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“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” — Seneca

The year that was.

Have you ever had a year so challenging it made you question everything? Where you were stripped down to the core in all ways? Emotionally, physically, professionally, and spiritually?

I began the year with lofty intentions. It was to be the “Year of Me,” where I would finally set myself on a path to being the woman I always wanted to be. My word of the year was freedom. Somewhere along the way the refrain let go of what no longer serves you took up residence in my brain and wouldn’t leave.

All I can say is, be careful of what you intend.

Why, you ask? When you set intentions, the universe will rise up to meet them. It will gather the sun and the moon and the stars in a special council meeting to figure out ways to help you get what you’ve asked.

This I learned in some epic ways. Because, people, the events that follow are not always pretty. Sometimes the special council says, Nope…we gotta tear the whole thing down and start all over again.

Crazy happened, in many ways and in multiple areas of life. The days went by, and the crazy got crazier. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, throughout the year I did my best to see the blessings in advance. To say, oh yes, here’s why this happened. I GET IT, dear universe. I’m good. 

But, actually, no. It doesn’t work that way. You can’t avoid the hard and difficult and weird by “spiritualizing” your way out of it. You cannot pre-pave the pain in the hopes of avoiding it.

The only way out is through. 

At the end of the day, y’all, you need to care for your heart’s longings. This—not a 401(k), not health insurance, not a promotion, not a corner office—is all you really need. Those other things may be necessary, but they are not a life.

But, fear gets in the way.

Fear makes us do funny things. Fear can make you build a foundation for a home in a place you didn’t know you’d end up—and exactly where you never wanted to be. Fear encourages you construct a life on shoulds. Fear leads you to the long conversation with your doctor, as I had a few months ago, where his prescription sounds like this: “You need to be committed to living a clean and pure and health-driven life, and you need to be committed to getting the crazy out of your life.”

This advice also led me to a summer of drinking rosé like it was blush-colored water. (Which, I admit, was pretty fun…but, I digress.)

Fear will also make you blind to changing things because it gets in your way.

But, here’s the deal. If you don’t deal with things, they will deal with you. You end up living a life by default.

This is not soul satisfying…nor the reason why you are on this earth.

In the end, I found my freedom. It is mine to do what I will. I end the year on a blank page, holding a clean slate, and sitting in an empty room. This would have freaked me out a few years ago. Now—now that it’s all said and done—I understand the gift for what it is. I have the freedom of a future of my own creation; I have the ability to write my own story. Joy awaits on the other side of this newfound freedom.

At the end of this year, in all its difficulty and all its toughness, I am free.

Wishing you all beautiful things as the new year dawns.

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Now, we get to begin again. Happy New Year, y’all.

xo, with love and light, goodness and grace.

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“Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us. Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.”

— Oprah Winfrey

This year was a tale of my companions Cranky, Weary and Hopeful. These were the wise men; they were my teachers.

2014 began with my intention to stop playing small. For so long I’d dimmed my light, hiding from the world in the shadows of a people-pleasing personality. Everyone else came first. My job came first.

Sometimes even the doorman came first. Did I ask him if he wanted coffee? OMG, I need to go back right now—never mind that it’s 10 degrees and snowy and icy and windy—I’m turning around to ask him! Because maybe he wants some coffee!!!!

People pleasing is exhausting.

If you let it, all of those needs and duties and responsibilities begin to spread like a wildfire through the mountains, beginning as a harmless spark but quickly taking over every inch in the landscape of your life.

Maybe I’m being dramatic. Maybe it isn’t THAT bad. But it feels like it.

Did I stop playing small? Nope. As well intentioned as I began, I tiptoed through the year, feeling my way through the darkness in search of some light.

These are the years where you learn who you are and the tough stock of which you are made. My three wise men each taught me different life lessons.

Cranky:  I have become that person yelling at taxi drivers whose cars roll dangerously close to me as I cross the street—bringing me perilously close to a crazy old lady muttering at passerby on the street. A glimpse of a rage-filled future? I don’t know. Maybe I’m just finally getting in touch with that part of me who can ask for what I want.

