Why Are We Here?

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I think that there comes a point in every person’s life where they look up at the sky with its glorious array of diamonds and question: where did we come from and why are we here?

In my nearly 3 decades of life, I have come across multiple theories to answer that first question, and subsequently the second.  Growing up, the people I surrounded myself with firmly believed that we were created by the Christian God, and therefore our purpose in life was to serve him.  I have read of others who believe that we came from other gods, and our purpose in life is to follow those dogmas or bow to certain individuals.

Branching out from my youth, I have met people who believe that we came from a big explosion that happened in the universe by chance, and therefore we don’t really have a purpose in life.  Still other firmly believe that we are a product of an alien race and early humanoids, and our purpose is to raise our vibrations to reach what we once were.

If you know me well, you know I am the type of person who likes to KNOW.  As in, if there is a piece of information that I get wind of, I want to own that information for myself, no matter what it pertains to.  This includes the lowest forms of office gossip to the highest, most secret matters of the universe.

Yet, with all this thirst for knowledge, there comes a point where I have to admit to myself that I may NEVER know.  I may never know where we came from or who or what made us or why we are REALLY here.  Yet this does not give me an excuse to forgo my own answer to the second question: why are we here?

At the end of the day, I honestly don’t think it matters if there is a benevolent God, an Evil God, a Greek god, a Muslim god, or an alien spaceship that reveals itself to be the brains behind our existence.  Everything positive that comes out in this world has shown itself to come from one thing: pure love.

When a baby first comes into the universe, they are surrounded by nothing but love.  Even when they have nothing to offer the parents except a whole lot of sleepless nights and poopy diapers, there is still an inexplicable love that drives every decision that those parents make.

When we see the incredible creations of music, dance, song, and art, that beauty comes from a place of unadulterated love for that creative process. Songs that were written in a burst of passion for someone or something that that artist loved never fail to physically move something in our heart of hearts.

In the same vein, acts of service or sacrifice that lead to amazing results are always done out of love: love for a person, love for an organization, or love of a concept.  Onlookers can immediately tell the difference between actions propelled by love and actions propelled by any other emotion, no matter if the actions look the same from the outside.

Even in the less grandiose things of life, love always find a way to make even the smallest of moments shine brighter.  That last kiss before waving goodbye to your lover.  That hug that tightens right before your mom heads home.  That moment of beautiful silence when you’re watching the sunset with a close friend.

We as the human race have long placed a high emphasis on beauty.  Yet the most true, unadulterated beauty comes from a place of pure, unadulterated love.  When a man, wrinkled with time and experience, squeezes his love’s equally spotted hand and whispers that she is the most beautiful girl in the room.  When a flower finally blooms, and the gardener brushes the dirt off of her hands while beaming a smile that rivals the sun’s.  When a baby, wrinkled, red, and screaming to the heavens is placed in his mother’s arms and her heart leaps with happiness.  These are moments that are made truly beautiful by love.

And so in my perspective, gods, aliens, or giants be what they may: I say that our purpose in life is simply to love.

Love fiercely.  Love completely.  Love openly. Love giddily.

Choose love.  But not just any love.  Don’t choose the love of power, or the love of money, or the love of indulgence-that isn’t real love.  TRUE love comes from deep within our beings, and is multiplied when we find that true love in others.

Collect beautiful moments.  Remember that absolute beauty comes from absolute love.  And absolute love is something that every. single. person. is capable of, no matter how smart, physically strong, or experienced you are.

Regardless of how much money we spend to keep time at bay, it WILL eventually all come to an end.  And in that end, our love that we’ve spent will come back to us as a blanket that will cover our naked soul in its journey to whatever lies beyond.  How soft and thick that blanket is will always be up to the life that was lived before.

So for my money, I’m going to weave like my live depends upon it.  Because ultimately…I really think it does.

