Keep Moving Forward

When I began my 4(2) Days of Letting Go, I imagined that for 42 days I would write about one thing per day, finishing six weeks later with a lovely list of 42 things I could let slide off my shoulders. Life, of course, rarely follows the straightforward path I frequently imagine. Instead, the path curves in unpredictable directions, doubling back on itself, sometimes skipping up the side of a mountain or hiding irritably in a pool of mud for a while. As my 42 Days have roughly followed Lent, I should be wrapping them up sometime this week, while in reality I’ve only posted 14 up on the blog so far.

Deep breath. Today I’m letting go of the past, so I can keep moving forward.

Several years ago my mother gave me and my sister each a ten year journal. The journal has ten entries per page, one per year for a specific day. This way you can write on April the 21st of 2014 and see what you wrote on April 21st four years ago, and on this day for every year in between. My mother and my sister diligently write in their journals, scarcely missing a day. Mine looks more like a block of Swiss cheese, haphazard entries here and there and large gaping holes throughout. I actively ignore this journal on a regular basis. It squats, toad-like on my bookshelf, staring me down and reminding me that it should be gathering more than dust each day. My internal stress from the journal’s inactivity (see Day 3: Letting Go of Guilt) hunches my shoulders a bit, but I’ve found the journal imparts more stress when I try to buckle down and write in it every day than it does from its lurking on my bookshelf.

There are many reasons why – distaste from seeing the shenanigans of my life over the last several years, discomfort at seeing how lackadaisical I am at completing this seemingly simple task, and the internal pressure I place on myself to try to remember to write in the damn thing. I think the main issue with the ten year journal is every time I pick it up I am quite literally faced with how I’ve often failed at this before. I see the empty pages, scattered entries, and all the times I didn’t write in the past, which makes it more difficult to actually sit down and write today.

Did I manage my 42 days of letting go? Not according to my original plan, but I’m not giving up. I’ll keep plugging away until I complete my list of 42, and I will keep working to let these things go. five minute journalI’m hoping that by fleshing them out into longer blog posts I’ll be able to maintain my momentum and finish off the list, even if I do it at a slower pace.

Based on the recommendations of G+ friends, I’m also thinking the Five Minute Journal might be a good next step to push myself to journal daily, with each day as a new blank page ready for me to fill.

He sat down on a grassy bank and looked at the city that surrounded him, and thought, one day he would have to go home. And one day he would have to make a home to go back to. He wondered whether home was a thing that happened to a place after a while or if it was something that you found in the end, if you simply walked and waited and willed it long enough.

Neil Gaiman, American Gods

Music as a tool for letting go

I often get stuck inside my own head. Busy with questions and possible answers, fears and worries about things that will likely never come to pass, unnecessary analysis of the inner workings of my world. One way I can break myself out of this none-to-helpful cycle is with music.

Today my go to is the Chad Hollister Band – their song “The Answer” has played on repeat inside my brain and you can listen to it here. I couldn’t find a version of it on YouTube, so I also included a video of one of the Chad Hollister Band’s other songs that is equally fantastic. Enjoy 🙂

 

Book #5

american godsFrom Goodreads:

A storm is coming . . .

Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the magic day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, all he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life.

But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow’s best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A trickster and rogue, Wednesday seems to know more about Shadow than Shadow does himself.

Life as Wednesday’s bodyguard, driver, and errand boy is far more interesting and dangerous than Shadow ever imagined—it is a job that takes him on a dark and strange road trip and introduces him to a host of eccentric characters whose fates are mysteriously intertwined with his own. Along the way Shadow will learn that the past never dies; that everyone, including his beloved Laura, harbors secrets; and that dreams, totems, legends, and myths are more real than we know. Ultimately, he will discover that beneath the placid surface of everyday life a storm is brewing—an epic war for the very soul of America—and that he is standing squarely in its path.

Relevant and prescient, American Gods has been lauded for its brilliant synthesis of “mystery, satire, sex, horror, and poetic prose” (Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book World) and as a modern phantasmagoria that “distills the essence of America” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer). It is, quite simply, an outstanding work of literary imagination that will endure for generations.

Why This Book: When I put the “ask” out to my Facebook friends to help me choose my list of 42 books, this came up more than once. Given my love for Neil Gaiman’s writing both in the literary world and in the world of Doctor Who, adding this to the list was a no brainer.

