A new year brings new resolutions. A gentle nudge that says, yes, dream, and now set course. Every year we celebrate this permission, but far too often we do not reach that final destination. In fact, the burn of our defeat hurts so deeply that the following year too many of us set course for something entirely new. How terrible is that? Not only do we punish ourselves for not reaching our goal, we add insult to injury by completely burying that dream. But I find, the older I get, those dreams resurface. Hidden resolutions come back as reincarnated versions of the original dream. Perhaps the tiny changes offer a little merciful cushion. A little tweak here and there can reignite motivation without having to dredge up previous failing. So we celebrate a new dream. A pain-free, never attempted, new dream. A fresh clean slate of possibility. And that’s fine if that’s what we have to tell ourselves to tackle the challenge. Whatever way we need to summon the courage and strength is good enough. But what we cannot do is ignore it because that dream will either make you or break you. I don’t mean that you have to succeed beyond your wildest dreams. But I am saying eventually you have to try. Because if you don’t, those zombie dreams will come from their grave and haunt you.
I’ve lived in a fog for most of my adult life. I’m not saying I haven’t been happy, but I am saying that it took work for me to feel happy. Progress and productivity rule me. If I am not actively making something better than I am not ok. You notice I said something. Not myself. I mean I always thought I was. I read the self-help books. I went to counseling. I signed up for the occasional yoga or put in 30 minutes on the treadmill to work off the shame of my recent food choices. Everything always felt like work. And when creativity would come calling, I’d stomp it back down and convince myself that discipline was necessary to stay on track. Creativity kept trying to distract me, coaxing me with its glitz and glamour, nagging me to waste time on an unnecessary and selfish idea. I had work goals. I had family goals. I had friend goals. All on my to do list. What I never did was learn how to be still in myself, because that is unnecessary, selfish and unproductive in any sort of a definition that mattered to me or to my world. I am driven. I get shit done. I am a force. I used my force for good, for the good of the whole.
But I was tired. I was stuck. I was unfulfilled. Somehow all at the same time I felt both heavy and hollow. When one goal was reached it was immediately replaced with another. And the more I succeeded the harder it was to not notice that my feelings about myself weren’t improving. Everything I read kept trying to convince me to be courageous. A hundred ways to make me realize that I had the potential and ability. But I already had the confidence to know I could tackle everything I set my mind to. I knew I was capable. I have the work ethic, the resourcefulness, the endurance to push beyond physical pain and mental exhaustion. I’ve seen the reward of that work. My restaurant. My family. My home. But nothing was making me the kind of happy that I imagined existed somewhere else, within someone else. If anything these books were making me feel less able, or at the very least, ashamed. Was I not supposed to have confidence? Was it weird that I had so much confidence? And if everyone else only needed to be reminded to be brave to be able to do whatever it was that would make them happy, then what was wrong with me? Maybe I was just better at selecting my goals. Maybe I was smart to cater my goals directly to my strengths. But none of the books paid me that compliment. So I continued to validate myself by adding to my accomplishments. Reaching for more, doing more, all things that continually left me unfulfilled.
Then, like a rock over the head, or maybe a nudge from above, or probably just Liz Gilbert lecturing a starving artist on her podcast, it all hit me. I really was doing it all wrong. I wasn’t catering to my abilities, I was neglecting my soul. The real thing I should be reaching for is the very thing I am Not sure I can do. All this time I was filling my life with goals that I knew I could reach because I was too afraid to even voice the things I really wanted. And that was my mistake. Sure, I went after hard things. I opened a business. I expanded that business. I reached high. But I haven’t reached right. If you keep choosing, and yes it is a choice, to ignore that which you find most scary and hard, then you are doing yourself a major disservice. We weren’t created to just be successful. I am a successful business owner. I have a successful marriage. I have succeeded over and over. But I want to feel joy, deep, euphoric, complete personal joy, and no number of businesses or material things or people will give me that. I have to take responsibility for my own completeness. I have to listen to what I want, and I have to be brave enough to go after it, even if it means that all of my other success must be put on hold. I have to believe that I am worthy of that opportunity, and I have to give myself permission to try. And that I think will be the hardest thing I will ever do.
I really might fail this time.
Isn’t that cool!
I turned 40 last year, and although most of the year… well maybe Because most of the year was paused in Covid quarantine, I had a lot of time to think. Time to think about things that didn’t require immediate attention because even if they had we were all stuck at home anyway. I opened a journal and just started completely wasting time on nothing! Thanks to a minimal work schedule which allowed for me to go to bed earlier, I started waking earlier, before my family woke, to take full advantage of alone time. But I didn’t use that time for anything that felt majorly important. I watched the entire series of Gilmore Girls! I read books, just for fun. And I kept waking early for nothing! For the first time in a long while, maybe ever, I also started to dream way outside of the box. I allowed myself to dream beyond my daily to do list. I started to compile a bucket list. The big one. The Official Life Bucket List. And let me tell you, the weirdest thing started to happen, I started to find comfort and joy in that complete absence of tangible productivity. I found energy I didn’t know I had. I got excited. I felt brave, and also completely careless. And it was awesome! I dreamed big. Way bigger than anything I truly think I can do. Way bigger than I need to do. I stopped caring so much about details. I stopped trying to be perfect in my daily life. I settled for good enough, something I’ve never been able to do. I let dishes sit in the sink. I let dust gather. I let my restaurant truck along, slowly but surely, with very little urgency from me. I offered just enough energy there to keep the wheels on. But I didn’t panic. I didn’t try to improve anything. Even as restaurants around us failed, and the news reported insanely high job losses. Even as I helped my 5 year old daughter navigate her way through virtual kindergarten, I just rolled with the punches. I didn’t fight the movement, I danced through it. That’s not to say, I wasn’t devastated to see so many people hurting around me. I hated laying off half of our employees. I hated hearing the buzz of a busy bustling restaurant fade. I hated not knowing what the future held for a business my husband and I had worked so hard to build and relied so deeply on. I felt the tightening of the reins on our personal spending. And I felt the same fear that everyone else did when I secured my child’s mask over her little ears. But my fear wouldn’t have helped anyone. Succumbing to darkness would only add more pain and darkness to an already dark world. So I chose not to sink. I didn’t retreat into that depression that all too often embraces me. That darkness that had become my toxic safe place. I flew above that with which I could not control and I found refuge in the white space. That free-flowing, beautiful, calm and airy space of nothing. There I found everything I had ever buried, every dream and goal that got tossed aside for being too hard, or for being impossible because I deemed it the wrong time. The things I wanted that I convinced myself were not mine to have. It was all there. And as the clocked ticked midnight, I opened my arms and said, now. Come with me now. It’s our time.
This I will do for my loved ones. But mostly, I’m doing this for me. And I can’t help but think, this is actually the very best gift I can give, to us all.
Bucket List Item Number 1.
This Blog. Make it a priority. Nurture it. Reach you. Share my love and ideas with you. Grow together.
Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you. It is my true belief that we make the world a better place and our experience in it richer if we share our experience together. I do that through food at my restaurant Smoking Mo’s in Shelton, Washington, and through my story telling here. I deeply thank you for joining me on this adventure, and for giving me the love and encouragement to keep moving forward.