 

Fear: The Coward’s Choice

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For those of you who know me well, you know that my life is never boring.  Spending my days with pre-pubescent children and my nights flitting around to football, kickball, trivia, friends’ hangouts, beach walks, and pretty much anything but sitting on my ass watching TV makes for a full and active life.

Usually when I tell people what I’m involved in, they invariably respond with “oh my god, you’re SO busy” or “I could NOT do all of that.”  Which isn’t a lie-the first part, anyways-there is rarely a night where I can just sit and relax.  Yet I wouldn’t have it any other way.  When I observe people around me who aren’t involved in hardly any activities, their life seems so very boring and monotonous-come home, make dinner, watch TV, bed.  Every. Single. Night.

When I invite some people to participate in some of the stuff I’m involved in (mostly the sports), I’m usually hit with “ohhh, I’m not good at sports” or “I just don’t want to commit to an every week thing.”  Yet they keep their daily couch commitment with no hesitation.

If you really break it down, all of their responses are ruled by fear: fear of looking stupid, fear of being bad at something, fear of commitment.  Yet it has been proven time and time again that you have to actively choose against your fear in order to make any headway in this world.

I know I’ve written about it before but holding yourself back solely based on fear is not only stupid (unless it’s the fear of dying keeping you jumping off a building-maybe listen to that fear) but it is SO limiting.  The best decisions that I have made have been spur-of-the-moment, and I have rarely wasted time weighing the pros and cons-I just jumped.

(This, of course, does not apply to what to order for dinner–I WILL make a Venn Diagram if need be).

However, lately I have been realizing that I’ve been holding myself back subconsciously from a couple of different things based on fears that I wasn’t allowing myself to acknowledge.  One of them being taking my writing to the next level: I have several novel and screenplay ideas that I want to see come to fruition, but I have yet to take the first step in actually writing them.  Another area is dating; when I find someone I actually like/talk to for more than a week, I always hold back a part of myself juuuuust in case he doesn’t actually feel the same way.

Yet in both cases, there is no real scenario where I would lose by going balls out.  What happens if I write a book and it never sells?  Or everyone who reads it thinks it’s shitty?  Absolutely nothing.  In fact, it will if nothing else hone my skills AND I can say I’ve written a book–which is totally bad-ass.

As far as dating, what would happen if I completely allowed myself to fall for someone?  If they don’t feel the same way back, the worst that will happen is I feel crappy for a few days or maaaybe weeks and then *poof* I’ll be back to normal.

Those “reasons” are hardly enough to keep me from going for it.  And think of the payoff!  I could write the next national best seller, or have a hand in the next blockbuster movie.  I could find the love of my life and spend the rest of my days ecstatically happy.  Just going for it is the obvious choice.

So many of our fears are lions in our heads in and mice in reality.  Unless there is a real chance that someone will die or that you will lose your livelihood, you should never, ever make your decision based on fear.

Think about this: when you decide on a career, you *usually* decide based on what you enjoy doing.  If this is indeed the case, the probability of enjoying your job is quite high.  However, if you choose your career based on fear-fear of not having enough money, fear of having a ‘lower’ career, fear of going off the beaten family path-you will most likely end up hating your job and consequently most of the hours in your day.

Making a decision based on what negative things COULD happen should never enter into your reality.  Think about what you love.  Think about what makes you happy.  Think about the possibilities of POSITIVITY.

If you’re ever tempted to hold back or shy away from an opportunity or just stay in the status quo simply because of what you’re afraid might happen, take a moment to give yourself a pep talk.  We only live life once, and there may not be a second chance to face your fears.

Go forth with courage, and make it a habit to choose out of love.  Love for yourself, love for the people in your life, love for the joy of living!

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…let’s live.

Stronger Together

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Earlier this month, I was invited to “like” a blogging page on Facebook from a former roommate and two of her friends.  I had been close with this girl for a bit early on in college, but we both drifted away and haven’t had any contact since (no animosity, just life).

