7.05.2016

Mid-Year Resolutions, Self-Acceptance, and Why Facebook Doesn't Count as Reading

We sat in the cafe, and over coffee and piping hot breakfast sandwiches, my  friend and I discussed life. More specifically, we talked about the scarcity of absurdly honest moments. Those times when you put aside the social filter of decent, polite conversation and share what's really on your mind.

She thanked me for such a moment, and I replied that I think becoming a mom gave me less shame about my frailties. It's the combination of years of little and/or interrupted sleep, a constant feeling of inadequacy, and finally getting the fact that no one is thinking about me nearly as much as I think they are. It's the real potion that serves as social lubricant. I just can't care to be judged for my truth any more. It's glorious, and I'd revel in it more if I weren't so tired all the time.

I also mentioned my one, lone New Years resolution. I promised to stop trying to fix myself all the time and just embrace my messy existence. Taking myself as is.

That was January. It's now July. I promised you that I'd check in.

So far, so good. Or rather, so far, holy cow, how long have I been this weird?

See, I ran into a few detours on the road to self-acceptance. I realized that half of the time I'm juggling two polar opposite ideas about myself.

Do you do this too? You love Facebook, but scrolling through your feed feels like a waste of time? You really want to be fit, but you don't exercise or eat right? Have you been "writing" your novel for more than three years? This is what I mean. I often want two things that cannot co-exist.

Case in point. As a kid, I was an avid reader. I loved fiction. I devoured stacks of library books. As an adult, I'd still say that I love to read, although I'd be hard pressed to mention a recently read title that was not required for school. Everything seemed more important than reading. And when I was through with all those important things, all I had left in me wanted to veg out in front of Netflix.

I had to make a choice. I stole away for a season in between dissertation revisions and went back to the library. The first novel, I could barely get through. It was dry and it reminded me why I stopped reading fiction in the first place. I figured I needed a book that I knew would hook me. Maybe something of which I'd already seen on the big screen. Something that was really popular. I love suspense. A good thriller would do the trick, and it did.

I read Gone Girl in a week (which for a stay-at-home mom with a toddler is fast). Then, I read Girl on the Train in five days. Then Her; Nobody is Ever Missing; The Dinner; Summer House with a Swimming Pool.... It kept going. I was back to my avid reader self. I always had a book in my purse. I started my daughter on longer bedtime stories (we're almost finished with Alice's Adventures in Wonderland... which, by the way, if you think your art is too weird to be accepted by the masses, this is for you).

Reading led to writing. I blew the digital dust off a few old projects. And, as you can see here, I found time to blog again. Suddenly, I found all kinds of time for those things that made me feel like me. Accepting who I am got easier when I remembered who I was.

Of course, the take-away to all of this is that the things you really enjoy (I mean, the stuff that has a real payoff) require that nasty six-letter word: effort. You have to be intentional about the worthwhile stuff  or else the rest of life will crowd it out. Make time. Re-prioritize.  And for heaven's sake, simplify.

And I'm not saying that social media and Hulu binges don't feed you, because you wouldn't do them if they didn't. But there's fast food and then there's prime rib. Those activities that cost you a little something have bigger rewards and are far more satisfying.

I'm now in the middle of at least three books, and I'm editing an old novel that I'd like to see finished before I die. I feel like a kid with library books scattered around the house. I dig this sweet spot for however long it will last. It kinda feels good to be me.

So, I can't leave you without an exhortation of sorts. I hope the mid-point of 2016 finds you embracing your truest self. Not just doing what passes the time, but really engaging in what makes you fully alive.

~jennifer.

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