Contentment

...now browsing by category

 

Bouncing back and living forward

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

It is a truth universally acknowledged that we can’t always date who we want.

I’ve been both the rejector and the rejectee – and even if it’s mutual, it’s still the pits. Blame it on timing or distance or one person deciding that they’re just not that into the other; whatever the circumstance, love can knock the wind out of you.

I’ve grown really hesitant about writing about singleness online, mostly because sometimes it brings up some well-meaning but largely unhelpful responses (not from YOU, my compassionate friends. But from The Others). For example:

  • Love will find you when you’re not looking. I would wager that 95% of couples I know were “looking” when they found each other – cab light on, antenna up, and putting out the vibe.
  • Just be content with God alone – then he’ll bring you a husband. As if marriage is a reward for the very most devoted. Super lame formula.
  • Maybe you should try online dating. It’s 2015 – of course I’ve tried online dating! A bunch of times. And while I know plenty of people who have had great success with it, I hate online dating more than I hate pickles, which is a lot, which is why I don’t do it anymore. It just doesn’t jive with me. If this decreases my “odds,” so be it.
  • I can’t understand why you’re single. While I know this is usually meant as an encouragement, it insinuates that there must be a “reason” I’m single. What if there’s no reason, except that I am? I can’t give a reason.
  • You should enjoy this time. I am enjoying this time. I am traveling, spending and giving money the way I deem best, investing in friends both male and female, pursuing some passions, learning, moving where and when I want to, and reveling in the delicious silence of living alone. Silence is a gift. Someday when babies are screaming and – God forbid – Caillou is blaring, I will shoot up my veins with the stored silence of these quiet days. I am taking full advantage of this relatively uncomplicated life and living well, as best as I know how.
  • You’re just too intimidating. I can’t tell if that’s an insult or a compliment, but either way, I am drawn to men with guts.
  • Here’s a rough one: Pity.
  • And finally, my favorite flurry of contradictions: You should flirt. You should play hard to get. Stop being picky. Keep your standards high. Look for a guy at church. Look for a guy at a bar. Look for a guy on the top of a mountain. Put yourself out there. Just pray about it. Try harder. Just stop trying.

May I gently suggest some alternative things to say to a friend who happens to be single and hopes to someday not be?

  • I think you’re a catch. That is, if you really do think that. If the person is a schmuck, well, I suppose you’re allowed to say that too.
  • I’m sorry that this feels hard today. Regardless of one’s relationship status, I think we can all agree that some days are great and some days suck.
  • I am so hopeful. This one is especially good when the other person is tired of hoping. I’ve found it really nice to occasionally let someone else carry the hope for me, like a really huge backpack, until I know I can take it back.
  • You’re doing a good job. Period.

These days, I can honestly say that most of the time, being single doesn’t make me sad – because in so many ways, I love it! Even when I experience false starts. When the guy I’d been on three dates with and decided that I really liked texted me when I was at Home Depot to say he thought we should just be friends, or another guy called me before a first date to tell me that God had told him not to take me out (?), or even in the wake of a recent romantic bummer, I’m bouncing back and living forward – which is the healthiest thing to do, no matter if one is single, dating, or married.

We can’t always date who we want. We can’t engineer our lives to manipulate our futures. We can’t speed up time, and we can’t predict what’s going to happen next. We can’t control another person. We can’t “If You Build It, They Will Come” love – unless you are building a brewery.

But we can still choose to be happy. And I’m getting pretty good at the choosing.

1927641_519565090660_790_n

Give a Hoot in 2015

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

I have a confession to make. I didn’t end 2014 well.

I spent the last three months of the year lost in my own head, unable to focus on anything or anyone except myself. Some stressful situations got the best of me – and while my circumstances were certainly worthy of some level of anxiety, I allowed the undertow to take me down. My work suffered. My relationships suffered. I disengaged from everyone and isolated myself and got really hell-bent on being able to control my tiny little kingdom, Foxy my only serf.

