L is for Love

L

It seems that I’m becoming more comfortable with embracing challenges these days. With that in mind, I’m embracing the A-to-Z Blogging challenge, by writing about the things that I most closely associate with being alive, when I show up and engage with life as fully as possible.

And with that, I give you:

LOVE

I have to be honest. I don’t want to write on this topic. I came so close to changing it for something less dangerous like, oh I don’t know “Lions” or “Large Angry Carnivores (see ‘Lions’)” or “Lethal Weapons” or maybe even “Landmine Removal”. Anything but this one topic that can reduce me to cowering in the fetal position in a corner, sucking my thumb, and muttering incoherently.

I don’t do “love” well. I’ve written before about my hope to be brave enough to be vulnerable. I wish I could tell you that I have made significant progress in the last two years, but the truth is for every step forward I take, I seem to take two or three back. Sometimes I wonder if I am one of those who are doomed forever to stand on the outside, looking in.

And yet. . . . And yet.

My friends are still here, still as tenacious as ever, still loving me when I can’t find it within me to love myself, still believing in me, still refusing to let me believe the lie that I am, somehow, unlovable. But I still don’t make it easy for them and I don’t completely understand why.

I have blown up, materially damaged and otherwise ruined enough relationships across the spectrum to finally get that romance is going to have to take me completely by surprise. It seems that I am hell-bent on sabotaging myself and then I turn into something I’m not. The collateral damage is heartbreaking and so not worth it.

But even there, in the brief window between trying out that four-letter “L” word and the onset of panic, there is a moment, a taste of something extraordinary. A hope that one day I can say the words and not feel the need to escape or to destroy, a dream that one day I will be able to stand my ground and let love be whatever it’s going to be. At times like that, I hold on tightly to what C.S. Lewis said on the subject:

“Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

I don’t have a choice, you see, but to allow myself to flirt with the danger, to engage in every way possible, to open up and see if this time my heart is brave enough for this “love” thing. And if it isn’t? Then I’m hoping that I can stand to let it hurt until it heals, stronger than it was before and willing to risk it all again. And isn’t that what engaging with life is all about?

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F is for Friendship

F

It seems that I’m becoming more comfortable with embracing challenges these days. With that in mind, I’m embracing the A-to-Z Blogging challenge, by writing about the things that I most closely associate with being alive, when I show up and engage with life as fully as possible.

And with that, I give you:

FRIENDSHIP

Oh, friendship. I could write VOLUMES on this subject alone, so where do I start? Let’s start here: I come from a very small family. I’m an only child. My mother is an only child. My father had one brother from whom he was estranged and I only saw him maybe a handful of times before he died when I was in High School. I have two first cousins that I don’t really hear from and their mother died several years ago. We had to learn of her passing by way of my father’s hometown paper. No one bothered to tell us.

I have always maintained we have two families: the one we’re born into, and the one we choose for ourselves. The biological family is a little bit of a crap shoot, but the family we choose? Oh, that’s another matter entirely. I have called my best friend, “Sis” for years. She couldn’t be closer to me if we were blood kin. Her kids call me “Aunt Carryl” and my mother “G-Ma.” I am so proud of those kids. I have friends who have known me since I was barely a toddler and they will always be “Aunt” and “Uncle” to me.

Through the My 500 Words community, I have made friends who mean so much to me, I would as soon cut off my right arm as hurt any of them. They make me laugh. They make me think. They call me out when I start believing my own BS. They encourage me in ways big and small. I feel like I’ve known them my entire life and – GAD! Has it really only been a little over a year???????

I laugh harder with my friends than I ever thought imaginable and I have cried more with them than I ever thought imaginable. I have taken on challenges that never would have crossed my mind and I have faced my own fears. I’ve confronted uncomfortable truths because of them and they have helped me discover a strength I always doubted I had.