Even when I began my journey across the South to look into the music that helped awaken me, I wanted to hear Van Zant’s former colleagues tell me yes, he was more politically progressive than he originally got credited for. But they didn’t tell me that, because it’s not true. Those of us who have characterized the singer as a misunderstood liberal have done so only to placate our own irrational feelings of shame for responding to the passion in his music. We do the same with the violence and misogyny of hip-hop – or the drama of a Wagner symphony. When we can’t separate the artist from the art, we make the art fit our own paradigms. Rather than accepting the art for what it is, allowing ourselves to feel it without letting it threaten our sense of self, we’re dishonest in our examination of it.

Mark Kemp, Dixie Lullaby

A Soapbox Moment

(steps up onto soapbox)

Racism still exists in this country. If you grew up in the South you’ve likely seen this firsthand in a way many white people from the Northeast just haven’t, and it’s uncomfortable to admit a similar sort of discrimination due to perceived differences exists separate from race. My parents taught me the heartfelt if simplistic notion that all people deserve equal respect because all people are the same. It took until college for me to realize that many others of my generation grew up with similarly whitewashed notions of equality and that by layering political correctness onto this flawed idea, we effectively looked down our noses at many who were different. Comfortable in our own perceived correctness, we looked down with self righteous condescension without any acknowledgement of the way we were perpetuating the same unfounded stereotypes while feeling smug in our own superiority.

(steps off soapbox)

We are all people, yes, but we are the products of our upbringing, our choices, our family, our relationships, what we read and learn, and how we respond to things. How I was taught to think, believe, speak, and behave can be changed through force of will and years of practice, but who am I to tell you that my way is the right one? Who am I to judge you based on how you experience the world? If your language is rougher, your expressions unclear, or your vehemence inexplicable, this doesn’t make your experience of the world any less valid or “correct” than mine. I have so very much more to learn, but I’m quite content to acknowledge the limitations to my understanding of the world, and keep doing one thing I do exceptionally well; keep on reading.

4(2) Days of Letting Go

2014-02-16 17.57.23Though I have a lack of empirical proof to support my theory, a vast number of my friends and acquaintances seem to be atheists and agnostics. I’m surrounded by a collection of folks to whom organized religion sounds more like a form of torture than a fun, voluntary activity.

My good friend Toni asked me to hang out after work one Wednesday and I told her I couldn’t go out because I had choir practice. Her disbelieving brows echoed the “like, church choir?” that came out of her mouth, a typical reaction I get from many of my friends when they learn I attend church on a pretty regular basis.

I’m not one of those who tosses my faith in anyone’s face – I think it’s not anyone’s business but my own – but as it applies to this post I’ll share a smidge. I was raised Episcopalian (think Catholic-lite) and as an adult I’ve tended toward attending Christian churches, usually Congregational or UCC. As a girl who frequently gets stuck narrating in her own head, church has been a way for me to pull my thinking outside of myself and feel more connected to the world around me.

Last night, I drove to my church for choir practice, and discovered that the church was holding an Ash Wednesday service, with choir practice to follow.  The pastor provided us all with a slip of paper that said “God, I pray for…” with space to write a prayer. Later in the service, the slips of paper were burned to ash and that ash combined with oil was used to make the oily ash (ashy oil?) crosses on foreheads of parishioners.

Here’s what I wrote on my slip:

I pray for the courage to forgive myself – to release myself from expectations of perfection and to really live my life.

Elissa, the pastor, (picture someone about my age, with a nose ring, who isn’t afraid to shake things up) looked around at everyone and said the next 40 days of Lent are about letting go. She said “now’s your chance to transform what holds you back.” This really hit home for me. Inspired by her words, I have decided to try something a little different. Rather than give up something like chocolate or soda for Lent, I’m going to let go of something every day for 42 days (yes, Lent is only 40 days, but how could I pass up a chance for 42?) and then check in to see how I’m feeling at the end.

Day 1: Today I let go of my fear of failure

I sometimes do things that feel like failure, and I sometimes do things that feel like success, but I am not my failures. Unfortunately, it also means I am not my successes. Letting go of the attachment to claiming successes as integral to my sense of self will free me from the reciprocal need to claim the failures as some dysfunctional aspect of myself. I am giving myself permission to fail and to really know it doesn’t define me.

I will also admit, since I started working on a post about letting go, I haven’t been able to get the song from Frozen out of my head…