Basically, I became a total head case. My mental health took a nosedive straight into the gutter (where, awesome, someone barfed the night before).

For the past few weeks, I have been playing a game of chicken with some big decisions, ones that have the potential to change a lot about what my life looks like. Change always appeals to me until it’s actually happening, at which point I find myself wanting to pull the emergency brake – so I’ve been especially bipolar these days. One moment I’m hoisting my war stick and yelling “CHAAAAARGE” – and the next I’m drinking herbal tea, coming to my overly sensible senses and wondering if I have any guts at all.

This is the time of year when we Type As of the world tend to make resolutions (or for the relaxed, intentions – ha, amateurs). And in the aftermath of the last few months, a season in which I’ve felt helter-skelter and utterly jumbled, I find myself wanting to fix everything. I want to get my life back on track by committing to be ALL THAT I CAN BE in every single way – an idea that already has me exhausted.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who struggles with the fear that my life isn’t going to matter UNTIL. Until I get myself together. Until I do something noteworthy. Until I have more time. Until I save more money. Until I achieve that one very important thing. Until I move somewhere else. Until everything is different. (Who’s with me?) For the last several months, I’ve been acting like my life is insignificant, discontent with everything because I haven’t reached UNTIL.

I want my life to matter. But I forget that it already does.

And in case you need the reminder too, here it is: we are not better people for what we achieve and we are not worse for what we don’t. All of the fullness of life is available to us right now, right where we are, and regardless of where we are not. I firmly believe that each of us were set in our spots and in this time on purpose and for a purpose – and that’s the truth no matter how “together” we are, or if we’re any closer to UNTIL.

Right here, right now, it’s time for Hootenannie to give a hoot.

Stay tuned for what I mean.

Annie-5_edit

More

Monday, September 29th, 2014

“Do you find the tension between seeking contentment and desiring more, difficult? I do, certainly.”

Those were the closing lines of an email I received last week from a woman who has lived more life than I – and just like that, she so concisely distilled my entire life’s dilemma. Perhaps you relate?

Contentment in its truest form is a beautiful thing, and worth cultivating. But personally, I can easily confuse contentment with complacency – an artificial version of “satisfaction,” keeping my dreams and desires in the OFF position.

Contentment should never be at the risk of betraying one’s heart.

I used to feel a little sheepish that I (still) love the song “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid – but not anymore. Why shouldn’t I love it? The lyricist, Howard Ashman*, perfectly articulates the honest acknowledgement of restless desire, regardless of how much one has – which is actually quite profound.

I want more.

When’s it my turn?

Contentment and wanting more seem to be in direct opposition of each other – and like my friend Joey recently said, “I think that for some people, it’s honestly just harder to be happy.” And if it hadn’t been 10 in the morning, we would have clinked whiskey glasses.

The trouble with wanting more is that we’re never satisfied. The beauty of wanting more is that it cracks our lives wide open – for better and for worse, but ultimately for better. It’s like when you love someone. Loving makes you vulnerable to pain. Loving means there’s a lot to lose.

Loving can make you afraid. But being loved means you don’t have to be.

I don’t know that any of this makes much sense, and I don’t know if I even mean for it to. All I know is that I want MORE – and I’m not talking about the material things (although I’d definitely take another pair of Frye boots if you’re offering), but just… more. Life. Depth. Beauty. Freedom. I don’t want to play it safe – because this is what Mary Oliver calls my “one wild and precious life.”

What if there’s more for me? What if there’s more for you?

IMG_2720

(Once on a trip to Texas, I forgot pajamas. I raided the Target sale rack, and obviously chose this.)

:::::

*From what I’ve learned about Howard Ashman (and trust me, I’ve obsessed over the man), I so wish I could have met him. His work on The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin is some of the best musical storytelling there’s ever been. Watch this short clip, and try not to fall in love with him. And then watch this longer clip and witness Jodi Benson sing like a laser beam.