When I glanced through the blog prior to hitting the thumbs up (my likes are precious, can’t just give them out like candy), I was surprised by how awesome it was.  The title of the blog is ’30 Day Gals’, and the premise is in their tagline: Inspiring Growth Through 30 Day Challenges.  Their blog has been live since November, and their January challenge is to face their fears; their posts this month have been both entertaining and inspiring.

I am ashamed to admit, however, that I felt a pang of jealousy when I was browsing.  Their blog is so much cooler than mine.  Wow, that’s such an awesome concept-why didn’t I think of that?  They have more followers than me.  This is really good…dammit.  Instead of being excited for them and happy that fellow female bloggers in roughly the same genre of blogging were doing well, I was twinging on the inside with envy.

Obviously, that isn’t cool.  There is more than enough room for more than one person to be successful, and the more people who are putting out positive vibes and demonstrating a growth mindset, the better!

And so, rather than sit here and wallow in those stupid feelings, I figured I’d link all of my readers to them so that they can check it out for themselves–it IS pretty cool, otherwise my initial reaction would have been more smug.

Taking a step back from my pettiness, I wonder what would happen if more people helped elevate their “competition” rather than try to force them down?  Obviously, if this were a business setting, I wouldn’t be telling my customers to go to ‘the other guy’ down the street because he’s so awesome, but when it’s just people sharing their passions, why is it so hard to lend our weight behind someone else who is also doing wonderful things?

As I’ve mentioned before in my blog, I like to listen to Andy Frisella’s podcast off and on.  One thing that he consistently mentions is how truly successful people like to see other people succeed as well.  It’s not about just ONE person winning, it’s about EVERYONE winning.

For some reason, whether it be hidden personal insecurities or jealousy or a lack of confidence in my own abilities, I have always struggled with being happy with other people’s success.  This is not something that I am proud of in the least-I want to be one of those people who cheers the loudest when someone else wins.  I want to be the person who is the first to say a sincere congratulations.  I want to be the person who gets excited by other people’s success because it means that I can be successful, too.

There is absolutely nothing to gain by putting yourself into a box and not allowing anyone else into your space.  All you are accomplishing is blocking your own view into what could be the catalyst for your own success.  If there is anything that my 28 years have taught me, it is that there is nothing that can be achieved 100% on your own.  Even if you are the only one doing the work, there are people there to be your sounding board, or to help you relax when you need to, or to simply provide inspiration for the final push.

So many times we let pride get in the way of our progress.  I remember during my childhood and high school years, I would not like my siblings see one ounce of vulnerability; I was the eldest child and therefore the example, unbreakable, constantly strong, and never needing any sort of emotional support.  While I thought that I was doing them a favor at the time, I was actually doing us both a disservice; it is only when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable that our relationships with one another can blossom into something fruitful.

Since I have made the (slow, still on-going) switch to letting my siblings see my inner weaknesses, mistakes, and honest feelings, I feel much closer to each of them.  There is something so freeing about finally letting people see the real you, no matter what their reaction may be.  Even if they reject you, it is at least a decision made from a place of authenticity.

As John Donne famously said, “No man is an island.”  An island looks pretty and enviable from the outside, but when you get closer you can see the blowing sand and lonely palm tree struggling to cling to the semblance of being picture perfect.  Yet when that one tree finally gives way, there is no other to take its place.

If you have a network, however, you have infinite resources from which to draw when your own reserves are low.  I feel that sometimes, we don’t utilize these resources enough.  Allow yourself the luxury of crying into someone’s shoulder.  Permit yourself to ask those experiencing success for advice and help.  Grant yourself permission to share what you’re really feeling.

All in all, we are stronger when we’re pulling in the same direction; if you try to pull against someone else, you’re really just holding yourself back.  As Jack Johnson so eloquently puts it, “yeah, it’s always better when we’re together.”  There is no glory in being the person who stepped on the most bodies on their way to the top.