To this strange grumpiness which has taken residence alongside my nice girl persona, a very big thank you. I am wildly uncomfortable with you, but you dare to point out everything that doesn’t make sense, every complaint that is unfounded, every ridiculous conversation full of ridiculousness. You keep me honest. You urge me to point out when someone has said something hurtful or to walk away from the situation entirely. You challenge me to do better, to be better, to dare to dream of more than what’s in front of me.

For years I would roll my eyes when I heard actresses talk about how being in your 40s meant you didn’t care about what people thought anymore.  I get it now.  I still care, ever the people pleaser, but I definitely care a whole lot less than I did.

Cranky does have its eccentric benefits. It is teaching me dedication, and there are appointments with myself that are non-negotiable. A twice-weekly 6am “rooster” workout literally saved my sanity. If that meant pushing back a 9am meeting, then that’s what it meant. Thanks to Cranky, I committed and I accomplished.

Weary: I’m tired.

Don’t you hate it when people say that? I certainly hate it when I say it. But, that doesn’t make it any less true.

The only thing worse than that is when people say you look tired.

I tend to say this to my mirror reflection just about every other morning.

It’s not that I do too much (though, admittedly, I definitely do)—it’s that I don’t do enough of what lights me up. That needs to change.

Life can wear you down if you don’t fill yourself up.

Weary wore me down, keeping me occupied on one of those hamster wheels, just going and going and going and going.  He also held the important things at bay.

Romantic love—oh, you want that?  Nah.  A good night’s sleep?  Fugheddaboutit.  (Apparently Weary speaks Brooklyn-ese.)

To all those things and people who made me sad because you didn’t stay or you hesitated or you decided not to come into my life—I say, goodbye to all that. Enough.  I want things and people and situations that want to be with me.

It’s time to make room for the things that belong here.

Hopeful:  I often feel like I’m fumbling my way through the world.  Just dropping the keys, again and again, then not being able to find the lock.

But the keyhole is there, and when I peeked through it, right there in the dark of the night, there was a steady stream of sunlight.  Sometimes it’s dimmer than others, but it’s there.

And you know what?  Magic exists.  Magic and light and beauty are real and they are waiting in every single day. I know this because I have seen them, with regularity.

Here’s the trick: you’ve gotta be open to seeing them.

Love taught me that.  Love is everywhere. No matter how much I resist this idea—and I really, really, really do—the world keeps showing me otherwise.   It’s hard to not cling to hopefulness like a life raft when I’m spent and cranky and weary from this life and am confused about what my purpose is and I sit down and right in front of me is the word LOVE.  I’m not speaking in metaphors, either—the word LOVE often appears out of nowhere, like a beautiful bright beacon of hope.

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As I was talking to one of my dear friends this week, whom I call my West Coast mother, she told me a story about how she was sitting at a traffic light watching a group of birds—seagulls among them, many miles from the ocean—and as they flew away, the birds in flight formed the shape of a heart.

Love is contagious. YOU are contagious.  Sometimes I question the “signs of love” I see around me, but I know there is a purpose. If that is to awaken other people so they see it, too, then I feel hopeful that I’m being lead down the right path.

At the year’s end, I feel a deep hopefulness for what lies ahead of me, despite Cranky and Weary.  Maybe even because of them.  Because finally, I understand I have the power to make my life exactly what I want it to be.  Finally, it’s time to focus on becoming the person I’ve always dreamed of being.

And so, the dawn is the beginning of the year of me.  No more playing small.  I end this year with a fire in my belly and a jetpack to propel me.

2015.  Let’s make a happy year.  Let’s hold hands and walk through that door in the dark of the night and chase the light and go get everything we want.

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You know what, you guys? We got this.

xo, with goodness and grace.

There is a Christmas tree outside one of my favorite stores in Manhattan, ABC Carpet & Home. Filled with a quirky assortment of high-end furniture and accessories, the store is a dream-like, fantasy-worthy respite from the city.  I like to say that it is my place to dream. Though I can hardly afford a thing in the store, it is a place that makes me happy.

This year’s Christmas tree has white ribbons tied to its branches. A sign next to it asked shoppers to share a wish and to “dream it, write it, and tie it on.”

I took a picture of it earlier in December, as people began to share their heartfelt wishes.

