30 Days of Lists Days 1-10. A Sampling

So far I’ve been loving the 30 Days of Lists challenge. It’s forced me to sit down each night to be a little creative and write. I check my email every morning for the day’s prompt, and then spend the day thinking about (and, yes, almost making lists of) what I’m going to put on my list that night. I’ve also branched out in my craftiness, which doesn’t often extend past the kitchen. I’ll just say that after spending significant time in the scrapbooking aisle at Michael’s and Jo-Ann Fabric, I can understand how this whole creative journaling thing can be come an addiction. So much colored paper. So many stamps! All the pens and markers.

day 2

day 5

day 7

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I’ve been posting some of my lists on my Instagram and Flickr if you’d like to sort of follow along. Yesterday’s prompt got me thinking, and I wanted to write more than just my two page list.

Day 9: A Letter to My Younger Self

day 9

Dear all of my younger selves,

At 31, I hardly know it all, but I’ve learned some things that I wish I could have shared with you. Listen up. Thirty-one-year-old, self, remember this advice. Sometimes I think you forget these things. You’re not old enough to blame it on age.

1. Take good care of your hair. Find a hair stylist you like who knows how to handle curls. You go through weird phases with your hair. It only got curly in sixth or seventh grade (perhaps we call that a side effect of puberty), and you had a hard time handling it. Hair product is OK. Tying your bangs into a weird, stubby ponytail in the front of your forehead, maybe not the best hairstyle choice. Don’t let someone cut your hair into a mullet for years and years. Don’t let someone tell you that you don’t have the forehead for bangs. Please, please cut your hair more than once a year. Use nice, chemical-free products on your hair. And chop it off. It feels liberating!

2. Have more confidence in yourself. Love yourself. You are pretty amazing. You’ll go through periods where you don’t want to walk with your head high, where you don’t want to speak up for fear of sounding stupid, where you compare yourself to others. Know that you have an important opinion, that you are a fast learner, and are better at lots of things than you think. Be proud of yourself! Look at yourself in the mirror and feel good about what you see. You’ll also go through times where you wish you looked different, had straight hair, thinner thighs, a different profile, a flatter stomach. Know that your body does and will do the most amazing things for you looking just the way it does. Please, please stop wishing you looked different. Have your moments of doubt and bloatedness, but look in the mirror and be proud.

3. Heartbreak sucks. Bake bread and be patient. It’ll be worth it. All those hours you spend crying on the couch, your face buried in your dog’s fur, they’ll hurt like hell and feel like the end of the world. Know that those moments will help you to paint a clearer picture of what you truly want and deserve. They’ll make the right guy, the one who makes your heart whole, that much more special. Power through and look back and laugh.

4. Avoid the drama. Avoid it at work, in your personal life, in your family life. You still need to work on this, 31-year-old Julia. The drama will bring on panic attacks and depression, will end some relationships, which probably needed to end, and will hurt some relationships so much that you worry they’ll never recover (they will, by the way). The drama will make you say ugly things. You are not an ugly person. Avoid it.

5. Your brother may seem very different from you, but you have more in common than you think. You spend a lot of your life telling people that you and your brother are very different. He’s athletic, you’re not. He was popular in school and in a frat, you were a weird honors class kid. You will disagree with him a lot. You will even spend time not speaking. Be grateful for the chances to repair your relationship and to get to know him all over again. Cherish that. You aren’t that different in the end. There are things only a brother gets.

6. Don’t worry, your best friendships will survive distance and lots of other weird shit. Your friends live far away. They move far away. They won’t always be around to watch Dawson’s Creek, make late night Hot Pockets, and talk about nothing and everything on your couch. It’ll feel really hard, but they’ll always be a phone call or a drive or plane ride away. Talking to them will become more special and seeing them will become the highlight of your month or year. Your regularly scheduled get togethers will be much-needed breaks in crazy weeks.

7. More butter. More running. Both make you happy. You won’t remember exactly how you started cooking and baking, but once you start, don’t stop. Even when you’re tired, bake. Even when you don’t want to, chop. It’ll feel good and right. You may not think you’re a runner now, and you won’t think you’re a runner even when you start running. You are. You have really bad runs, but you have amazing ones, too. You’ll make friends through running and friendships you already have will get stronger. Don’t give up. Not even when you’ve sprained your ankle for the fifth time.