The steady season

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

Yesterday, a relatively new acquaintance asked me, “What do you want to do with your life?” She was asking about my career path, I suppose – to which my answer is always a shoulder shrug. I’ve never been one with a bullseye plan for my professional life – I just try to do my very best wherever I happen to be, and take each next step as it comes.

I’m learning to see my life in seasons. There have been seasons when I’ve been a freewheeling gypsy, tumbling from place to place with no rhyme or reason, living on scrambled eggs and dreams. Sometimes (a lot of times) I miss those days. But right now, I’m in a season of stability, a chapter of routine.

And despite the occasional call of the wild, this season is good.

I wake up each morning around 6:30, and start the coffee pot that I readied the night before. Toad goes outside, then comes in to eat her breakfast (which I sprinkle with shredded cheese because she is old and 3-legged and I just figure she needs as much happiness as she can get). I fry an egg and mix a little granola into a tiny cup of yogurt, and take my breakfast back to my bed where I usually read for a little while.

When I finally motivate myself to actually get up and go to work, I pull my lunch out of the fridge (packed the night before, of course), and either say goodbye to Toad or bring her with me. She comes to the office with me one day a week and gets dropped off with Becca another day, leaving 3 days when she’s home alone. On those days, I run home at lunch and take her for a walk around the block, then sit with her on the front porch for a few minutes. I’m convinced that no one in the world loves me as much as Toad – not to say that people don’t love me well, but just that this dog’s enthusiasm for me is over the top.

Every day at work looks a little different, as I juggle plenty of different projects. Some constants: email, social media, writing, planning, organizing, mailing, and making sure that everything I do is legal.

I try to keep weeknights low-key. I come home and eat a bowl of soup (that I cooked in the Crock-Pot over the weekend), and eventually go to the gym around 7:30. Then I head home to take a shower and go to bed and then start the whole thing over again the next day.

Nothing is flashy these days. I’m not jet-setting around the country like I have in previous seasons. I’m not dating. I’m not going to many parties or events. I’m not climbing any mountains. I’m not “accomplishing” much of anything, unless you count being a good employee and keeping Toad alive – both of which are worthwhile goals, by the way.

Sometimes, the wanderlust tries to convince me to break out of this routine and do something crazy, something that makes me come alive, something risky but beautiful. A trusted friend sent me a text the other day, urging me to do a thing that I’ve always wanted to do – and entertaining the idea of being bold and brave slapped my heart awake. I know that one day, it will be time for that tumbleweed season again.

But today, I am steady. Today, I believe it’s good. And I just wanted to write it down to remind myself.

The fear of scarcity

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

I have recently come to the realization that I am a hoarder.

Now, please don’t confuse “hoarder” with “packrat.” I do not live in squalor. I don’t stack my living room floor with old newspapers and crocheted doilies and ashtrays. I regularly take sacks of clothing, shoes, and books to Goodwill. I shred and recycle unnecessary documents. I’m not overly sentimental; if it doesn’t serve a regular use in my daily life, I typically get rid of it. Let it be known far and wide that I don’t own a single Christmas decoration – NOT ONE. (Somewhere, a reindeer just died.)

But I live in a near constant fear of scarcity: that I will not have enough, that I am not safe enough, that I am not good enough. And this fear tempts me to hoard, to stockpile, whether it’s to my bank account or to my refrigerator or to my pride. If I can just secure everything that I’m sure I’ll ever need, then I will never be left vulnerable.

We live in a culture of such abundance, it’s odd that the fear of scarcity is so prevalent. But I see it everywhere I look – in global politics (“We’re out of oil”), in Black Friday shoppers (“I can’t miss a deal”), in economics (“FISCAL CLIFF”).

And don’t get me wrong – I’m just as concerned about this world as anyone else. I’m alarmed at the state of the environment, the way our government has hemorrhaged money, and the realities of the food system in America. This movie gave me nightmares. If I owned land, you’d find me preparing for the apocalypse with solar panels, a gigantic garden, and a bomb shelter.