Celebrate everyone’s wins.  Share others’ success.  Lend a helping hand even when unasked.  To leave you with one more quote from the beloved classic High School Musical, “we’re all in this together/and it shows/when we stand/hand in hand/make our dreams come true.”

Let’s roll, Wildcats; together!

 

#Timesup: A Challenge

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“I have to ask, is your ass real?”  “Send me a pic of the magical booty” “I just really want your body” “I just want to see it”.
The above quotes are actual text messages sent to me from men either right out of the gate or after one or two dates.  It’s so common that it didn’t even occur to me to get mad about it until I told one of my friends about the latest guy, and how he wanted to “enjoy each other once or twice and then go our separate ways” after I told him that I didn’t really want to continue seeing him.  I rolled my eyes at the message and shared it for a laugh, but she got pissed.
“What the fuck!  What is wrong with men these days?  Whatever happened to a gentleman??” she fumed.  And her anger slapped me into reality.  These men could care less about me, who I am, or what I’m about.  All they see is I have a pretty face and a Kim Kardashian ass which is all they need to know to kick-start their lust and their bold messages.
The amount of talk surrounding the #metoo movement and Oprah Winfrey’s speech is sorely needed and long overdue.  To be fair, I don’t know of a woman who doesn’t appreciate a good compliment, but the amount of focus on our physical looks is complete bullshit.
I looked up a relevant definition: ob·jec·ti·fi·ca·tionnoun; the action of degrading someone to the status of a mere object.
“A mere Object”.  An OBJECT.  Non-human.  Non-living.  Non-worthy.  Most of all, replaceable.

We women have talked about stuff like this in the comfort of our small, intimate circles for forever.  “Oh my god, I got whistled at again when I walked by the gas station.”  “He totally grabbed my ass when we hugged” “I don’t really feel comfortable, but it’s my job so I can’t really say anything.”   It’s become a rite of passage; when did you first feel like the subject of a man’s desire?

And as much as it pains me to admit it, woman exacerbate the problem.  I can’t even count the amount of times I scroll through Instagram and see booty pics, cleavage shots, and suggestive eye winks staring me in the face.  I myself been guilty of choosing pictures to post solely based on the fact that I know my body looks good.

I don’t think that woman should have to hide their bodies, not by a long shot.  But there is a difference between classily showcasing your hard work and raunchily baring juuuuust enough where men feel confident sliding into your DM’s, knowing that they won’t be rebuffed.

Where has respect for ourselves gone?  I know without a doubt that the reason that so many men take the objectification route is because a lot of the time, it works.  I used to be the girl that thought she had to comply with whatever a man said just so that they would like me.  I found out the hard way, though, that once you give in, they simply move on.

Girls who give in have, sadly, become a dime a dozen.  And it’s not just because the amount of ‘easy’ woman have risen; how can we expect a girl to grow up knowing her worth when the only examples of men she has around her are the root cause of the problem?  When her dad is physically or mentally absent?  When she has 5 other half-siblings from 3 different women? When every other woman around her sees the objectification as status quo or worse, as a badge of honor??

As a gender, we need to give each other the strength to take a stand and demand the respect that any human deserves.  We need to applaud woman who have the courage to post makeup free and truly candid shots where their thighs might be squished or their face might be on their ‘bad side’.  We need to focus our comments more on how amazing their personality is or how awesome it is that they are helping out at home while their mom is recovering or how cool it is that they choose not to drink because it’s healthy.

Even typing out the above paragraph felt cheesy.  “Hurdy hur, I’m telling people to focus on inner beauty, I’m a nerd”.  THAT is how much sexualization has penetrated our inner selves–I can’t even urge my readers to focus on better things without feeling weird about it.  And that is exactly why all of this bullshit HAS to change.

