05 January 2015

Home for Christmas, the New Year and Other Musings

She's been absent without excuse for several months and she just jumps in with link ups and nostalgia instead of an explanation? Yes, yes, that's what I'm doing. Enjoy!

I was fortunate enough to be able to go home for a week at Christmas and it was exactly what I needed. I've been living in Philadelphia (probably more on that in a future post) and the combination of city life, a new workplace, lackluster social skills and a bit of aimlessness left me feeling less than enthusiastic. Since I'm the kind of person who more easily sees downsides, difficulty or my own inadequacies, this all added up to a very negative general outlook. This is not to say that my life as of late has been horrible; rather, "the real world" hit me harder than I expected, both because that's how the real world works and because I didn't prepare myself for it. Mea culpa, of course, every day, always. I'm a work in progress here. Aren't we all?

Let's be honest: Philly isn't all that bad.

Anyway, let's give this post a more positive turn.

Going home was like all the nostalgic metaphors blended together. Breathing in warm, kitchen scents that smell like home should; wrapping in cozy blankets, well-worn from several Winters' use; family members' smiles somehow forgotten, now brilliantly remembered, making you believe you'd never left, making you wonder how you stayed away so long. There were all the old things: the dryer rumbling with my step-father's work clothes, the cold air and tiles in the morning made bearable by the sound and smell of dripping coffee, the evenings spent sinking into my sister's impossibly soft bed (probably just lumpy, though, and sometimes impossibly difficult from which to emerge) ready for conversation and jokes, the feeling of my sister's hands going through my hair as she styled it, the angles of my mother's shoulders when we hugged too few times, the gruffness of my step-father's voice and facial hair communicating love in the way he usually does (calling me "kiddo").

Then there were all the new things I didn't expect: a new sign in the kitchen as well as kitchen gadgets we didn't have before (sifters are easily some of the coolest tools in the world, by the way), the confusion I had in half walking to the pantry and half walking to the lazy Susan when I couldn't remember where certain baking ingredients were kept, the confounding size and skills of my baby cousin who was only three months old when I left and had somehow learned to walk with only some assistance in my absence. Stop it, girl. Just stop. But don't actually stop. Keep going because you're awesome.

Each day wasn't enough. Though I tried to schedule anything and everything I could into each day--baking, movie watching, meeting with friends and family--some of the best moments were the unscheduled ones where I fell into something that felt like incredibly comfortable normalcy, something I hadn't felt in a long time. All the old traditions of poking my sister to wake her up, making graham cracker houses and watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas on a mattress in the living room Christmas Eve were woven together with all the new bits made new by C's presence: my sister asking him when he was going to wake up (which became a daily question partly caused by his sleeping schedule being different and partly because she wondered when he was going to join in our activities), him designing his first graham cracker house and constructing a floor (a fact the rest of us found hilarious), him opening a stocking he hadn't expected to receive which my mother put together.

I'm a graham cracker house building professional.
The week spent at home was like stealing time from the past. I knew it couldn't last, but that was one of the best parts of the week: I never thought about it ending. I never counted down the days or realized when the half point was, as I often do with trips I am so excited about, only to look with sadness at the remaining days. I never thought about coming back or about work or about anything that had bothered me over the last several months. I used my vacation as an actual vacation and didn't spend half of the time worrying. I know this must seem a very obvious thing, but I never was good at focusing only on the good.

I have since returned to Philadelphia and what a welcoming return it was (hint: seven shifts in six days). Nonetheless, I realized there were things I missed about the city without realizing it. One of my favorite things to do here is walk. I could pretty much walk in any environment, but give me headphones, city blocks, a cloudy day and some coffee and I'm all set for having a wander around. I did miss the autonomy, the anonymity, the abundance of activity. None of it truly beats the comfort of home, but it is good and worth noting as good, if not only so as not to be discouraged. Despite myself, I even missed work. Keeping busy is necessary for me, otherwise I grow restless, but each interaction since I came back has seemed easier. I think that this is because, as I am not especially good with social interactions and do not have a personality which meshes with many of my coworkers' personalities, any interactions I had in December were just stress built upon stress. Back and fresh from a break, I feel like I can look on further interactions with a greater deal of patience for myself and others.

