Friday, June 13, 2014

Making it [life] count

Everything new blossoms in summer; we renew old aspirations, embrace new ideas and hobbies, and try to make room for what's coming -- which for us, in Florida, pretty much consists of sweaty walks to the farmer's market, afternoon rain storms, and travel plans. I have an ever growing TBR list and Aaron's fiddling with the mandolin; we are experimenting with fun new cocktail drinks and summer pasta salads. Despite the heat, I want summer to be a time for exploration and returning to a place of peace and curiosity. 

I find myself caught between two (strong) emotions: fear of plunging into the unknown -- which truly is just around the corner -- and excitement for all of the changes and growth, particularly entrepreneurial growth. When I was dreaming up my freelance business last year, I knew there was so much to learn and do. It's overwhelming at times, but I'm learning to stop and appreciate each little moment as it comes, no matter how terrifying it can seem at first. I still feel like a middle schooler with a serious crush when I get editing inquiries: nervous butterflies in the best way. And when it all feels like too much, I stop, take a deep breath, and remember to cry out, God, come get me. 

On my mental health journey these past few months, I finally discovered a name for one of the monsters I've been battling: Anxiety. The anxiety I struggle with reveals so much about my heart. I understand my need for emotional boundaries to protect my own health and Aaron's health, and my need to stop grasping after this illusion of control. There's still a lot I need to dive into on this road to healing and freedom, and unfortunately, naming my anxiety doesn't make it go away. Some days I'm convinced I have all the answers I'll ever need, and other days I'm slapped in the face with the reality that my mental health story isn't about finding solutions as much as it is about going through the process and grieving or dealing with certain things along the way; my journey has more to do with allowing myself to sit in this space and becoming self-aware. 

If I had known I would be thinking this way or writing these words about "healing" and "self-actualization" a few months ago, I probably would have responded with cynicism. It's not that I necessarily bought into the negative stigma of mental illness, but I can be very self-critical and, admittedly, it all seemed kind of hoax-y on the surface.  I think that's partly why God put us where we are now, in Orlando, surrounded by all of these awesome RTS students and counselors. The things I've learned from people here -- about myself, family, and community -- are things I will never forget.

That said, right now, I'm in the business of making life count. I'm tired of anxiety owning me, of fearing what's around the corner. Sure, a lot of what I feel on a day to day basis is a healthy dose of nervousness mixed with excitement and feeling my way through the dark; but it's time to start enjoying moments in life. I don't want to be absent all the time because I'm consumed with work or thoughts about the future. So here's what I plan to focus on this summer -- a challenge, really -- to be present and generally enjoy life more:

Reading (Together): I already mentioned my personal TBR list is growing, but what I'm most excited about as a reader is the nerdiness of reading with Aaron. Gah. I know, it's so geeky, but I don't care. We decided to tackle a series together, and I'm going to go ahead and say it: It's probably going to be The Lord of the Rings. Go ahead and judge me, but Aaron reading to me? It's dreamy, folks. DREAMY. I'm so looking forward to putting our phones away and getting lost in a good book together. We're already such an old couple; the next thing you know, I'll be telling you we like to play board games together (I mean . . .  because we totally don't like board games or anything. . . . ahem.)

Limiting screen-time: This goal totally ties in to the first on my list, but I am convinced that getting away from the computer, phone, and T.V. screens will help me to be present, especially in the evenings. When I am intentional about this, it totally frees up my time for reading, cooking, or spending quality time with A or friends. It's so hard to get me away from the screen, but once I unplug, it feels amazing. I already deactivated my Facebook and guess what? It helped me take that busy feeling down a notch. 

Repeating my new biz motto: Lately, my biggest temptation to be absent throughout my day/evenings is being consumed or overwhelmed by client-relationships and freelance projects. I'm constantly learning and there's always more I feel like I should be doing. That anxiety perpetuates, and I've realized I don't actually relax, even when I think I'm relaxing, because my mind is elsewhere. If I want to have a healthy work and life balance, this has to end. For me, the best approach to nip this in the bud is to adopt confidence and genuine enthusiasm for new editing projects. 

Most of you know I live in Winter Park, home of the beloved Rifle Paper Company. I watched a talk on Creative Mornings featuring Anna Rifle Bond, the creative director and co-owner of Rifle, on how the husband-and-wife duo started their stationary business. Something she said really resonated with me: They never said no to an opportunity. "One of Nathan's biggest things is never say that we're not ready," she said. Anna admitted that this motto often put them in tricky situations, but that ultimately it was worth it. 

Rather than freaking out about new things in my own business, I find myself repeating something Aaron said to me lately: "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." I want to leave the work anxiety behind and remember that there's no harm in striving after something, even if you fail. In a similar vein, when confronted with challenges in my personal life, my counselor recently reminded me of a quote by G.K. Chesterton: "Anything worth doing is worth doing badly." Now, I can't completely translate this particular advice to my professional life because I do want to uphold a standard of excellence as a freelancer, but Aaron's sentiment of what do you have to lose? is a push toward optimism and chasing worthwhile efforts.If it matters to me, it's worth pursuing. You miss 100% of the shots you don't take!

Drink coffee with two hands: One of my favorite bloggers (who happens to be a fabulous foster mama) recently directed me toward another blogger's challenge to "drink coffee with two hands." The idea is simple: when we drink coffee with two hands, we slow down and savor the moment more. (Just another reason why coffee saves lives here, people.) We reflect; we take the time to talk and think about what's going on around us. What a wonderful challenge to be intentional in the every day, small moments!

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"Pleasant words are [like] honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." Proverbs 16:24