And so, I have a challenge for myself, and a challenge for you:

Stop focusing so much on your body.  I know that you do.  There has not been one day that has gone by in the last 15 years where I have not had a negative thought about my body as a whole or in part.  Not ONE.  Where on earth has this thought pattern gotten me?  A rollercoaster of weight loss and weight gain, and even at my skinniest I never once was satisfied.  Focusing on your health and wellness and FEELING AMAZING should be where your focus is laser-pointed; the physical part will simply naturally follow.

Stop complimenting only the physical.  It’s so easy to do: “Nice boots!” “Omg I LOVE your haircut!” “You look so cute today!”.  These comments never fail to give a little ego boost, to be sure.  Yet how awesome is it if you hear something like “Wow, you are a really awesome mother.” “I really appreciated your help today, you made my morning so much less stressful.”  “I love how patient you are-you inspire me!”.

Stop comparing your body with others’.  This has become widespread with the rise of social media.  This girl’s bum is wayyyy more toned.  This girl’s hair is SO BOUNCY.  This girl’s stomach is so freakin’ flat.  But fast forward 50 years, and we are all going to be in the same state: wrinkled, grey, and playing Parcheesi with our fellow retired neighbors in our Florida condo.  Let’s seriously…SERIOUSLY…stop this bullshit.  It serves zero purpose.

Our bodies and our minds should both be at their healthiest state the majority of the time.  And when our inner self is full of positivity, the negativity from the world seems to have less of a hold on us.  The final step is to share that positivity with others, regardless of what might be thrown our way.  If WE start spreading how awesome we are rather than how sexy we are, the world will take notice.

Be positive.  Be helpful.  Be healthy.  Be YOU.  Inspire others to be the same.  And most of all, know that #timesup will continue to manifest into reality only if we relentlessly show that it is a valid movement.

Let’s do this!

 

The Paradox of “Breaks”

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As I prepared to write this post, I commented to my friend that “I don’t even know what I want to write about…I’m mentally exhausted.” And then, with a self-deprecating tone, followed up with: “…..from break.  I’m mentally exhausted from winter break.  What the fuck.”

It sounds ridiculous.  Yet it’s very true–I have had two glorious weeks off of my routine; gallivanting around during the weekdays, visiting friends, indulging in way too many adult beverages, sleeping in past 6am EVERY day, and generally being the most productively unproductive that I could be each and every day.

I know for an absolute fact, however, that I could not live my Winter Break lifestyle on a regular basis.  Don’t get me wrong, it was amazing to be able to do whatever I wanted for the last fortnight, but there is a part of me that is really excited to get back to my routine.

And the thing is, the very word “break” conotates that it is temporary.  If you are ‘breaking’, you are not fully stopping whatever journey you are on, you are simply taking a pause.

Taking a break from the regular makes you appreciate the day-to-day sameness that much more.  Right now, I am actually looking forward to get my gym time in at 5am every day.  I’m looking forward to my football and kickball games in the evenings.  I’m looking forward to having the school day structure when I can eat and (more importantly) when I can’t.

Before break, the routine was good, but it was getting old, which is why it’s so important to take the chances you get to go completely off-book: it helps you appreciate the playwright’s genius that much more.

It makes me curious, though, why having complete freedom for an extended period of time leaves you feeling crappier than restricted freedom?  Being held to a certain schedule, in theory, would be more aggravating than being able to choose from limitless options every minute of the day, yet I can say with certainty that it is not.

Personally, I think that routine is not the enemy, and is in fact our greatest asset.  I highly doubt any person who has accomplished anything of note wakes up every day and chooses their schedule willy-nilly.  The times that I have been most successful are when I had a strict routine and was actually pretty busy with multiple things in my life.  As the saying goes “if you want something done, give it to a busy person.”

