Set your intention(s) for 2014. It can be something as simple as setting an intention to choose happiness to something as grandiose as a list of major accomplishments. Use your best judgment, and keep in mind that you want to cultivate a life worth loving.
I intend to finish the second half of 2014 cultivating happiness by simply choosing to be happy.
What do you need to let go of to cultivate your best life in 2014?
I find myself coming back time and time again saying that I need to let go of my expectations, but I never truly focus on doing just that. I really and truly need to let go of my expectations because those pesky little buggers disappoint me all the time. And I mean all. the. time! I’m also really needing to let go of this need to keep stuff “just in case.” It’s time to let go and bless someone else with something they need and lack. I’ve been too quick to revert inside my shell, hiding away, and avoiding all these things that need to be done so I can cultivate my life worth loving. I’m not thriving, and I’m tired of feeling like a big fraud — coming here and preaching thriving instead of surviving. It’s time to let go and start living.
What are the tiny ways you can cultivate courage in 2014?
It’s funny in a way. Kat quoted Mary Ann Radmacher as saying “Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow’.” For much of the last 16 months, that has been my courage — telling myself that I’ll try again the next day. I’d go to bed and tell myself that the day was over, I had made it through another day, and the next day was a fresh sheet of paper to write on. That was probably how I cultivated strength during the most difficult trials of my life. That was how I cultivated courage for 16 months. Now that I’ve reached the climax of the situation, knowing that next month will bring an end to this harassment, I know that I can continue to treat each day as a fresh canvas. Even if today isn’t perfect, I can pursue my dreams again tomorrow. Even if I fall short of my goals today, I can always try again tomorrow. As long as I keep trying, working, and doing, I can face each day with strength and courage. In the end, that’s what matters most.
How can you add more time with Mother Nature to your life this year?
Ugh. I seriously don’t get to enjoy myself enough — and that’s what this prompt pretty much nailed home for me. There are a few days here and there where I’ll take advantage of the beautiful deck I have behind my house. Of course, these days I feel like I’m not allowed to enjoy anything because of my life’s circumstances. This is ridiculous. I shouldn’t have to feel this way. I shouldn’t keep hitting this wall where I feel like I’m not living a life worth loving. I really couldn’t tell you how I could add more time with Mother Nature to my life, but I can tell you that I need to act quickly and accordingly. I think I would benefit greatly from approaching my Cultivate project as an outsider — returning to the origination of the project and responding according to how life’s working now. I’ve lost touch with my reasons for starting the project, and it’s time to get back to cultivating that life worth loving. Maybe while I review this project, I can sit outside in the fresh air and sunshine to soak in some of Mother Nature’s goodness while reevaluating myself and my life.
What do you do to welcome the new year? Do you have any special rituals? What are your plans to clear your space for this new year?
When I was growing up, my mom bought sparkling apple cider for my sister and me to toast to the new year. I’ve passed that ritual along to my children — and upgraded to real bubbly for myself. I also like to participate in year end writing series to process the year and plan for the next. While it’s already mid-May, it’s never too late to set some goals for the rest of the year. I plan to clear space literally by decluttering my belongings. We have items that are truly trash, items that could be donated, and some items that could be sold. The trash-worthy items will provide some bonfire fun for us. I also plan on figuratively clearing space by treating my body with more respect and setting aside more time to simply be — instead of constantly doing.
It’s kind of funny in a way. I haven’t been very active on my blog. I fell off the radar on Twitter for a while. I kind of started to just keep my social media to updating friends and family on Facebook. My posts mainly focus on my life’s circumstances. I tried to maintain my social presence last year, but a person can only last so long before the crushing weight of an enormous boulder forces you to focus more on less. To be quite honest, I realize that losing my presence was likely career suicide. I have a feeling that I basically need to rebuild from scratch in order to even continue dreaming of working from my laptop whenever and wherever I feel like it. I don’t even have the gumption to “lifestyle design” at this point — I just want to survive the times between leaving my bed and getting back into it. If I didn’t have all these responsibilities nagging me to be productive and functional, I’d likely not leave my bed at all. It’s really sick and twisted that an agency that’s purported to “help” can do so much emotional damage to a person’s psyche.
