrated 38 because after two rough years, my divorce finalized that weekend. But, in general, birthdays have never really been a big thing for me. They are a great excuse to eat strawberry shortcake for breakfast and I like having good food, drinks, and the company of people I truly enjoy being around. But, like any introvert, being the center of attention is usually not easy or fun.
So, what do I do about turning 40? How do I feel facing a new decade? Well, I could focus on all the challenges of the last decade. My marriage ended, thankfully. I fell in love again and lost it, unfortunately. My career has completely shifted focus, successfully. My health has declined and then improved, slowly. I have lost friends, unexpectedly.
But, if I focus on the things that are part of my daily life, well that is a different story. I have family and could not be more grateful for them, especially my mother. I have lots of friends who are some of the most loving, caring, people in the world. Some I talk to daily, some every few moths or years and it feels like only a day has passed. After years of being the only girl in a group of guy friends, I have a plethora of fierce ladies who have each others backs and hold together our little community of weirdos. I have an amazing child who reminds me everyday what it is to be happy and how I need to do and be better. I like my work and have creative outlets that feed my soul.
With all of that, I also have myself. It sounds silly, but I didn’t for awhile. I lost myself in vices, in marriage, in motherhood, in depression. But, after all of that, I know who I am and I really like that person. Don’t get me wrong, things are still hard. Some days more so than others. But, I have an open heart that can stay compassionate through heartbreak and sadness, as well as love and joy. I have the world to explore and the ability to make that happen. I have the belief that if things stay the same, I will be fine. If things change, I will be fine.
I am not looking for anything but to live my life as it presents itself and not let anyone but me dictate what that looks like. I know that living for love, adventure, and passion feed my ability to show up for my daughter, my family, and my friends. I know that I can be with myself alone or in a crowd. I know that when I connect with someone new, that person is worth my love because it is a rare occurrence and they have a lot of amazing people to be compared to. I know that there are worse things than being alone. I know that love doesn’t have to fit into anyone else’s idea of what it should be. I know that loving myself is enough.
I am 40 years old and my challenges haven’t gotten me down. I still know how to enjoy travel, music, dancing, food, drinks, and falling in love. I know that the people who want to be in my life are worth cherishing and those who don’t, deserve kindness too.
Is my life perfect? No way. I struggle with easy choices. I cry all the time, out of both sadness and catharsis. I make bad decisions about what I put in my body. I have no patience and I am prone to negative snap judgements, especially with new people. I don’t let people help me when I should. I keep things to myself for too long before sharing them. I take chances and then don’t follow through. I am damaged and insecure at times. But, I love all of that stuff about myself too. It is what makes me who I am. I know I can always change if it makes living my life difficult. I believe people can change. I know I have.
So, this is 40 and it is just as it’s supposed to be.
Just your ordinary introvert exploring and writing about some of the things I love: travel, music, and being human.