ring in the new year

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Photo by Tessa Rampersad on Unsplash

We made it.

We actually made it through 2017.

I don’t need to remind you that 2017 was an exhausting year, right?

Even on a personal level, a lot happened–I mean, I got married, which is a pretty big deal.

But in the wake of extreme political turmoil and anxiety, the Internet has decided that 2018 is about LIVING YOUR BEST LIFE. Or, as my friend Chris put it, “SPICY BUSINESS, 2018.”

Take that as you will, but for me, spicy business is all about living your best and most adventurous life.  I’ve already gotten a new tattoo; yesterday, my friend and I took a yoga class at a local cat shelter. If that’s not spicy business, I don’t know what is.

 

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Usually, I’m extremely skeptical about New Year’s resolutions. The reasons vary: I hate how we act as though we can only set goals on the first of the year; I resent the fact that most resolutions fizzle out by the end of the month; and I tend to think that New Year’s Eve is an overrated holiday.

But there was something about 2017 that made me reflect on the past, as well as the wonderful things to come. Here’s what’s on the horizon for 2018:

A new home.

Drew and I are planning to stay in Atlanta, but we have been toying with the idea of our future home for a while now. While I do love our current house–it is full of so many memories and so much laughter–Drew owned it before we even started dating. This year, we hope to move into a home that we choose together.

And maybe I’ll get my Beauty and the Beast-esque library.

Adventures with people I love.

Drew and I had an adventure-themed wedding because we think our marriage is an adventure…but we also want to see the world together. We’ve been talking about visiting Iceland for AGES, and today, we booked a flight for August.

We’re also planning to join our friends in New York, so Drew will finally be able to experience one of my favorite cities!

Later this year, my mom and I are planning to spend a weekend in Asheville, and I still need to visit Xan in Chicago. It’s turning out to be a busy year, but how could it not be?! There are so many places to see! (#SPICYBUSINESS!)

A regular yoga practice.

Exercise and I have never had the best relationship. I hate running and most forms of cardio; gyms make me self-conscious at best and anxious at worst; and, to be perfectly honest, there are just other things I would rather do. Binge watching Netflix is just more fun, okay? LET ME LIVE.

Enter yoga. My first introduction to yoga was during a high school P.E. class, and since then, it’s been a constant in my life. An irregular constant, but a constant nonetheless–whether it was on our Wii Fit or a YouTube video, yoga has always appealed to me.

Because of this irregularity, I know that my body functions much, much better when I take time to move and stretch. When I start complaining about back and neck pain, Drew suggests that I start doing yoga again. And he’s always right.

But yoga is a spiritual practice–it rejects the idea that the body is inferior to the spirit. I often need to remind myself of the connection between my physical body and my spirituality; after all, I believe that God created our bodies and wants us to take care of them (not to mention that bodies are especially significant to Christian theology). Where better to practice this than on the mat?

Writing.

There are times when writing feels as natural as breathing: I get inspired and knock out a poem or a blog post in record time.

But lately, writing has been more like swimming. I’m racing against the clock, pushing through the deepest waters, and my lungs are screaming for a chance to exhale.

I’m afraid to fail. I’m afraid of sounding less eloquent and poetic than I’d like and I’m afraid whatever novel I pursue will die with the five thousand other stories that are rotting in the graveyard of my hard drive.

So, I make things easier on myself.

I leave everything undone.

I know that this is not a good reaction to fear. It isn’t good for anything, except making myself feel worse as the year goes by.

This year, I want to remind myself that writing is not only my passion, but it’s also a process. It’s often a slow process. But that’s okay, because I never want stories to end, anyway.

“I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.”

-Shannon Hale

What else?

Less burnout. More tattoos. More magic. More books. More light. More love.

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Happy New Year, sweet friends. I hope and pray that it’s one of the best. ❤

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Art, Activism, & Apathy

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I was once told that I have emotions seeping out of every pore in my body.