More evidence for this fact comes from this break; I had a list of 3 major things I wanted to cross off my list because I had SO MUCH free time.  Guess how many of them I got done?  If you guessed all of them, you would be off by three. *slow head shaking*

However, I am actually glad that I was unproductive over winter recess, as I feel like it truly allowed me to actually TAKE. A. BREAK. and give my brain a chance to rest.  Now that I am staring down the barrel of a regular, routine-filled week, I am excited to fit in more of my goal-oriented tasks along with my must-do’s; it doesn’t feel forced, and it doesn’t feel overwhelming.  I’m good to go.

On a related note, I’ve also been thinking a lot about resting on a more minor, daily scale.  Purposeful breaks like meditation, reflection, mental preparation.  There are many times when I have 10 or 20 minutes here or there, and instead of viewing it as time I could use productively, I simply scroll through my Instagram, catch up on Facebook, or mindlessly swipe on Bumble.  Those things may be a ‘break’ in theory, and they are definitely not bad some of the time, but they should not be the go-to’s.

It is so important to give our minds a productive respite when we get really busy.  It’s easy to run on ambition for days or even weeks at a time, but to make continual, steady progress it is critical to refuel.

For some reason, however, it is quite hard to take these long and/or short breaks without feeling guilty if you are a person who prides themself on being productive.  It took me almost all of winter break to relax into the idea that it was ok to watch TV for the night, or to sleep in until 8, or to just go on a run instead of driving to the gym.  Yet because I did finally embrace it, I got to actually enjoy it AND I’m excited to start up the grind again.

There is no shame in shoving everything to the back burner for a period of time (key word: ‘period of’, not, ‘the rest of’).  If you get the opportunity to do so, sink into it wholeheartedly.  And if you aren’t lucky enough to be a teacher, make sure that you are taking your vacation days seriously as well as building in other breaks into your week so that you can fully take advantage of the days that you have to be ON with a full throttle.

In a nutshell, milk every part of life for everything it’s got; be FULLY lazy when you can be, be FULLY engaged when you need to be, be FULLY productive when you should be, and be FULLY happy in every moment.  We are only given so many minutes in a day, and while there is no magic ratio of how to spend them on certain tasks, make sure that you get the most out of each one.

 

2017 Reflections

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This, my 79th blog post, will be the last addition to the blog in 2017.  It’s hard to believe that I started this blog a full YEAR ago, publishing my first 432 words on January 2nd, 2017. As I was re-reading that first post, “The Optimization Operation“, I was struck by how much my simple site has evolved over the past year.

Since its inception, this project of mine has gone from “The Optimization Operation” to simply “Hannah Elizabeth.”  I’ve gone from 500 word posts to a standard 1000 words.  I have attended the BlogHer conference and gained a lot of interesting and useful knowledge.  My struggle for two weekly updates has settled into one.  My posts have been viewed as little as 8 times and as much as 165 times.  I’ve gained 71 followers.  I’ve received numerous compliments on my writing. Most of all, I’ve created something that I’m proud of.

When I first started this blog, I was determined to change my life around at a rapid-fire pace.  The idea of “optimization” seemed like something that would be noble to strive for, kicking me into high gear as I raced towards this always-out-of-reach goal of greatness.

However, it has morphed into more of a reflection space, a place where I can sort out what I think about certain things in my life and in the world, and hopefully help other people sort out what they think too.

As I look back on where I started the year, I’m honestly a little bit disappointed at where I ended up.  I feel like my projections of grandeur have dissolved into simple, ordinary life with no proof of concept.  I reached for the moon, and when I missed, I plummeted past the stars and slammed into Arkansas, and then built a hut and lived there whilst muttering about how the stars don’t shine that brightly anyways.

A bit of an exaggeration to be sure, but after re-reading how fresh and eager I was at the beginning of the year, I can’t help but be a bit disappointed in what little results I feel that I’ve produced.

A couple of days ago, I sat down with my notebook and wrote notes on every aspect of my life—teaching, fitness, dating, personal—and thought about what I have done well and what I have sucked at.  What I realized is, that this sort of activity should take place at least once a week because HOLY COW it was incredibly useful.