Love,
Julia

I swam. I biked. I ran.

I seldom end up where I wanted to go, but almost always end up where I needed to be. (Douglas Adams)

Triathlon? Me? Hah. No way. I don’t want to go there. I can’t go there.

Once I was all, “Runner? Me? Hah. No way. I don’t want to go there. I can’t go there.”

Once I was all, “Long distance relationships? Me? Hah. I’m done with that shit. It never ends well.”

Why not do something that scares you? Something you didn’t think you could do? Maybe it’ll end up being exactly what you were missing in your life. I can hardly imagine my life without running. I can’t imagine my life at all without Karl and the seven months of long-distance dating we went through before he moved down here. I may not have done the things I thought I would or taken the paths I imagined, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. How is it that facing your fears usually ends up being fun, empowering, amazing?

Self Love. It’s Not Weird.

photo by Karl Bolter

In the past year I’ve started reading a few new blogs by a few pretty rad ladies (The Morning Fresh and Campfire Chic). One recently made a big move across the country to do what felt right for her. Uproot your life? Sounds like a great adventure, but is it practical? The other mentions this idea called self love a lot. She does some how to get yourself motivated to blog again things and one writing topic is self love. I would read those two words and  laugh. Self love? That sounds straight out of a psychologist’s office, something you need to focus on if you’re in a dark place. I love myself, I take care of myself, I’m a happy human being.

The past six months I’ve been struggling hardcore with back pain. My mid back and shoulders are crazy tight. The chiropractor and massage therapist I see tell me to work on my posture, to be conscious of how I sit at my desk, to add 10 measly minutes into my morning and evening routines to open my chest and stretch my back. And I do, but then I don’t, and then my body becomes a wretched mess of pain for a few days, disrupting sleep.

This is not self love. This is the exact opposite of self love. This is making myself hurt because I’m not paying attention, because I’m not treating my body as it deserves and needs, even though I know better.

Self love. Now I get it. I’m not laughing anymore. It’s about being caring and aware and in tune with yourself. And how, with my brain packed full of yoga and recycling and and not eating processed foods and barefootedness, did I miss this? LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! LISTEN TO YOUR BRAIN! Maybe self love is about making time for those things that you know are good for you, physically or emotionally, about readjusting your schedule for yourself, not for someone else. Maybe it’s about taking a big, earth-shattering event and making a big and equally earth-shattering positive change in your life. For me, I think I’ll start small in building some self love routines. I’ll add them in by little bits to my days.

Maybe all I really needed was a new perspective, a quick conversation, to make me see something that I’d be staring at and scoffing at for months in a new light. Maybe that’s where this whole self love business starts, with a new perspective, even if it’s only a tiny shift, a tiny ripple.

 

Shema. Hang Ups All Up in My Head.

I’ve got this hang up when I go to Friday night services at temple. I like closing my eyes during the shema. I feel closer to myself, closer to God maybe, when I sing those most sacred words in the privacy of my own head. But that meditative, personal moment is always interrupted when I start to worry. Is everyone else opening their eyes? When should I open mine? I can’t be the only one with my eyes shut! What if I miss the moment when everyone sits down? I’ll be standing up alone. This is what the inside of my head looks like. It’s filled with what do I look like to the outside world thoughts. In a moment when I want to get in my head for some peace and introspection, I end up deep in my head filled with hang ups.

I do this a lot. What will the other runners think if I show up to an Indy Runners run, don’t know anyone, and run all by myself? What will my Facebook friends think if I post one more picture of my freaking dinner? Will the lovely couple who owns Nicey Treats think I’m nuts if I show up to their truck one more time for a dreamy popsicle? Do I look like a complete amateur when when I pull out my fancy camera and attempt to take a picture?

Of course, no one is paying that much attention. Most people are just wrapped up in their own world, because that’s just how people are. Maybe human nature to pay attention to ourselves first?

Self consciousness. I’m overcoming it. Comfort and confidence in your own skin. I started to learn how it fit on me at camp as a kid. Not comparing or worrying about looks. Every time I get on my mat in yoga I leave that farther behind. It’s about what works for me. For you. Then I’m pretty sure somehow you’ll end up looking like the best version of yourself to everyone else without even trying, without any hang ups.

On Friday night I stood in temple and sang the shema, eyes closed.