It doesn’t take a plethora of scientific studies to prove that artists are sensitive (though many studies have).

At risk of sounding incredibly cliche, I find my own sensitivity to be a blessing and a curse. If you are having a bad day, I’m a good listener; I’m also fairly decent at reading other people’s emotions. I feel deeply and fiercely, and most decisions I make are made with my heart.

Emotions are also kind of a pain in the ass. Sometimes, I am brought to tears just because Drew said something really nice. For instance:

Me: I’m afraid I’m going to trip while walking down the aisle.

Drew: That would be hilarious. 

Me: What the hell!? No, it wouldn’t! 

Drew: I mean, I’d laugh, but then I would just think, “That’s the woman I fell in love with.”

Me [eyes shining with tears]: AWWWWWW. 

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So, yeah. I have emotions seeping out of every pore in my body.

That’s why I write, and why others paint or make music or dance. Art has a funny way of helping us understand and appreciate this beautiful, messy thing called life.

Perhaps this hyper-sensitivity is also why art so easily lends itself to social justice. If sensitive artist types like myself are already FEELING ALL THE FEELS and then catch a segment of the evening news, we’re going to start feeling even more feels. And, like everything else buzzing around our minds, those feelings have to go somewhere.

That’s why I continue to write. There are plenty of stories that are just for me, and there’s something beautiful in that, too–but I will have truly answered my call to create if my words can help make the world a better place.

In the past, I wrote about social justice and politics sporadically; in other words, I wrote about justice when I didn’t know what else to do. Words were the best way–the only way–I knew how to change myself and the world around me. I took my anger, threw it back at the world, and said, “Ha! I made something beautiful. You can’t hurt us anymore.”

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.”
― Cornel West

After the 2016 election, I vowed to do everything I could to stand for justice and social change.  I would march. I would call my Senators. I would write letters to Donald Trump every day.  I would stay educated on every single bill. Most importantly, I would write. God, I would write. Because that’s what I was put on this earth to do, dammit.

This is a promise that is impossible to keep, even for a girl who feels too much and too hard. You see, the problem with feeling so many things at once is that you are in danger of burning out. Fast.

Not that my exhaustion stopped me. I called my Senators. I prayed every day and started writing more articles about justice. I wrote letters and Tweeted up a storm.

But I had started to feel numb. Everything I did felt useless. I felt like I didn’t deserve to be called an ‘activist,’ because I was just calling politicians and writing on my blog that barely reached a hundred people. I hadn’t started writing any thought-provoking dystopian novels or anything, either. I listened to the news, and instead of heartache I felt hopelessness. I was angry, but I was no longer surprised. It was a familiar reaction, really–how many of us catch a news story about a shooting or a terrorist attack, shake our heads, and change the channel?

That might be the scariest thing of all: that tragedy and injustice strike, and we aren’t even surprised.

We should be. We should be shocked to our very core. This is not how the world was meant to be. 

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A few months ago, my pastor taught a sermon on compassion fatigue. He explained that thanks to the Internet, we are bombarded with information every second of every day.  We can only process a certain amount of information at once, so our empathy fizzles out. We stop caring.

That Sunday, I realized how tired I was. I had stopped caring, and I didn’t feel like myself. Emotions may be a pain in the ass, but I would rather feel too much than nothing at all.

Rest was long overdue. I took a short break from social media, and listened to the news a little less. I was less weary, and I started to FEEL ALL THE FEELS again.

And, once again, this proved to be a blessing and a curse. This past week, I was in tears after reading the news and scrolling through Facebook. I was worried about healthcare and heartbroken for my transgender brothers and sisters; it had already been a stressful week without another blow from the government.  My empathy was back in high gear, but so was my hopelessness.

“I’m just so angry and sad,” I told Drew. “No matter how many calls we make or letters we write, it doesn’t seem to make a difference.”

Drew paused, and then in his thoughtful, wonderful, Drew way, he said something I will never forget: “Sometimes, you don’t fight to win the current battle. You fight to win the next one.”

