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.
The season is about to change and I am feeling a deep desire for this spring to be a transition from the difficulties of the last few months. I thought I was going to spend this past weekend at a meditation retreat in Colorado, seeing what it was like to spend a weekend in my head. Instead, I spent it mourning and celebrating the life of a friend who left us too soon. I know that I cannot leave behind all of the feelings of the last few months. I still have a lot of people in my life struggling. I am struggling. But this spring I want to start looking at things differently, living the way we are supposed to live--with open hearts and big love.
So far, this year has caused me to grow in new and unexpected ways. I feel like a different person than I was a year ago, but also very different from just a few months ago. It is amazing how circumstances can change you. People often think of change or growth with a focus on altering things they don’t like about themselves: A situation you are in, your appearance, or a making a drastic or difficult choice. I have been there. But for me, at this time in my life, change comes with the ability to recognize the things I DO like about myself and accepting that the things I don’t like are okay too. I used to believe that because something was special or great at one time, it should last forever. Now, I see that some things are good simply because they are fleeting. I don’t feel easy about that, but there is something powerful in the process of letting go. In refusing to let what something was or could have been overshadow the reality that it is gone.
No matter how love is lost, you can never get it back as it was. Love and friendship are forever changed by an ending. Even if that person comes back to your life, you see them differently. Where they used to be shiny, they may now be rusted. You may now see chasms where you once saw depth. Or in the case of death, we see perfection where we once saw humanity. But we are different too: Maybe we are a little more shut off or a little more talkative. Maybe a little more protective of our hearts or a little more willing to put ourselves out there. Maybe we are a little shy or exceptionally brave. Maybe we are a little more of who they helped us to become. Through love, through pain, through loss, through joy. We are changed by how people see and treat us and the importance we decide to place on that.
As we go through big changes, we may put ourselves back together differently, but the pieces are the same. It would have been totally uncharacteristic for me to be this open with my thoughts or interests a few months ago, but damn it feels good to not be hiding all the time. Scary as hell, but good. The girl who was always a little bit of a mystery even to those closest to her is letting some things go and letting more people in. We all have outlets for how we handle change. For me, it is most obvious in the music I listen to. Music is directly associated with particular people, times, and places. It is a raw emotional connection that tells a story. I revisit good times and sad in my life through an album or song. Once a song is attached to a person, it is never not about them when I hear it.
Right now, I am consuming new music like food, reaching out for things that have no emotional connection to the past, just to the way I feel listening to it now. I am also taking a trip down memory road to the music I listened to when I was a teenager and change and angst were so palpable and I thought I had all the time in the world. As this spring is approaching there is so much about my life that is different, and I am starting to be a little hopeful. It feels so weird to have so much loss in my life and feel hope, but I don't think that we lose people to teach us despair--we can learn that on our own. When we lose people it is a reminder to hold close what really matters. To make time where you didn't think you had it. To dance and drink whiskey until late at night with people you love. To have a big cup of coffee the next morning with your best friend.
Sometimes the letting go is inevitable, but I don't let people go easily. I am having a hard time with it now. I do know that I haven't left anything important go unsaid. The people in my life now and the people I let go of, know exactly how I feel about them. I don't believe in hiding love. I think it should be big and fierce, and that there is always room for more of it in our lives. It makes us better people, better parents, better friends to love big like that. I am so deeply in love with the amazing community of friends who just show up to do what is needed and don't have to be asked. Their amazing compassion and love makes new people so hard--my standards are really high. So, as the season changes, I am hanging on to that.
May we have more joy, less loss, and figure out how to get our pieces in the right place.
The last year has been one of challenges, adventure, spontaneity, and lot of self reflection. But, as I start my fortieth year this spring, I have decided to spend more time doing the things I love and sharing them with others. I am planning at least one trip a month and going to lots and lots of concerts. I am even planning on take my first solo trip to a new place with no plan or agenda. It is all in the adventure!
While I am a mother, this blog is not focused on traveling with kids (though it is likely I will be doing some of that), it is mostly about how we can find ourselves again by jumping with two feet into the things we love--The things that feed our soul and challenge us to be better versions of ourselves. I have been blessed to have supportive family and friends who have inspired me through their own bravery to take a chance and live life with a little more wild abandon. Many of them are also concert buddies and travel companions who make my adventures so much richer for being able to share them. I couldn't be doing this without them in my life.
Moving forward you can expect to find out more about the people, places, and things I love here and on my Instagram feed. Since I have always loved to write, this is also a way for me to put my words down and hone my writing skills. I appreciate your patience and am looking forward to sharing a piece of my life with you
Just your ordinary introvert exploring and writing about some of the things I love: travel, music, and being human.