But living in the fear of scarcity is a sign that I believe in the greedy lie that there is not enough, and its lonely stepsister, no one will take care of me. It focuses on the future, taking me out of the present moment – which is dangerous, since according to Eugene Peterson, “The only opportunity you will ever have to live by faith is in the circumstances you are provided this very day: this house you live in, this family you find yourself in, this job you have been given, the weather conditions that prevail at the moment.”

Living in the present does leave us vulnerable, because it takes the future out of our hands. It removes our sense of control.

But that sense of control was an illusion to begin with. And vulnerability is a chance to trust in something bigger than ourselves, which is the most beautiful of opportunities.

Now, this isn’t an excuse to be stupid. I’m going to continue attempting to make responsible decisions with my money, because I don’t want to end up destitute. I’m going to continue working hard toward my personal goals, because I don’t want to have unnecessary regrets. I’m going to continue carrying a snack in my purse, because I don’t want to wind up at a McDonald’s drive-thru (heaven forbid).

But when I try to hoard my money, my possessions, my achievements, they will rot like manna.

There is enough – for you, for me, for exactly what we’ll need, when we’ll need it. I want to live and give freely. Don’t you?

Why commitment equals freedom

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Something really remarkable has happened: I’ve stopped thinking about moving.

I know that this is probably foreign to some people, but I have entertained the idea of moving – no matter where I’ve lived – for at least the past 5 years.  When I was living in Seattle, I was thinking about moving to Nashville.  When I was living in Nashville, I was thinking about moving back to Seattle.  Then, in December of 2009, family circumstances took me to Denver – and every day, I was thinking about moving back to Nashville, or back to Seattle, or maybe to Portland, or there’s always Boston…

But I have not thought about moving since November.   For over two months, it hasn’t crossed my mind.  I live in Denver, and I’m not looking to leave anytime soon.

My new job commits me to this city.  And for as backward as it sounds, commitment equals freedom.  I am free from the questions, from the what ifs, from the grass-is-greener thoughts that accompanied having options.  Having options creates the illusion that one can do anything – which, while attractive in theory, can be alarmingly paralyzing.

There is something really good about having fewer options.  Having fewer options simplifies my thought life, and allows me to be present exactly where I am.  Having fewer options makes me say “yes” to all that’s right in front of me.  Having fewer options frees up my calendar, my bank account, and my heart.

Having fewer options actually gains us access to a wealth of experiences, relationships, and resources that are far from pipe dreams – no, in fact, they’re close enough to touch.

If you find yourself having your options whittled down, don’t freak out.  It might be the greatest thing that could happen.

Itty bitty tidbits

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Something I Googled this morning:
Is kennel cough contagious to humans?

Because – bad news – Kodi has kennel cough.  And also – bad news – it is.

– – – – – – – –

First, “The Pianist” came from Netflix.  Then, “The Piano” came from Netflix.

What in the world.  Why did I choose to watch these back-to-back?  I’m so depressed.  If you happen to know something happy, please share.

– – – – – – – –

I’m so bored of my running playlist (Roxette’s “It Must Have Been Love” is only SO inspiring – although, let’s be real, it’s pretty damn inspiring).

What are the best songs to run to?  I’m thinking of utilizing this.

– – – – – – – –

Sometimes I miss Nashville so much, I can hardly breathe.  The next day, it’s Seattle.  Today, both are very much true.

But right now, in this moment, I choose to be present in this city, on this day, with these tasks, and these people.

I believe that the future holds good things.

But I also choose to acknowledge that the present holds good things.

It is a choice, you know.

Something wonderful is about to happen

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

I never thought the day would come, but here it is: I have officially outlived Kurt Cobain.