Change. Orange Bran Muffins.

Change tends to come quickly. Maybe it takes you by surprise. Lately change has been sneaking up on me.

Two weeks ago I was running in full winter gear as snow flurries fell onto my tongue. This week I’m wearing shorts and tank tops. Not together. Let’s not get too crazy. Two and a half months ago I had my heart broken. Talk about chaos. A week and a half ago I remembered why I loved the mountains and a barn filled with horses—peace. And five days ago I crossed the finish line of the Shamrock Shuffle with a new personal record and the Chicago skyline rising in front of me. I felt this overwhelming sense of luck and joy, and that feeling just hasn’t gone away yet. Change is sticking.

I once thought bran muffins were ridiculous. I worked at a coffee shop in Raleigh and we sold muffins. The bran were always left at the end of the day, and honestly I didn’t blame our customers. Why would you opt for healthy, tasteless bran when you could go the blueberry or carrot?

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Weekends. Sanctuaries.

Coming at you with a weekend.

I play music as I do things around the house on this unrushed, mostly unplanned Sunday morning. Lately I think I’ve been trying to catch the wind. Futile most likely, but for some reason I can’t seem to stop. Wind, leave me alone. Come back when you’re a pleasant breeze.

Sunday is pancake day. This morning pancakes broke me. (Sorry Joy the Baker, I cannot get your single lady pancakes to work!) In one stupid moment pancakes almost ruined my entire day. Just breathe, though, right? Turn to a favorite pancake. Funny how the same food that brought me to tears one minute, is perfectly golden and doused in maple syrup the next. Sometimes it’s good to stick to our favorites.

Sunday needs to relax, because Saturday was spent being busy. When one of your best girls is getting married in August some Saturdays are busy. Find bridesmaids dresses, have margaritas and beers, accidentally make off with diamond bracelets from my parents’ jewelry store, visit the reception location.

This is The Sanctuary on Penn.

Stained glass windows everywhere.

Even the bathrooms were lovely.

Have you ever been somewhere that just breathes a person? The Sanctuary on Penn fits my friend and her fiance perfectly in the history, the stories, the details, the scuff marks, the light, the many rooms, the leather chairs and dark wood bars, the fact that I can say bars plural.

Good luck penny floors.

Perfect. Wandering around this old church and picturing it filled with their guests was easily my favorite part of the day.

Dreams.

Dreams are funny. Where would you be if all your dreams had come true? Obviously you’d be in a million places. These things change a lot.

Ever since I started riding horses at 9 years old, I dreamed of having a horse. In middle and high school I dreamed of being a vet. My friend at the barn was going to be an Olympic rider and I’d be her vet. That dream was dashed when I realized you had to be good at math to go to vet school. Faaaack.

I dreamed of leaving Indiana for college. I wouldn’t trade those four years for any other college experience in the world. Then I had a dream of going into the Peace Corps. I was even accepted, but I chickened out. My life would be pretty dang different if I had spent the two years after college in Mongolia or eastern Europe.

I dreamed of making a permanent life in North Carolina after moving down there for a year after college. I tried so hard to find a job. I never, ever dreamed I’d be living back in my hometown, making it my home.

I dreamed that I’d marry a certain boy. That would’ve been hilarious.

I heard this song the other day on Pandora. I actually stopped what I was doing (sweeping up clouds of dog and cat hair that float around my house with reckless abandon) and had one of those “that’s it, you speak to my heart” moments with the lyrics … “Where would I be right now if all my dreams had come true? Deep down I know somehow I’d have never seen your face. This world would be a different place. Darlin, there’s no way to know which way your heart will go.” (Which Way Your Heart Will Go, Mason Jennings)

What if even one of those dreams had come true? I wouldn’t be here, making a huge pile of black and white hairs (none of which came from my head, thank you very much. I’m so not  in complete denial about my growing number of gray hairs.), that’s for sure. I wouldn’t know the faces, the important ones, in my life, at least not in the same way. Maybe I would’ve had great experiences abroad, met fantastic friends making a life in North Carolina. Hell, maybe I could’ve been a damn good vet. Funny how you take certain turns, certain dreams don’t make the cut, and that all puts you where you are now, surrounded by the people you love.

Right now, I’m pretty much living the dream. The Dream. The one I never knew I had, but that’s dang good.