2018: Growth and Gratitude

I don’t think I’ve ever written an ‘End of Year’ post here. Or, if I have, it’s been a long time. In any case, I feel like writing one today, so here we are.

Some years I have been very into reviewing the past year and making big plans for the coming year. In years past I have also picked a Song for the Year (although, wow- looks like I did that once– ha!). Last year I simply wanted to read 3 books a month and keep up with my bullet journal. I read 18 books total and kept up with my bullet journal about 60% of the time. I’m actually not disappointed with those results, because this last year felt like a baseline year, but I want to do better this year.

This year, I want to keep up with my bullet journal, read 20+ books (which I’ve actually listed out in the hopes it will keep me on track), but I’m also adding picking a word for the year, and keeping a section in my bullet journal for a gratitude practice. I’ve struggled with gratitude in the past, so it’s kind of weird to be into it now, but I think it’s time for me to expand my heart and spirit in this direction.

[[I’m still super in love with The Little Paris Bookshop. I find myself reading it very slowly. There are gems like this everywhere: 

“Not get over it, but…then? What then? What task do the departed want us to do?”

That was the question that Jean Perdu had been unable to answer for all these years.

Until now. Now he knew.

“To carry them with us- that is our task. We carry them all inside us, all our dead and shattered loves. Only they make us whole again. If we begin to forget or cast aside those we’ve lost then…then we are no longer present, either.” …

“All the love, all the dead, all the people we’ve known. They are the rivers that feed our sea of souls. If we refuse to remember them, that sea will dry up, too.”

I love all the men in this book; they are so honest with themselves.]]

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To start that, I wanted to look at the things I’m grateful for from this year. And also where I’ve grown- because that’s my favorite thing.

We spent our first full year in our new house this year. I love this house. I finally feel truly at home in this particular pile of sticks (it’s a really nice, comfy pile).

We got a dog. I love her.

My family and I travelled to Paris for the first time ever (well, it was the first time for me and my kids). I wrote about it here and here. It was one of the most thrilling adventures of my life. (I want to go back!)

I have been struggling with my hypothyroidism symptoms for two years and I really dug into my own fat phobia and fat shame (even though it was just 15 lbs- it was uncomfortable) and learned some new things about my self and my self-esteem and social conditioning. It’s hard to shake off, but I’m working on it.

On the flip side, I started a new supplement that makes my thyroid meds work the way they should, so my hair is growing again, my nails are growing, and I’ve lost enough weight to actually fit into my pants- even my favorite skinny jeans! The irony and ‘once you let go of it, you’ll get all you want’ energy is not lost on me.

After last week, I’m full of gratitude for simply being upright and breathing.

I’m truly grateful for my partnership and my partner. We have what a lot of people crave- and we work to make it great, it’s not just luck. And I’m just grateful for him and how we make it work.

I’m truly grateful for my kids and how much joy they bring to my life. They are amazing humans and I’m glad these particular souls are the ones I was given to parent.

I’m grateful for all the struggles I’ve had this year. I’ve learned a lot.

It’s been fun to start playing with magic and spells this year. (You may or may not know: I’m a witch.) As one of my teachers notes: you learn something new every time and I’m stumbling towards greater understanding and capacity.

I’m also very grateful that I have been given the chance to fight for some things that are very important to me and to fight to stop things that are morally and spiritually repugnant. I’m trying to use my privilege to make the world a better place- and this has been weird and uncomfortable, but also a good practice.

 

We travel ever upwards (we hope).

Photo by Reid Zura on Unsplash

 

The other side of this year has been about growth. Growth, in my experience, is about the places where we cry, gnash our teeth, surrender to reality, and then we learn to behave in new ways. Better boundaries, clearer goals, letting go, and the like. It’s the hard work that our hearts and souls demand of us.

I got some very clear guidance a month ago about what’s next for me:

  • Telling the whole truth, instead of just doling out pieces of it.
  • Limiting connections to folks who are on my level (or will at least try to get there).
  • Continuing to be passionate and fearless and letting go of those who don’t want to run with me.

