Feeling 32: What I know(and DONT know)

Hello, 32.

{Wait. One moment.  Before you begin reading, let me advise you that this post is probably the closest to hearing my inner monologue you can get from a blog post.  I always strive for realness, but this post takes my usual stream of consciouness style to another level.  Higher or lower I'm not sure, but that is really not my concern.  Remember, I will leave the Pulitzer Goals to my literary ladies.  I appreciate the loose 'rules' of blogging, and I purposefully did not edit or rework this post after it's intital draft(excluding this insert and notification.) So come along and join the conversation. Stick with me as invite you into my thoughts that often bounce around.  I do introduce a few new topics with you that I hope to dig into more together. If something intrigues you, or you feel me on something..let me know...So without any more attempt to rationalize my messy musings, here is today's post.}

Ahem. Hello, 32.

I am not sure what I thought I would be doing at this age when I was a child, but I was quite certain that being over 30 meant you had everything figured out because I mean, like, 30 is like, "OMG, so ancient."  My teachers were in their 30s. My mother was in her 30s. And they all got regular permanents to enhance their mom haircuts, so life was serious at 32, I was sure of it.  

Even as a teenager, I played Strawberry Wine on repeat, singing Deanna Carter's reflective lyrics with no concept of actual perspective and looking back.  I think I love that song even more today. 

Ten years ago, I turned 22, and I recently came across a little post I wrote on my first blog site. I felt so old then. I used “OMG” guys, so you know I was real serious. 

Since then I have celebrated a decade of birthdays filled with joy, growth, change, and learning to embrace{albeit sometimes kicking and screaming, adulting.

At age twenty five, I was all:

Look at that naivity in the picture below, and legitimate wrinkle free living...

{photo credit: an actual camera with life before insta-filters and the option to buy Botox on Groupon...hypothetically speaking of course...)

My mid twenties mantra: 

{photo credit: Brene Brown via Momestary Instagram}

{photo credit: Brene Brown via Momestary Instagram}

oh Silly #youths

In more recent years, I have used my brithday as a way to practice my developing #intentionalliving goals.  {college roomates know this development has its origin in the days of "Dottie's new leaves" Apparently I turned over a new leaf like every other week.} My #30before30 list was a significant part of my journey, and I attribute much of my personal, physical, emotional, and spiritual growth to it.  Chronicling the completion of the list online was vital to it's success.  

I even imparted my "lessons learned" and "wisdom" with other YOUTHS and millenials coming up just a few birthdays behind me for the Focus on the Family Boundless blog: 

Click here to read What I Wish I Believed at 25

Yeah, I was turning 30, I thought, so I definitely was on the cusp of mastering life. Or at least the six pieces of advice and lessons I shared. 

And all along the way, I been sharing through this digital medium of blogging.  I had only known the word "blog" for a day or two when I set up my first online home.  Believe it or not, there was a day when bloggers were a rare and unusual specimen.  I was ignorant to the power of the big ole world wide web, and was just having fun chronicling my move from small town South Carolina to the bright lights of Hollywood(errr...more accurately The Valley) It was my experience with SoCal traffic, I think that solidified my finding therapy in perfecting the #carjams.  I highly recommend any 20 something year old girl drive down Santa Monica Boulveard with this blasting:

And drive west down, Ventura Boulevard, to this:

And since, I just was talking to you guys Friday about crazy good cover songs, if you havent heard John Mayer's live version of Free Fallin...do yourself a favor, and press play below. {watch him perform it too, if you can.  #anothermusicmancrush} Oh and remind me to come back to Johnny boy sometime soon..I have some thoughts..I told you this was a next level stream of conciousness blog today...you were warned...

It was a fun time..so many unknowns...life changes and adventures.  It's impossible to know what the future holds.{you know a legit Professor Marvel would have come in handy a lot} Had I know that at 32, I would actually NOT have it all figured out and things don't go away on the Internet, I probably would have have never intentionally shared slices of my #inreallife online.  But it just kind of kept happening.  Most of the time, I am grateful for my ignorance and youth during my intial dip in the quasi-adulting pond-uh-lake-umm-overwhemling ocean.  Unfiltered thoughts, vulnerable faith wrestling, and candid confessions about life and personal struggles are now a precious time capsule to reflect back on. {and no longer live links. PRAISE!}   And moments and phases of feeling like I'm gaining traction on perspective, Deanna.  