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It was moving to read the wishes for world peace, happiness, shelter and food for all. There were many wishes of love.

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One person, unafraid to dream big, wished for a movie star.

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The wish tree got me thinking of the wishes my heart would make.  Nothing like taking inventory of your life among the chandeliers and Buddhas and holiday ornaments.

2013 was a big bear of a year for many reasons. I look back on it as the year that I grew up. I’ve spent most of my adulthood saying I didn’t feel like a grown up, but this year I think I finally know what it feels like to be one.  There was no big epiphany that ushered in a new period of my life.  A series of realizations added up to a year where I emerged a changed person.

I came face to face with disappointments—from small slights to big corners I unknowingly turned only to realize the new road just leads forward, with no turning back. These were the kind that can make it hard to get out of bed. Still, I did.

I wish for the strength to keep showing up for myself, even when life gets hard.

I put myself on the to-do list.  I finally figured out that when you are no longer living in your mother’s house, you need to learn how to mother yourself.  So, I began to take care of myself, body, brain, heart and soul. I am no good to anyone if I’m not good to myself.

I wish for the fortitude to put self care at the top of my list, because I matter.  And I wish for more manicures and massages, simply because they make me happy.

I learned that to not make a decision is a decision itself. I came to know that life is what you make it, and that clarity in what you want is so very important. Being clear on the life you want to live gives you aim and purpose. I realized that I’d been living life by default. And that doesn’t feel very good.

I wish for clarity in my deepest desires so I can set about bringing them to fruition. Ultimately, the magic is in our bold willingness to create a satisfying life.

I found grace in gratitude.  A month of gratitude cracked me wide open and continued long past, and I will never be the same.  Gratitude offered me the keys to living a richer, fuller life. Gratitude showed me the way back to myself.

I wish to live a space of thankfulness, always, grateful for the goodness that is everywhere.

I made a decision to be vulnerable, to move through the world with an open heart. This is often challenging, because sometimes you invite people into your life…and they say no.  People aren’t always accepting when you walk into a room with your heart as an offering, but I try to keep it open so I can know the joy of being welcomed.  I also discovered that you are never too old to make a new friend, and that is grace.

I wish to live a life of love, rooted in rich open-hearted relationships.

Though this was a year full of challenges and left turns, through it all I remain optimistic for what lies ahead.

I wish for a new year full of love, joy, and magic—all rooted in goodness and grace.

And so we begin again. I begin comforted with the knowledge that a clean slate is an impetus to dream, and that wishes are vehicles for life-changing intentions.

A new year is about to begin. Make a wish.

A new year ushers in a symbolic beginning, an end to the 12 months past and whatever they have brought – the good, the delicious, the ugly and the unpalatable.

It also brings a ton of clichés and resolutions, only to be forgotten and broken tomorrow.  I prefer to take a rest from whatever life-induced (or party-induced, for many) haze I’m in, for a moment to think about who I want to show up as in the world.

I read this poem today on Facebook, of all places. It was posted by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love, the book that inspired so many of us to live richer, deeper, more meaningful lives – or at least to begin the dream of one. This poem stirred up an impulse to be romantic about life, which I tend to be in my optimistic moments.

The difference here is that the romance is not with Prince Charming, or some other creature who will save you with their love. The romance here is with yourself.

After all, great journeys begin with an inner calling, and you can only hear that stirring if you are aware enough of your own inner longing.

LOVE AFTER LOVE, by Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

For this year – all freshly untouched – may this be a beginning of starting where we are and finding love in that exact place.

May this year be the beginning of our feast on life.

That may be the best resolution of all.

At the end of some years you look back and feel unchanged by the days past, as if an inertia had settled in and each day had a similar rhythm and feel and light to it.

This was not that year for me.

This was the year where the ground underneath me always felt shaky, when expectations never manifested in anticipated ways, where I often would rather stay cocooned under the covers than to face another day outside. Yet despite all that, in this year, I got up, got dressed and showed up for myself.

This year was the year I left the most difficult work experience of my career. That environment – challenging on its best days – taught me about myself and my strength and my character in the face of the naysayers who felt the need to define me, though they didn’t know a thing about me. It taught me about believing in myself, even when everyone around me was alternately ignoring me or telling me I wasn’t good enough. It taught me that sometimes people decide not to like you, and there is nothing you can do about it. And that, ultimately, it is more about them than it is about you.