These are the things I’m taking into 2019 with me, the new ways in which I will behave. I also learned some other things, too.

One of the biggest lessons for me this year is that I’m probably going to be attracted to other people at various points in my life. For the first 22 years of knowing my husband, I was never attracted to anyone else. But then, the Sex Surge happened, and I’ve been attracted to two other people. One of the clearest things I know from all this is that it’s probably going to happen again, and how I handle it is the most important question. Do I want to destroy my marriage for a crush or somebody who is cute or intelligent or interesting? Nope. Not a bit. So, I proceed with that end in mind. Having a crush or a sexual attraction to someone else isn’t going to kill the great thing I’ve got with my husband; I know that now. But I also need to be mindful of my needs and what lines are crossable/not crossable and to enjoy the gifts of relationship and attraction.

Related: sexual energy does not need to be coupled to sexual expression. I am reminded of this constantly. Sexual energy – libido, turn on – is simply the most heightened aliveness there is. It isn’t required to be expressed in any sexual way- there are a thousand creative and joyful ways to live it out besides with your clitoris/penis. It can simply shine straight out from your heart.

I also figured out something a couple of days ago that I’ve been struggling with for a bit. Bear with me- this is one of things where the puzzle pieces came together in my mind but I might not always write clearly about it. Nevertheless, I will try.

There has been a lot in my social media feeds the last couple of weeks about soulmates and woundmates and such things. I’m not a big believer in soulmates, but I am a 185% believer in soul work. Soul work is the work that we are called to do, in our heart or soul, because of an interaction with or attraction to someone else. I’ve been dealing with this kind of connection for more than a year- can’t quite connect, can’t fully let go (or be let go of, in this case). And as I was thinking about this a couple days ago, I asked myself: what do I know about this already? The answers were clear and also interwove with each other to create a new level of understanding for me.

First, I know that the kind of push-pull attraction that can’t let go is always about something else. I bolded, underlined, and italicized that for a reason. Sexual attraction is the easiest doorway for connection so that people can come together and do whatever work it is their soul is asking for. Especially if it’s a connection that can’t seem to resolve one way or another. The attraction is the big door that they need to go through, the sexual nature of it is the neon arrow that flashes and points towards the door, drawing them in. If the attraction brings them to connection, it’s done its job and they will walk through the door to the work they need to do.

Second, I was reminded that there are a 1000 steps between attraction and fucking.  What that means in this case is that people can be attracted in that “can’t let go” kind of way, but there are many levels at which to connect. Let’s look at them in these categories: talk, touch, kiss, fuck.

If there is soul work and it’s being brought out by attraction that won’t quit, you have to interactyou have go to through the door to figure out what the work is. But you don’t have to give in to the depth of desire; you can simply talk with the person. Talking is difficult, in some ways, because you’ve got to keep your desire in check. It’s also difficult because you’ve got to be as honest as you can possibly be – but telling the truth based on attraction is usually a big leap. (Not for me, honestly- I crave to both tell the truth and be told the truth by others.) Most people would rather slip into the ease of sex than talk about what’s going on between them. You have to ask big questions and be totally honest with yourself and the other person: Why are you attracted? What makes it difficult to let go? What do you want from a connection? If we did X, what would that do for you? As you reveal the answers, the work you’re supposed to do for soul growth becomes clear- it shows you an old wound that needs healing, it shows you a further step you need to take, etc. And, of course, talking is the most spiritually and emotionally clean option, so it’s sort of easier in that way.

Then, there’s touch. If the sexual attraction is strong enough, touching can sometimes tell you a lot. What happens when you touch? Does the desire dissipate or shift in some way? Do you have any kind of visions or memories? What does your body do? What feelings run through you? You have to be very mindful and attentive to what happens in your body if you go this route, but it can yield a huge amount of information about the work you need to do for your soul. If you add talking to the mix, you’re probably going to hit the target very quickly and figure out why you’ve been connected to this person.