I don’t claim to be a perfect friend, or even a very good one. I fumble a lot and I say things that are, shall we say, less than helpful – I can be surprisingly inarticulate and ham-handed at times, especially when I’m trying to figure out what on earth is going on with me. I’m grateful that they overlook my bumbling efforts at connection and fellowship. It ain’t always easy being my friend and I know that full well.

It is my friends who get me through the hard times, through the pain and the soul-searching. It is my friends I turn to when I need good counsel, or even just the recipe for a good adult beverage. It is my friends who throw me the lifeline when everything feels completely out of control and overwhelming. To my friends near and far, for the laughter and the tears, for the shared scotch and the honesty, for the spoon commentary, for the good conversation and the goofiness, for letting me walk alongside you and for holding my hair while I figuratively (and sometimes literally) threw up: Thank you. You have blessed my life in ways you cannot even begin to imagine.

 “The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it.”
– Hubert H. Humphrey

A Year with My 500 Words

My 500 - The First Year

It began with a tweet on January 4th from Keith Jennings, a marketing strategist and blogger that I have followed off and on for a couple of years. Any writers looking for accountability and a challenge were encouraged to visit Jeff Goins’ website for more details. I had subscribed to Jeff’s blog for quite some time, but for whatever reason, I had not read him as often as once I had. It seemed like this was a good opportunity to reacquaint myself with Mr. Goins, and so I headed off to his website.

The challenge seemed simple enough: Write a minimum of 500 words a day, every day, for the entire month of January. The content was up to the individual but if anyone were looking for an idea, a new prompt would be posted each day onto the “My 500 Words” Facebook page. We were to post our word count daily and, if we wanted, we could share what we had written that day. Jeff added me the same day I signed up and I thought “I can do anything for 27 days”.

The discipline was excruciating at times. The time I couldn’t think of anything to write and so decided to write as many song titles as I could remember (it’s amazing how many one- or two-word song titles there are). The next time I couldn’t think of anything to write and decided to write my own name 500 times. The multiple times when schedules or my own resistance (or Resistance, as Mr. Pressfield might say) meant I was sitting down to my laptop at 11:30PM and me with a 4:30AM wake-up call for work. But I learned and my writing muscles got stronger.

And then the end of the month came, and the idea of saying “Farewell” to my new friends had become inconceivable. The group continued on and so did I, encouraging where I could, writing almost every day, even when I went to Sturgis for Bike Week (Hey, you try writing by head lamp at 10:30 at night after being on a motorcycle for 200 – 300 miles). I went to Camp (NaNoWriMo) for the first time and met my goal and then I tackled the Big One: NaNoWriMo in November. I fell far short of the 50,000 word target, but found a victory even in the failure: I had learned to course correct in midstream and the 37,000 words I ended up with were 37,000 more than what I had started with.

Through the year, I have cried and laughed with many of the My 500 clan. We have celebrated book publications and the realization of dreams, we have said painful goodbyes, and joyous welcomes. We have encouraged one another, dared one another, found kindred spirits, found voices, and lost some of our fears. We have redefined “success” and, more importantly, took a very sharp ax to our notions of “failure.” Speaking only for myself, I have discovered a sense of (word) play that I thought had long been lost and have felt the first pangs that tell me the dreams I once flirted with a long time ago have not given up on me

So what lies ahead in 2015? Who knows? All I know is that it’s going to be a great adventure and one I’m looking forward to sharing with my clan, those of us who continue to commit to writing 500 words a day. Sorry ya’ll, you’re not getting rid of me any time soon!

Blog hop: Here are some of my fellow “My 500 Words” travelers.  Give them a visit.  I know they have a lot to say:

Linzé Brandon at Butterfly on a Broomstick
Vanessa Wright at Humouring the dark
Stella Myers at Stella’s Starshine
Amy Bovaird‪ at Amy’s Adventures
Crystal Thieringer at Muse and Meander
‪Roslyn Prior at Pushing the Bruise
Becky Williams Waters at A Novel Creation
Laura Hile at For the Love of Storytelling
Tonia Hurst at The Vast and Inscrutable Imponderabilities of Life