What I’m loving lately

People’s stories. Memoir has been a favorite book genre of mine for a while.  (This probably started with Eat, Pray, Love, if I’m totally honest.) I think part of what makes memoirs so fascinating is that, of course, only interesting stories are chosen to be published. But I find what I love more than anything is a story that’s true – one that a real human being actually experienced. All the highs and lows are so much easier to empathize with when I know they really happened. And I love the way memoir shows me that we’re all just people… each with our own complicated past to overcome.

One of my current memoir obsessions is Chef’s Table, on Netflix. I first turned it on one day when I wanted something I could tune in and out of while I chased Jack around the house, but I quickly found myself wanting to sit down and actually pay attention because each episode was just so fascinating! They introduce a different chef with each episode, and they do a fantastic job of really telling each person’s story – how they grew up, where they got their culinary start, and what makes their approach to food truly unique. And it’s done so beautifully, with artistic filmography and a moving soundtrack. It really hits all of the right buttons for me right now.

Some of my favorite memoirs in book form are (of course) Eat, Pray, Love, Wild, The Art of Asking, Mind Hunter, and Year of Yes. Check ’em out if you’re interested. 😉

Meeting new people. When Robbie and I decided to explore opening our relationship, I didn’t really know what I wanted out of it. To be honest, I’m still not sure I do. But what I do know is that most people’s first assumptions about why we’re open are wrong. This entire topic could be a post in itself, but for now, I will say this: what has been most enriching for me out of this entire experience has been connection.

I am really enjoying meeting people with whom I otherwise would never have crossed paths. People from completely different walks of life, in many different relationship situations of their own, and – here’s the kicker for me – each with their own unique story. Even if we have nothing in common or little chemistry, I learn something new from each person I meet. Sometimes what I learn ends up being more about myself than the other person, and that’s equally as great. I’m learning more empathy, less fear, more confidence, and a greater sense of curiosity. And when you’re free to simply keep all options open, connection is that much easier. It hasn’t always been easy, but so far it has definitely been good.

Cultivating creative energy. This has come in a few different ways for me lately. Photography, of course, has been a big creative outlet for me. But I’ve also been really enjoying doodling. I’ve been keeping a sketchbook for a few months now, and in it I’ve been doing all kinds of things with colored pencils, calligraphy pens, and even markers. Sometimes I put on a song that’s really been speaking to me and “sketch” the lyrics. Sometimes I just draw random shapes in random colors, and create my own abstract designs. Sometimes I just put pencil to paper and let both my brain and my hand wander. It’s all good.

Another new outlet for me lately has been container gardening. I’ve had a brown thumb for most of my life, but I’ve recently become better at keeping my plants alive, and – dare I say it – some of them are even thriving now! I have a funny mix of succulents, flowering plants, and greenery. Each of them has different watering and sunlight needs, and it’s been fun to care for each plant individually and really cultivate them. I like growing things… who knew?

Irish punk and alternative rock. I think I have come to terms with the fact that I’m just one of those people who goes through musically-obsessive phases. I find a band or genre that I love in at a particular moment, and then I listen to it ad nauseum. Lately it’s been a mix of Irish punk (thanks, Flogging Molly concert!) and 2000’s-era alternative rock, like The Strokes, The White Stripes, and Rage Against the Machine. I’m sure it will change soon, but for now, I’m really enjoying it.

Learning how to really RELAX. I am a great multitasker. Even when I’m watching TV or in the bathtub I’m usually scrolling through my phone, bouncing between social media apps or checking my email or browsing Amazon. But, as I’ve come to realize, this isn’t really relaxing. My body might not be doing anything, but my brain is still going a million miles a minute. All the constant input just jacks me up instead of slowing me down.

So I’ve started putting my phone down more, and putting it on silent before I leave it in the other room so I can truly forget that it’s there. Sometimes in the evening, I consciously choose not to deal with the remaining tasks on my to-do list, and sit down outside instead. I calm my brain by choosing to focus on one detail at a time – the way the clouds are moving, the sound of the cars going by down the hill, the smell of a neighbor’s BBQ grill. It centers me. Sometimes I use incense to set a mood of calm and also to give me a finite amount of time to force myself to be truly still. And my brain is better for it. I’m calmer, and more emotionally resilient.

Another relaxing thing I’m loving lately is watching videos of people painting with watercolors. This video is a great example. I love to watch the way the picture takes shape and to watch the motions of the artist’s hand. Combined with the calming music that usually accompanies the video, it’s very meditative for me. Plus, watching it via the YouTube app on my phone means I can’t multitask with other apps, so it forces me to focus. Win-win.

And some other, smaller things that are saving my life? A good cup of coffee, brewed and enjoyed with intention. My own made-up yoga flow that lets me do all the poses that feel good to me that day. Silly giggles with Jack. Long hugs from Robbie after work. Kitty snuggles. Strawberry shortcake on Sunday. Cheap roses on my table. Having the board behind my desk at work filled to the brim with photos of family and friends.

Small moments add up to a big life – if you let them.

What are you loving lately?

Love,

~Jess

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Revelations

I don’t know why you touched me so.
We met only once, but there was a spark,
a tiny flame that so rarely ignites for me.
You felt immediately kindred,
in a way that most never do.

And so I clung to you.
Hopeful,
wishful,
but also senseless.
And when words are all I have,
I hang on every one.
I see false messages between lines
never meant to exist.

My head knows this is unfair to you.
Who am I to expect so much?
After all,
my standards are more shallow
for those less important to me.

But I wanted so much from you.
I wanted to be chosen.
I wanted to be known.
To be deemed worthy
of interest and pursuit.
To be added to the ranks
of your numerous loves
would have been so validating.

And so I pined.
And then I pushed…
too far, it seems.

Your silence deafens,
screaming bitter words
about my stupidity,
my immaturity,
my inexperience.
Your rejection burns,
scalding the surface of my fragile ego,
revealing long-buried reminders
of my inadequacy.
It has been so long
since I’ve faced such a blatant dismissal,
that I had forgotten
how torturous it could be.

And yet somehow,
I still hope.
My heart leaps with each new message,
praying that it’s you,
back to tell me that I was wrong,
that you haven’t discarded me.

Then my pride chimes in that no,
I deserve more than your crumbs.
I am worthy of more
than your convenient attention.
“You can’t fire me… I quit!” she says.

But I don’t want to deny you.

I thought I was past this,
this need for external validation.
I thought I had grown,
become strong enough
to no longer require anyone’s approval.

But you have exposed me,
laid bare my true self,
my inadequate,
unpopular,
unworthy essence.
You have uncovered the child who remained
huddled,
shivering
against the cold wind of rejection.

Perhaps you were meant to.
Perhaps this was your purpose,
not to love me, as I wanted,
but to reveal my remaining weaknesses.

So… thank you.

Thank you
for the temporary warmth
that your spark provided.
Thank you
for sharing your perspective.
Thank you
for the growth you have inspired.

Heartbreak will find me,
whether I invite it or not,
so I might as well enjoy the high.