I’ve been a broken record with this, too — which is a big reason I’ve neglected my social media outlets. I don’t like being a whiner. I’m not here to whine and complain. I’m here to dream big, show gratitude, and share my journey of cultivating a thriving life worth loving. Only now, the person I want to be and the person I am are two completely different entities. Who’s got time to tweet about happiness and gratitude when they’re busy putting out proverbial fires and playing damage control? Who’s got the time to think about blogging when they’re too busy worrying about which bills need to be paid next and if the kids will notice the lack of meat in their dinner.
I guess I’m just afraid of letting this become my new “livejournal.” That was my place to gripe. Then we started moving along to Facebook and Twitter, and things changed. I guess if I were to set an intention for changing my social media habits, I would say that I need to treat social media the way I treat my gratitude journal. I need to process privately in my journal and rebuild my readership with the content I want to see here. But I also don’t want to waste this opportunity to raise awareness of a very real problem in our society. I don’t want to lose the opportunity to advocate for changing the system and giving more support to those who need it most.
I’m not 100% sure if this even counts as a confession anymore. I came out with this confession about a year ago. According to the Walker County Department of Family and Children Services, I am a bad mother. I’m so awful, in fact, that I deserved to have one — only one — of my three children removed from my custody for 15 months. I’m so awful that I expect their father to do his fair share of parenting and housekeeping. Apparently that makes me dependent, and I should be ashamed of myself for being a mortal human. I’m despicable because I believe my son’s psychiatrist is qualified to diagnose my son and offer treatment methods that will help my son succeed throughout his life. I’m evil because I expect that the school system will recognize this and give him the accommodations that he is legally entitled to.
Now that we’ve gotten THAT out of the way, here’s an even deeper confession: I despise that county agency with every fiber of my being. I don’t believe for one minute that they have ANYONE’S best interests at heart. I have seen two cases of child neglect go unpunished — in one case, the mother in question has NOT EVEN dealt with a fraction of the pain I have. If they were to drug test that woman, they will quickly see that she is truly ineffective as a mother. Instead, they permit her to deny access to her information. I guess this is what makes me stupid — I blindly submitted to these people. Instead of standing up from the start, I let them steamroll me and my family. Instead of questioning their practices and ethics, I assumed I was obligated to cooperate regardless of my opinions.
I also must confess that I still love my husband and father of all three of my children. Apparently, this is reprehensible. Apparently, I was supposed to put on a show worthy of Jerry Springer. I’m sorry, but all three children exist for a good reason. All three children share a father for a good reason. I believe children need two parents.
And for the record, let me confess that I hate being a single mother — especially by force. It’s ridiculous to have to juggle all these demands. In fact, I’d go so far as to say I have more demands on me than a typical single parent. After all, I have a county agency breathing down the back of my neck expecting me to be Super Mom, even though that runs counter to everything I’ve learned throughout my life. It’s contrary to the very parenting classes I took to satisfy these people. I graduated about 9 months ago. Yes, I completed goals in record time, yet I’m still clawing my way through this mess.
And for my final confession: I’m going to question your motives if you tell me that you want to follow a career in social work. The system is corrupt, and I don’t think destroying a family is worth it in the least. We didn’t need separation. We didn’t need financial ruin. We didn’t need permanent emotional trauma. We needed each other.
Tell us about a time in 2013 where you found yourself in awe of the wonder and/or magic around you. Did you have enough of these moments in the past year? How do you plan on cultivating more of these moments in 2014?
While 2013 was miserable for me on the whole, I will admit that I did have some moments in which I felt in awe of my surroundings. I had moments by myself, moments with my two younger children, and moments with my husband. I had moments at work and moments at home. I’m imagining I must have had enough of these moments last year because I made it to 2014. I don’t think I could have made it this far without the little injections of wonder and magic sprinkled in my days.