What I could not have expected is that while I have experiened real growth and change, I am also still very much a #youth and I still have much living and learning to do.  

To read my own words from 10 years ago, 5 years ago, 3 years ago, ummm, last WEEK--and see I still wrestle and struggle with some of the SAME THINGS can be disheartening, depressing even.  Year after year, stumble after stumble.  I have asked a lot of questions.  I have found answers. AUTHENTIC VICTORY TOO.  The lesssons I have learned and the advice I share I deeply believe to be sound and true.  But to face the fact that I reguraly forget them is tough.   To look back at mountain top victories like this piece I wrote called 'Finding Freedom' from a valley that feels like bondage is soul crushing.  

  That crushing feeling can fuel shame and self loathing thoughts. Self loathing thoughts stem essentially, for me, and maybe for you friends, from when we forget who and Whose we are.  And guys, the basic core of the Gospel: forgiveness, mercy, steadfast love and abounding grace.   

I wrote at the beginning of the month about September.  I didn't have one of my bucket list type activities in motion this year and since I was confident it would clearly be better than last year's birthday{and it most defintely was}, I figured I may just do a fun blog post for all my basic bi%#&s and pin some pins on Pinterest about all the new "wisdom" I have aquired at this ancient age.{ARE WE SEEING A PATTERN?} Surely, I learned my #comingofage #adulting #faithandvaluesliving lessons by now?! I would link you to a funny Buzzfeed post about being in your thirties and remind you that: 

That is still true.  Cause I mean, I am legit feeling: 

{note: I could not locate the orginal parody online, but this one is still funny.}

All month, I attempted to formulate and compose that #basicbirthdaygirlbloggerpost.  With no success.  I woke up on my birthday Saturday, half way expecting that 'ah ha!' moment to arrive! Maybe hair fairies come in the middle of the night and you wake up with all the answers and a new mom hair cut to boot! It's not like I wasn't prepped for it: 

With no revelations I deemed worthy to share, I hit the pavement for a hometown run

(slash walk).  

The air was crisp, and my #Fallgirl love was in full effect!  I passed several acorns along my running route. My friend Ashley sent me a picture of a single green one her children found while playing outside on Sunday, too.  (Dad's birthday.) 

 I noted the grand trees of the Anderson University front lawn.  

The roots.  My feet felt planted and I prayed for the #renewing theme of this past year to take root. <---click to read my 'hello 2015' post.  

A wise friend of my Dad's encouraged me at the one year mark last week about the importance of moving onward and upward.  And I have been relieved, excited even that the last of 'the firsts' were complete.  Goodness knows, I don't want to be 'grieving blogger girl' forever.  It's exhausting. And I get on my own nerves sometimes.  One of my dearest and most honest friends made me laugh so hard the other day when we were catching up with a walk on the Swamp Rabbit.  Catching me up on the new season of 'New Girl,' she replayed for me how the Nick character says "dead dad card" throughout the episode to 'excuse'  his actions or lack there of.  We all have 'cards' we can play in life, and it's important to distinguish when those cards are propeling us forward or keeping actually keeping us stuck.  It's not a science or formula by the way. And Lawd knows, I would love it if it were some list I could check off. {<----oh there is that pattern} I JUST WANT TO GET IT ALREADY! But, grief is just an illustration of the life of a human heart being reworked, renewed, and ultimately restored to perfection.  But gosh the Potter's ways can be painful. {I want to be moldable clay, but so often I am not and resist the change}  It's lots of mess and gray area and requires attention and intentionality from our head and heart. Intuition and Holy Spirit based. 