It’s amazing to me how much we put off creating habits that will benefit us.  Hmmm, I have ten minutes to spare…I could think about my day and pre-think through some things, or I can just scroll through Instagram…yeah, I need to catch up on puppy memes.  I find myself mindlessly doing shit like that ALL. THE. TIME.  And honestly, it’s not even a struggle because the thought of being productive for a spare 10-20 minutes doesn’t even usually cross my mind.  Which is completely sad…and completely normal for most people in the world.

Even though I am not religious anymore, as I try to steer myself towards a place of productivity and growth, I can see the benefits of religious practices: finding a daily quiet place for reflection and prayer/meditation, focusing on things of a higher nature both morning and night, living for a higher purpose….all of these things lead to a deep, calming centeredness and sure, steady steps towards the end goal.

With the realization that you cannot keep your engine turbo charged at all times without stopping to clean and rest and rebuild, my focus moving towards 2018 is going to be one of deliberate reflection, renewal, and movement:

  1. I will meditate for 10 minutes a day.
  2. I will set aside time every week for reflection on all aspects of my life.
  3. I will create a mantra for myself that I put on my bathroom mirror and repeat every morning and every night.
  4. I will take the time to create a vision board.
  5. I will utilize the Power List created by Andy Frisella (if you don’t listen to his podcast, check it out!)

This list contains only 5 things.  But they are ALL new habits.  And as easy as bad habits are to form, good habits are like sparks if you don’t have the proper plan: bright for a second and vanishing fast.

And so, I need a plan:

  1. Meditation:  I will set a reminder on my phone at 4pm, the time I usually arrive home from school.  I will do my utmost to not allow myself to do anything else until I have meditated.
  2. Reflection.  I will write this into my calendar (which I use on a daily basis).  I will also purchase a notebook to be used only for these weekly reflections.
  3. Mantra: I will put time and thought into creating these words that I will tell myself.  They will be put on the mirror where my face usually goes when I open the door.
  4. Vision Board:  I will go to Barnes and Noble and purchase several magazines that contain the message I want to send myself.  I will pin them to the bulletin board I already own.
  5. Power List:  Starting January first (basic, I know), I will utilize my reflection notebook for creating my daily power lists.  I will also put the first three items from this list onto my power list until they become habits.

If you notice, my plan for action includes things that will ENCOURAGE and make it EASIER for me to complete these daily habits.  They are in no way a GUARANTEE of success.  What this means is that it all comes down to me.  How bad do I want to improve?  How much do I want to succeed?  How many times am I willing to fail and give it another try tomorrow?  How long am I willing to struggle with it until it becomes easy?

There is no one path to success.  We are all just trying to figure it out, one messy step at a time.  But the armies who have a plan ultimately triumph over fools who grab a torch and run screaming into battle.

Last year, I was the fool.  This year, I will be the victor.

What about you?

What is Love? (Baby, Don’t Hurt Me)

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Currently, it is 10:30am on Christmas morning and I am sitting in my apartment, alone, preparing to write a blog post about love.  #situationalirony (yes, there are different types of irony–go look it up).

I thought that I wouldn’t mind being alone for Christmas–and technically, I’m not.  I just got back from breakfast with a former student and her mom, I’m have Christmas lunch with my friend and HER mom, and I’m eating dinner with on of the girls I met through football—so pretty much the opposite of alone.

But even with my full schedule, I still feel, well, ALONE.  I absolutely love all of my connections that I have made in California, but I nonetheless feel at times like I am sitting on the sidelines and watching people live rather than fully participating in the life that I have envisioned for myself.

Obviously, holidays can suck for single people such as myself simply because of that reason–seemingly every other person is posting adorable pictures with their significant other, or hilarious family moments, or innocent-yet-enviable posts of holiday cheer.  Even though I am very happy with nearly everything in my life just the way it is, I still have felt a twinge of “I want that” with nearly every scroll for the past couple of days.