Paradoxically, it also taught me that it’s a perfectly reasonable thing to wear sequins to work. That it is fine to dress as if every day was a celebration. That fabulousness is not relegated to the nighttime. I will take that lesson with me wherever I go.

Perhaps most valuable of all, it taught me that I never want to use the word “fabulous” again. Ever.

This year was the year I left that job for another that makes me feel as if I’ve landed on the other side of the world. The sun isn’t always shining, but more often than not, the forecast is partly sunny instead of completely clouded over. I am working harder than I ever have since I started working at 17, but I also have never been more supported or rewarded for it. I even won an award.

I have learned that confidence doesn’t fly away forever. It can bury itself in the ground and lay dormant for a time, just waiting for the springtime and some sunshine to nurture it back to life.

This was the year I took myself on vacation. I discovered that there is a place with a pace so slow and air so fresh that I felt altered by it. A place where calm was normal, where a stillness moved through me and stayed a while, quieting the voices in my head who never cease the constant conversation.

This was the year I tired of watching the housewives, no matter how “real” or imagined they seemed. I learned that the escape of watching other people live their made up lives was no match for the glorious messiness of my own. I realized that it is time to turn off the chaos of their lives and to focus on cleaning up my corner in the world.

This year was the year I found community at a neighborhood restaurant, even though it’s nowhere near my own neighborhood. There is comfort in a place where everyone knows my name, where I’m welcomed with smiles and a beautiful meal, and where I’m sent on my way with my favorite dessert and a hug before I walk out the door. Next time you are in the West Village of Manhattan, go to Neta…get the omakase and be prepared to swoon.

This was the year I struggled with balance and saw that I desperately need to cultivate a more meaningful personal life. It’s all personal, really, this life. It’s just that a richer, fuller life is about more than work. It’s my continual struggle, but I’m determined to conquer it by reclaiming a seat at the table with friends and their children, with family who may not see enough of me. The to-do list will always be there, but children grow up, friends grow close to other people and family learns to rely on others for support.

This was the year that I understood that you cannot be a support to other people if you have not filled the water in your own well. Insomnia has been a regular night time visitor, but I’ve remained determined to be stronger than it. Vegetables have been my loyal friends, even as I insist on supplementing the meals – okay, sometimes replacing entirely – with cheesy, ooey, gooey things that have little nutritional value. I’ve learned that sometimes comforting yourself is only acceptable in food form. But I also know that food is the best medicine and moderation is a proper way of mothering yourself.

This was the year that in spite of the turmoil, the chaos, the uncertainty, I learned that I was enough. I am enough. Me, just the way I am. I hope to keep remembering that.

And that is my wish for you in 2013.  No matter your circumstance, no matter where you are in your life, you will live your year grounded with the knowledge that you alone are enough.

It’s the end of another year, the perfect time to reflect on the goodness of the last twelve months.  This was definitely a year of major shifts, both personally and throughout the world, and I’m ending the year feeling more hopeful than when it started.  Optimistic and super charged, I’m eager and ready for the grace and goodness of the year ahead.  But, before I jump ahead, I feel the need to reflect on the year that is drawing to a close.

My favorite highlights of 2009:

  • 2008 was over.  🙂  Rough year.
  • Inauguration day: No matter what your political affiliation, it was a good day to be an American.
  • Randomly discovering that an old friend from junior high school and I work for the same company.
  • Julie & Julia: Food, inspiration and Meryl Streep all wrapped up in the same two hours.
  • Coming across The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson late one night, and at the end of one hysterical hour, having a new show to look forward to.
  • Realizing that after years of thinking I was woefully unathletic, I could actually run for an extended amount of time.
  • U2 rocked Giants Stadium in their record-breaking last concert ever in that venue.  And I was there!
  • Sunday cooking marathons made me happy.
  • I found the courage to start writing again…and to find my voice again.
  • I began to embrace joy.

It was a year of excellent moments.

And now, we begin again.

Happy New Year!!  xo, with Goodness and Grace

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