Next is kissing. This level of interaction is where the emotional entanglements can lead us astray from the work we have to do, but the intensity of connection can give us much deeper information about what’s going on in the desire for connection. You have to really ground yourself in awareness and attentiveness if you take this route. You have to ask all the above questions, plus things like, “Did I feel relief in kissing them? Was it a relief of sexual tension or a relief like coming home?” What did I see in my minds eye when we kissed? What happened in my body? What memories arose? You need to be able to disentangle the sexually related feelings from the emotional lessons it brings up. Of course, kissing is so much more fun than just talking or touching, but it’s also more dangerous if you’re not careful or not with someone who knows how to handle the energy and what develops.

Lastly, of course, is having sex. Most definitely, this is the easiest (and probably most desired) option for people who feel pulled to each other. It’s very pleasurable. It doesn’t require much thought or trust- you just give into the feelings and desires. (I find it incredibly interesting that it’s easier to have sex than it is to talk when we’re in these kind of soul-attraction relationships. I think that says a lot about our humanity and how comfortable we feel with sharing our souls; we’d rather share our bodies.) Of course, having sex dissipates a lot of the sexual desire and tension, but it also entangles us emotionally and energetically in ways that might make it more difficult to find the nature of the soul work the two people need to do. Again, mindfulness and self-awareness are key. That said, I believe that sometimes this is exactly the right choice- there is no other way to find the work that you’re being asked to do.

I figured these things about because I got very close to being able to talk to the person I have this kind of connection with. It super sucks that I’m not going to be able to have the talk, because that only leaves “figuring it out on my own” as my way to deal with this. Of course, figuring it out on your own is also totally viable, but it takes a lot more work and it often takes a lot longer. Growth junkie that I am, it’s what I’ve got, so I’m using it. Because one thing I also learned this year is that when people say ‘no’ to connecting or interacting, you let them be. Not everyone wants to learn or help their soul heal or grow, and that’s their decision.

The coolest thing about figuring this out is that I can be totally fearless the next time I’m attracted to someone. I know that attraction is just the doorway for the work. And I can decide what level of interaction to ask for. I am wise and attentive and aware and so I’ll gain a lot from whatever way the other person and I connect. Because I understand how it works, I can walk into it with more clarity and skill and openness (and less attachment, hopefully). It feels really grounding to have previous lessons come together like this and help me understand how to handle these kinds of attractions in the future. Even if I don’t get to have my conversation, I get to have this understanding and that’s so awesome it kind of makes me cry.

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This year has given me a lot- a lot of grief and struggle, a lot of growth and grace. I’m grateful. I don’t have many plans for 2019- except as listed above. I think Life is enough of an adventure on its own, I don’t need to go looking for much new! exciting! stuff. And I don’t need to set high expectations for myself anymore (I’m sort of over that).

Fellow travelers, I hope that you’re finding useful lessons in your life – this year, this month, always. I hope that the lessons your soul seeks come to you with grace and desire and fun rather than the spiritual equivalent of being whacked upside the head with a 2×4. We all have things to learn and trials to bear- remember not to compare your miseries with another’s. I hope that, whatever it is you have to learn, you are given an equal measure of joy. And I hope you strive to become ever more your self.

I will leave you with another excerpt from The Little Paris Bookshop because I think it is so fitting:

“On the postcard Perdu wrote Catherine that night were the phrases Max had invented that afternoon so he could present them to Samy at dinner…

Star salt (the stars’ reflection in a river)
Sun cradle (the sea)
Lemon kiss (every knew exactly what this meant!)
Family anchor (the dinner table)
Heart notcher (your first lover)
Veil of time (you spin around in the sandpit to find you are old enough to wet your pants when you laugh)
Dreamside
Wishableness

The last word was Samy’s new favorite. “We all live in wishableness,” she said. “Each in a different kind.”

Big love and happy New Year’s Eve,
Joanna :: xoxo

 

 

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