Which, of course, leads me to contemplate WHY.  Why is this something that I envy?  Why do I feel that rush of impatience?

Especially since I could, with recent events, potentially have that.

This potential comes in the form of a former NFL player who I recently met on Bumble during one of my “lets reinstall this because I’m bored” forays at the car dealership.  I have seen him several times over the past couple of weeks, and on paper, he seems perfect: former glamorous career (Superbowl ring and all), great current job, tall, muscular, plays piano, gentleman, world traveler, loves adventures, and on and on.  The cherry on top?  He is head over heels for me and thinks that I am the hottest, most amazing girl he’s ever dated and can’t wait for any time we spend together.

Perfection.

Or so it SHOULD be.  For some reason unbeknownst to me, I am not quite following his headlong charge in Loveland.  My girlfriends think I’m crazy, and this whole internal waffling back and forth has caused me to do some serious soul-searching and head-scratching over the past couple of days.  Why on EARTH am I not allowing myself to get swept away?  What is wrong with me that I can’t be thanking the universe for sending me the man I’ve always wanted?

After a lot of thinking, I’ve realized that it’s “the spark”.  The magical, elusive, stereotypical flutters that appear in cartoons as floating hearts and romantic comedies as gigantic smiles and last minute airport chases.  In this man, I have everything I would ever want….except, so far, that spark.

I was talking to my friend briefly about it, and she pointed out that I could always grow to love this guy and that my relationship with him would be very safe-and that I want a man who chooses to pursue me.  All very well and good.

But there’s a part of me, deep down, that digs in my heels.  As much as I want to be pursued and adored, I want it to happen with a guy that I ALSO want to pursue and adore.

In my last relationship, I had a gigantic smile stretched across my face every. single. time I was driving down to see him.  The moment I knocked on the door, giant butterflies burst from my chest and flew wildly around from the anticipation of the lock click and hinge creak as the door opened to reveal my favorite person.

And the thing is, on paper, this person was completely wrong for me.  Always busy, focused on his own thing, hardly any time to spend with me, made me question his feelings for the first half of our relationship, never paid a dime over his half when we went on ‘dates’, and overall was kind of a douche in several different aspects of our relationship.

And yet….those damn butterflies.

And so, I find myself being pulled in two completely different directions.  One side of me is shaking its head that I would even CONSIDER leaving someone so seemingly perfect-because realistically, those butterflies still have time to manifest–the relationship is still quite new.  And the other side…the other side is digging in its heels and screaming bloody murder at the thought of settling for anything less than an explosion.

What sucks is, I know that there is no right answer for everyone…there is only the right answer for me.  There are several marriages that are built on solid ground where the only sparks that fly are on the Fourth of July.  And there are other relationships where you can hardly stand next to the couple because they give off so much heat.  Both types seem happy in their own way.

As I approach my 30’s at a seemingly breakneck speed, I feel more and more pressure to chose the path of least resistance.  Stay the course.  Choose safety.  Stay boring.

Yet I’ve always been a stubborn, headstrong, don’t-tell-me-what-the-fuck-to-do type of girl.  And I have an inner voice telling me that the path more trodden is just not my path.

Robert Frost tells us that the road less traveled makes all the difference.  So many people nod sagely at the Greats when they tell us to be daring, be bold, seize the day!  Yet when it comes to actually doing so, throats are cleared, feet shift uncomfortably, and no one actually makes a move.

I refuse to settle for less than the heart pounding, grinning, jump-into-his-arms-and-wrap-my-legs-around-his-waist love.  I have to believe I can find that with someone who also offers the other qualities as well.  Maybe the guy I’m seeing now will call up some butterflies if I give him a chance.  And if at the end of the day I don’t end up finding that?  I suppose I’ll have a lot of fun looking.

Merry Christmas, everyone!