I finished my run.  It was reflective. I felt renewed, and real tired. {That stretch on E. Greenville St between Wells Fargo and Bi-lo is a deceptively tough incline.  just sayin.  I almost stopped at Starbucks mid run.} Alanis, though, got me through with her timely lyrics:

I did swing back around to Starbucks for a birthday beverage and cake pop! Duh

My mother had the most gorgeous pink roses for me waiting at her new pad.

So naturally, we needed to toast and cheers to this new year, and I strive for authenticity so I wanted to make sure the statement on my tee was true Saturday:

So, I got part of that mantra right this weekend.  Drink Champagne.? Check.  Keep Calm? Hardly. A friend told me, "grief is a sneaky bitch."  I concur.  September has been really hard. I haven't admitted that enough. ('Deap Dad Card' fear.)  I just wanted to check off the year anniversary, my brithday, and his.

"I'm fine just fine everyone!"  

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And I am, truly happy. But I think you can be happy and sad at the same time....something I really didn't consider to be an option for September.  I just wanted to BE HAPPY AND CELEBRATE AND DANCE !!!!  I'm so over grief blogging.  Buuuut, my desire for my public sharing has always wanted to begin and end with realness and truth:

I could not have predicted the circumstances of this past year, but my heart's desire could not abandon the theme God had already begun cultivating in my heart:

Living Settled in an Unsettled Life.  {<----you can read orIginal introduction of this theme written on August 24, 2014 just under a month before my father passed.}  

That theme had already been stirring long before, and I was specifically seeking freedom from letting my circumstances or things outside of my control have a hold on me.  I knew in my head that my worth and value should not come from external and situational things, but my actions spoke a differnent belief.  I was sure if God would just change certain things, then I would be totally chill and zen.  Yep, then I would be an easy beezy gal. I could trust God and life then. Ha!  This tension was strong in my being because I knew it was a battle between accepting God's way verses my will or "plan."  And just as I started to shift my perspective and seek a deeper dependence on Him, I got a whole new set of circumstances to face: Death. Loss. Suicide. Abandoned and devestated mother. Family Division. Loss of a job. Closing a 30 year old business. And overwhelming grief.  {I say that not to elicit sympathy, pity or attention, but to quickly and clearly state some of the immediate and shocking new circumstnaces. I am revealing the selfishness of my heart because I am deeply aware that people deal with much worse every single day. For years. For a lifetime. And I know some of those people are you, dear friends. But I can only tell my story and #firstworldproblems they may be, but they are what I know, and according to those pesky blog metrics, I am only one email subscriber from a third world country. }

But when faced with these new situations, would I press into the practices I was already 'preaching'? Oh shit had just gotten real. It is ONLY by His grace that I am His today.  The future vision and mission of this site has evolved from MY #INREALLIFE desire to be settled in my heart and soul no matter the circumstances of my life. That mission? That vision? That desire? 

To find peace in the process.  To embrace the present.  To live a more full and engaging life. 

Any why? Because:

I believe the most important work of our lives is discovering our true identity and living in that truth. 

I believe that if we seek to find our worth and value in God alone then we can live with greater peace and joy. 

My desire is to create a space that encourages us to live each day with joyful purpose and intention. But this vision of peace in the process, that is everyday becoming more clear and focused as my career transitions, is the result of a life reflective of so much unsettleness and unrest in my being. My public (and private writings) are some of the tools and research I am using to develop this space. 

Here's where I circle back to self loathing.  I am a poor pupil.  I can read former thoughts and feel like the biggest hypocrite as soon as I am face with #inreallife moments that call me to action.  And when I do not to choose joy, make decisions from my values,  and practice peace and gratitude then feelings of renewal can quickly shift to regret and shame.  

My birthday was significant because it did represent more than it had in my previous three three decades.  I am happy and I am in such a better spot than this time last year. I am a radically different person with a radically different life, but I am also still very vulnerable to basing my healing or growth on factors other than God's transformative unchanging love for His children.  My deepest longing for accepting my present, no matter the situation, is not something we just magically 'get.'  Sweet friends, this is a lifelong journey of clinging to God's strength and not relying on our own.  I wanted so badly to be "fixed" by Saturday. For so many reasons.  And my lack of mindfulness revealed that I was not in tune with where my heart and mind truly were.  It's okay not to be okay sometimes. And you can be fully engaged in life and have peace in the process even when you are having a hard time.  The problem and paralyzation comes when we get on the shame cycle and forget to forgive and fail to re-remember that basic Gosepl truth: saving grace and steadfast love.  I am weak, He is strong.   