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I do not write this little blog entry as a how-to, or an advice column, or even as a promise for myself–but I do write this as an encouragement to my fellow artists and hyper-sensitives.

We cannot afford apathy. We need your emotions–every single one. We need art to light up the world. We need fierce compassion so we can love the least of these. Stay sensitive. Empathy is indeed a blessing, even on the very worst days.

Pain is a part of life, yes; it’s unavoidable in this broken, brutal world. But we’re a part of this life, too, and that fact alone means that we are not powerless.

Listen to the aches of your heart and keep creating, whether you bake or write or paint or dance. The world may not need you in order to keep spinning, but it desperately wants you–because there are future battles to be won.

The Prince and the Starman

There’s a starman waiting in the sky.  He’d like to come and meet us, but he thinks he’d blow our minds. 

On Monday morning, I logged on to Instagram and saw a post that said David Bowie had passed away. All day, my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds were flooded with kind words and tributes to the starman.

Today feels similar. I woke up and read two texts that said Alan Rickman had died from cancer. Once again, people are typing ‘rest in peace’ and posting pictures, sending their love and prayers to his family and friends.

Very rarely do I feel saddened and hurt by the death of a celebrity. I can count from memory the celebrity deaths that truly hit home for me. I don’t watch a lot of movies, and so I am not very familiar with many actors who pass away. Most of the artists I admire are still alive, or have died before I was born, and so I have never truly experienced what hundreds of thousands of fans went through with artists like Elvis or Jimi Hendrix or Kurt Cobain. Usually, when I hear that a celebrity has died, I feel sad in the resigned sort of way most people feel when they watch the news. Sure, it’s sad, but it doesn’t hurt. 

But David Bowie and Alan Rickman are different.

There is a part of me that says I should not be so sad. After all, I didn’t know either of them. I still have Bowie’s music and the Harry Potter movies; it’s not like their deaths will affect my life in any sort of tangible way.

Yet, here I am, posting everything I can on social media and blogging about it.

Why? Why is it that we feel so hurt by something occurring so far away?

There is so much more happening in the world. I know this. I know that there are countless wars and starving children and people on the streets. I know that I could be doing something more ‘productive’ with my time instead of writing this and wallowing in sadness.

In college, I took a religion class where we discussed this very phenomenon. My professor argued that fandom–whether it be sports or another aspect of pop culture–could be considered a religion, and she took it further by pointing out how intense fans can be when a celebrity dies. Most of my classmates agreed that paying tributes to people you have never met was pointless, and that they didn’t understand why people lined up for Michael Jackson’s funeral.

Like I said before: I have felt hurt when celebrities pass away–it just isn’t very often. But even then, I disagreed with the idea that mourning an artist was pointless. To be honest, I just thought my class was trying to act like they were above things like caring about famous people.

Yeah, whatever, dude. You are not better than me because I was bummed about Micheal Jackson and you weren’t. 

In a way, we did know David Bowie. We knew Alan Rickman and Robin Williams and Michael Jackson because we grew up watching them perform or hearing them sing. We were inspired by them and comforted by them when we felt utterly alone.

David Bowie kept me company on car rides and long work days. He was wonderful and weird, and people who are wonderful and weird are always my favorite kind of people.

Alan Rickman brought a character from my favorite series to life and affected my interpretation of Severus Snape for good. I listened to a recording of him reading Shakespeare when I was searching for audiobooks to download. He kept me company, too.

Is it really so bad to mourn people who have found their way into our hearts?

Finding artists we connect with is rare, and it is a blessing–and that is why, even though we have never met them, it still feels like a loss.

It is not wrong to love someone for their work, or to feel sad when that bit of magic is gone from earth. But as J.K Rowling has said before, those we love never really leave us.

We have the songs and films to prove it.

Rest in peace, Ziggy. Rest in peace, Professor. We’ll see you again someday. ❤