A third of the year has already flown by, and I’ve really been functioning on auto-pilot. I haven’t been putting much thought and effort into my cultivation project. Wow. In fact, I avoided answering this question by having a conversation with my sister. I ran out of time on my lunch break. I closed the lid of my laptop. It’s taken over eight hours for me to sit back down and contemplate cultivating more moments of wonder and/ or magic around me in 2014. How does one do so, anyway? Do I read? Do I write? Do I draw? Do I dance? Do I sit around? Do I just wait for things to happen? What do I do? I’m really not sure how to approach this. I guess I’ve been in auto-pilot mode so long, drifting through the life I’ve forced to live while dreaming of the life I want. Please tell me how you cultivate wonder and magic around you in the comments. Tell me in tweets. Tell me how I go about doing this.
Wow. I’m so far removed from 2013 that I don’t recall my most vivid dream(s). I want to say that I dreamt mostly about my family being together as we should, but everything is so hazy. I do remember I dream I had that led me to a realization that I’m insecure and unhappy with myself. Part of the problem lies in that I’m uncomfortable parenting solo. I’m uncomfortable trying to flesh out solitude when I’ve got a ridiculous number of responsibilities crammed in my face. And let’s be honest here — I have failed miserably at treating my body with the love and respect it deserves in order to make the rest of my life enjoyable. I’ve put far to many products that masquerade as “food” into my mouth due to emotional eating and/ or financial strain.
I guess the message in a bottle that I keep shuffling to the bottom of my stack is that I can’t keep this up. It’s okay to need help from others — to delegate and be realistic. A very out-of-touch person I dealt with last year had the audacity to say that I was TOO dependent, meanwhile I’ve always had a problem asking for help. I’m a do-it-yourselfer. I have clear ideas in my head of what I’d like to accomplish, and I find it usually easier to depend on myself. Because of her false opinions of me, I felt the need to prove that I’m a lone wolf ready to defend and tackle everything head-up and solo. That’s not healthy or just.
With that being said, it’s time to stop treating my body like a dumpster. It’s time to stop trying to be super-human. It’s time to realize that I am a mortal creature who needs nurturing, too. I don’t have to martyr myself for someone else’s sick intentions. Sure, things aren’t ever going to be perfect, but nurturing myself increases my ability to nurture those dearest to me for a longer period of time.
If you were able to throw yourself a shower to begin 2014, what gifts would you give yourself? Has there been something you’ve realized has been missing and now need? What has it been?
While it’s hardly still the beginning of 2014, I do know some of the gifts I’ve been missing — from tangible to intangible. Quite honestly, I would give myself a clean financial slate if I could. Credit cards need to be wiped from my record. A private student loan should be wiped out by now. I think I’d also give myself some good flavored coffee, delicious flavored creamers made with real milk and sugar, ginseng supplements, and tons of water to energize myself for all the big projects I’ve got on my plate. For the sake of my sanity, I’m truly hoping to purge much of the “things” from my life so I can rest a little easier — and clean up a lot faster. This has been an incredibly difficult task with all of life’s circumstances, but these past nearly 16 months have given me a different perspective on life.
Really and truly, I desperately need solitary time each day. I don’t do well when I’m expected to be a social creature from my waking moment until the time I finally hide under the blankets for the night. I need my breathing space to collect my thoughts and recharge myself. This is easier said than done, as it were. Right now I’m forcibly separated from my husband (STILL!), so I don’t have my tag team partner to given me that well-deserved breather. But if I had the room to just sit down, be with myself, and let my mind unravel itself for a bit, I might have more clarity in my life. I have felt like a frazzled teenager all over again. I have felt oppressed and trapped. I want the gift of victory — of freedom to be myself, to be mom, to be the wife, and to simply be.