Today is my 28th birthday.  I’ve waited ALL YEAR for August 4th, and it’s finally here.  Not to make a big deal out of it or anything, but… okay fine.  I am the birthday girl!  Yippee!

I’m so glad to be 28.  The only thing that makes me a little bit sad is that I can no longer refer to my birthday as being “one score and seven years ago” – because that was clever of me, wasn’t it?

Probably not as clever as it sounded in my head.

In all seriousness, sometimes I think that I’m the luckiest girl in the world.  I am surrounded by the world’s best humans – ones that draw out the good, and sit with me in the ugly, and love me regardless.  I have a job that I really like with people that I really love.  I have a body that works and does everything that I need it to do.  I have the sweet serenity of words and books and songs.  I have amazing, life-giving opportunities to pursue the things that bring me joy.  I have a home with hardwood floors and a dishwasher and tall trees outside the windows.  I have an abundance of quiet – which is never to be taken for granted.  I have a humidity-free summer.

A HUMIDITY-FREE SUMMER.

I have nephews who, last night, asked for the story of “Beauty and the Beast” in its entirety, and then wrapped their little arms around my neck and told me that they love me.  And then this morning, sang me “Happy Birthday” with their sweet voices.  And then asked if I was wearing a wig.  And then told me that the man emblazoned across the tush of their underwear was “General Obi-Wan Kenobi.”  And then yelled at each other to stop singing while going to the bathroom.

And for some unknown reason, I have you coming back to this space on a regular basis, reading along and offering more to me than I have ever offered to you through these cockamamie posts.

Most importantly, I have hope in my heart – and hope is just another word for “something wonderful is about to happen.”

So here I am.  28-years old, the luckiest girl in the world, with hope in my heart.  Something wonderful is about to happen.

I am never allowed to complain about anything, ever.

More than enough

Friday, May 21st, 2010

It’s Friday, and there’s no humidity in Colorado, and last night I walked 10 miles instead of my normal 7.  I’ve hung out with friends (I have friends!) the last two nights in a row, and tomorrow I’m taking my family on a date.  It’s a fantastic hair day and I’m caught up on “Lost” and I’m thinking about buying myself some flowers.  I spend each morning before work on my amazing couch with a cup of coffee and some delectable reading, before heading to an office where I stare out at the Denver skyline.  The Honda still starts every time.  Mom’s eyelashes are starting to grow back.  I have plane tickets to go see friends, and have some good ones coming to see me.  I’m happy where I am, and excited for where I’m headed – because what I have outweighs what I lack, and always has.

Lately, I’ve been smiling so much that my cheeks hurt.

I hope you feel the same way, and soak up a weekend full of simple wonders.  My life is full of them – and today, I’m choosing to remember it.

Keep walking

Friday, February 19th, 2010

There are a lot of days that I don’t feel like blogging.  You would think that with my complete absence of a social life in a city where I am totally anonymous, I would have all the time in the world to come up with universe tilting posts – but no.  Sometimes life is just quiet.

Snow is on the ground, and my couch is finally being delivered this morning.  I’m spending the weekend in Colorado Springs with my parents.  Mom just finished infusions for round 3 of chemo, which means she’s over half-way done.  The snow might interfere with my long run this weekend.  Work is busy.  I spend most of my free time alone, and can usually go from the minute I leave the office until arriving back the next morning without saying a word to anyone.  I go to the gym every night.  I still don’t have the runner’s booty.  I watched “The Hurt Locker” and had dreams about bombs.  I’ve gotten some wonderful Real Mail recently, and sent some back.  Denver continues to wrap me up.

So many of my beloved extroverted friends would come unhinged if this was their reality.  Thankfully, there is grace enough – and I, introverted Annie, don’t mind it.  Life feels strange and restrained, but not in a bad way.  Maybe one day I’m going to get lonely – but that day is not today.  Until it is, I’m going to just keep walking forward.

This all might sound so simple and dull, but it felt nice to write it.  It’s what I’m living.  I’m grateful.