Dresing up and wearing sequins helps:

I attended a wedding of a family friend on Saturday evening. It was a gorgeous ceremony in the church where both my mother and father and grnadparents, Dot and Pap were married.   One of my all time favorite wedding band's, The Mighty Kicks played and I got my birthday wish of dancing and champagne! {pictured here with my hot mama- to- be sister in love. baby nephew due in December.}

I attended a wedding of a family friend on Saturday evening. It was a gorgeous ceremony in the church where both my mother and father and grnadparents, Dot and Pap were married.   One of my all time favorite wedding band's, The Mighty Kicks played and I got my birthday wish of dancing and champagne! {pictured here with my hot mama- to- be sister in love. baby nephew due in December.}

The Sugarbakers staught me that: 

Bubbles do too.  But they only temporarily mask or delay the shame cycle. I want to be authentic. I want to be better.  And I know both are possible.  I have lived it.  You too, and we are living it today.  But are you receiving for yourself the tender mercies God offers to you each day? Do you know that the ability to break free only comes from Him?  

Know this:  

You are not your circumstances. But you can actively change them thru Him. 

You are not your mistakes. But when you know better, you do better(Thanks Ms. Angelou)

You are not your embarrasments. But you can fully receive grace and forgiveness today. 

Lord, have mercy on me and let me practice what I preach. 

 That is why I want this to be a dialogue, a conversation, and a safe place to wrestle and grow together.  And I am so encouraged that that is developing.  Friends, we can find calm in the midst of the chaos and truly come to know what living settled in an unsettled life is really all about.  If we uncover our true identity in God, discover peace in the process, we can experience transformed lives!! I believe it in my gut and soul still. {But dang, it can be hard.  And I am learning no matter the age or stage, we are all still #youths in so many ways!}

 I had to let go of this past year and give myself permission to let go. I can't go back and I can't use other people to try and fulfill or represent an existence that no longer is. There is truth I think in that whole concept of 'time heals.' It falls short by itself, but it is a valid part of the process.  There was a piece of my heart still unable to reconcile the reality and regrets of my #in real life. But instead of patiently processing that some wounds (self inflicted ) were still there, I have tried to mask them. And poorly might I add. God used scratchy sequins and too much chilled champage to peel back the last layer of this past year.  I have been in bondage and loathing myself for my failures, mistakes and treatment of others. (Some real and some imagined, I am sure.) 

I am not immune to the trappings of projecting vulnerability from behind a computer screen yet keeping my real life moments from getting that same respect. But at this time, the onward and upward is and has been in effect so why give any more power to two significant days this weekend being hard. It's not shocking for old habits that you were certain you had conquered to reemerge. We are human.  It's not an excuse either but it is yet another reminder that the point of this life is not for Dorothy or anyone else to fix themselves or control everything. In fact it's be exact opposite. It's depending on God strength in my weakness moments and being mindful that they can emerge as quickly as a flashback or memory or something. To NOT look to my friends and community for help is selfish and arrogant. And to expect it from someone or something who is not responsible is too. Self loathing and self saving is not right and neither is blaming or misdirected anger.  

Some wounds like dads death with leave scars and others will perfectly seal and settle. But in the mean time, let's not rely on oursleves but lean into truth we know.  I don't have it figured out. That's not a shocker I am sure if you are still reading this post.   But I am hoping, honestly, that you are vibing with my thoughts. And I think based on the conversations I have had with many of you online and off, I am not the only one. 

So I may not know a lot at 32, but I do feel confident about a few things so consider it my Free Tips Tuesday blog share: 

*in most cases

*in most cases

these are key values: 

And ya know..

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THIS IS WHAT IT'S ABOUT FRIENDS:

And may we keep re-remembering to: 

xoxo,