…says Audre Lorde at the end of her poem “New Year’s Day” in From a Land Where Other People Live.
A couple days after Christmas, my family and I flew down to Miami for a quick vacation. Call it a forced time together or a willing choice by all; either way, the trip was happening and by the time we left, I (and I think everyone else) was better for it. The plane ride there was fine as I was happily medicated by a potent anti-anxiety pill. However, on the way back, our flight wasn’t arriving until midnight and I knew I had to drive the six hours back to New Orleans the next day so I decided to brave the flight with my own creative tactics since the pills make me hella groggy. Cheryl Strayed said something in Wild that has always stuck with me: “Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me. Insisting on this story was a form of mind control, but for the most part, it worked.” With Cheryl’s help and many others, I’ve learned that I can control my thoughts. Yes, genetics play a factor in mental health and I didn’t exactly hit the lotto, but I control at least 40%. This slow realization and practice of telling myself a different story has made the largest impact on my overall happiness and peace of mind.
In the hours leading up to the flight and on the actual plane, I repeated silently to myself, “I am not afraid.” I can’t say the strategy is foolproof (I still had moments at the beginning of that flight where I thought we were for sure goners) but alas, we landed in Houston and I couldn’t help but feel proud of myself for not having a full-on freak-out. 2016 was rough on me physically and mentally, but I will say that I’m more resilient because of it and a hell of a lot braver.
Friday was a symbolic day: Epiphany, the start of Carnival season, Joan of Arc’s birthday. On Epiphany we sit in the full realization of the Light that has come to earth and Carnival begins a months-long celebration (Mardi Gras being on February 28th) that brings us all the way to the crushing reality of Ash Wednesday. Joy, however, is a reality too. Joan of Arc said, “I am not afraid. I was born to do this.” We were born to experience ALL of it–joy and sorrow and celebration and mourning and fearlessness and utter terror. The problem comes then we judge any one of these emotions as “bad”. At least, that’s when I run into suffering. When I don’t let myself just be where I am. Last year was largely about this lesson and about courage. Courage to face my multitudes and speak them truthfully.
One of my intentions in this new year is to continue being intentional about the way I speak to myself and others. Deliberate about acknowledging my feelings and examining them and putting words to them.
December was a monumental month for me. I spent time each day of Advent journaling and I had a lot of difficult conversations in which I spoke my truth. The hard conversations felt right and fulfilling because they were real. I spent time with people I love. I walked away from the Christmas season feeling more clarity and peace. I stored these conversations and lessons in my heart to ponder and I’m feeling okay with not having all the answers.
If I felt peace in Advent, I hope to feel more joy in Carnival season. Layne, our beloved site coordinator, quoted something over our Advent retreat that has stuck with me: “Joy is peace up dancing.” As in, they are one in the same. I intend to be more deliberate about welcoming joy into my days and calling on that deep well of peace and trust to sustain me through the ups and downs I know are inevitable.
Things are good in New Orleans. When I say good, I mean a steady good that remains through the bad days. I feel present to and with God and that is pulling me along in a satisfying flow. I’ve just gone back to work after a two-week break and I’m happy to be getting into a routine again. I missed Camille and Micah and my housemates. Their loving support makes everything worth it and I’m grateful to know them. I plan to write more regularly this year and keep you updated. Thank you to everyone who is supporting me this year, whether it be financially or in prayer. Please know this wouldn’t be possible without you and I appreciate your belief in me. And because it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t, I want to end this post with some of my intentions for the new year!
1. I want to focus first and foremost on tending to relationships and fostering community in the YAV house. I want to be more intentional about keeping up individual relationships and in the way I spend time with people and communicate with them.
2. Read more novels! I read a ton of nonfiction, which I’m sure I will keep doing, but I’ve missed that feeling of unconscious delight when lost in a story.
3. Write more; especially on this blog. I journal almost every day, but I want to keep up this space and write in a more structured way.
4. Meditate and pray daily. I’ve been meditating regularly over the last three months and I want to continue this. I can’t recommend Insight Timer enough. Download it and add me on there!
5. Get outside as much as possible and move my body. Whether that be exercising at the park or checking out a new spot in the city.
Word of the Year
1. done consciously and intentionally
2. fully considered; not impulsive
synonyms: ponder, steady, intentional, willful, purposeful, knowing, reflection.
I wish you blessings and love and peace and joy in 2017. Go forth and live deliberately, y’all ;)