[How asocial does that sound? As if I can hardly bear to be around people... (So what if it's sometimes true?)]
One of the best days of Autumn. Is it because I'm by myself? Let's not answer that.

Really, though, I think that the break and the whole new year business (you know, "new year, new me" and all that) has helped me to create a more positive perspective. I have plans, though they haven't been written down (they ought to be; let's write some now).

1. Take advantage of new beginnings. I ought to thank Haley for a good deal of my inspiration, as her recent podcast with Christy called Fountains of Carrots and the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle (of which her book, Feast!, is part) have both encouraged me to make 2015 a better year than 2014 was. Playlists--full of encouraging lines instead of depressing groans--are always helpful, which can often be found on the sidebar if you are interested in taking a listen.

2. Find inspiration and, if necessary, create it. I have decided to collect good quotations, lyrics, whathaveyou and make them into art. Yes, how very Pinterest of me. I have done similarly in the past, including prayers and religious art, which I may do as well. In sight, in mind. I need all the inspiration I can get.

3. Let go of things that hurt me. Partially inspired by the following:

Life is too short and too easy to mess up in regard to what happens after (four last things, anyone?) for me to waste my time in this way. Why put up with people who hurt me, including myself? Why repeat the same behaviors when I already know the poor outcome? Why remain upset when I can do something to change my attitude instead?

4. Tell the people I love that I love them. Not only with a verbal "I love you," which I should do more of anyway, but with actions as well. Send messages. Call people on the phone instead of texting. Hand-write letters if necessary. Naturally this applies to the aforementioned family I waxed poetic about for the first half of the post, but I also need to work on seeing the good--even the Christ--in people I'm not familiarly obliged toward. I believe it is easy for me to be judgmental or wary of others because I seldom welcome the opportunity to meet them on a human level because I am too cautious and protective of my selfish desire to keep to myself. Sure, opening up to people opens up your chance to be hurt by them, but isn't that the point of love? People are going to let you down or talk behind your back or fail to understand you. My goal is to keep trying anyway.

5. Find creative outlets. I have a variety pack of sharpies and I'm not afraid to use them. This connects well with the plan I have to collect inspirational words, but I would like other medias as well. Blog more (hello). Maybe start vlogging (as requested by a friend, Y)? Read when I really want to escape. Now what I really need to do is figure out how to transport my piano... 

And now for some love:

These two.

Dear Grace writes over at Even the Wilderness. In her recent posts, she has been direct, open and honest in ways few people are and she has inspired me in writing this post. [I postponed writing for so long because I felt either 1) there was nothing good to say or 2) the garbage I did write would fall like an unexpected flat note in an otherwise major-tuned collection of posts. It is too much to expect that we always be on top of things and the only way I can turn things around is to admit that things can be crap at times, but they don't have to be crap always. I know, major epiphany there. Oh hey, Epiphany's tomorrow! Anyway.] I always stumble upon a post of hers at the exact right moment. She's been really spot on lately, so go check her out, leave a comment, tell her she's awesome, etc. Maybe include a picture of Benedict Cumberbatch. She'll dig it. Promise.

Hannah blogs, makes videos on YouTube and steals the hearts of many with her adorable son Grayson (he's one this week!). Her weekly vlogs have been scheduled into my routine and C enjoys watching their family adventures as well. Because of her vlogs I wish I lived in London, find good new music and get bit by the baby bug yet again. Oof.

And another Hannah! Hannah was one of the first people who started following my blog (and leaving comments! which means those viewing numbers are from real people! thank you!) and we've bonded in our convert boat. She is sweet and I so often find myself nodding along when I'm reading one of her posts. I was super excited when she announced that she and her husband Daniel are expecting!

Welcome, 2015. You're looking good.