Best of 2016

This morning started off on the wrong foot. More specifically, it started off on the poop foot and the glass foot.

Let me first give a little bit of a back drop for this story by explaining who I am as a human in the morning. I am not at my best, I am actually more of a beast first thing in the morning. I wake up angry. It does not matter what time I wake up, I am usually upset to be awake. I recover quickly but this has been who I am for as long as I can remember.

In recent years I have found ways of easing into the day gracefully that work for me. I start with quiet time, which is most important. No talking, no noise, just me wandering around in the silence of our home. Tea helps too. Stretching first thing in the morning really helps. Meditation, soft music like crystal bowls, and sitting in sun beams. Long story short, peace and quiet is the best way to get me out of my morning grumps.

I actually love mornings. They are my favorite part of the day usually. I just have a hard time shaking off the sleepies.

So this morning I was awake for all of 5 minutes when things started getting hairy. I had my green tea, I was sitting in a sunbeam in the sun room drawing, the house was quiet..

I had the back doors open to let the breeze in. I was enjoying bird song and the sound of the train going by when Lucy came running in from the back yard. She ran over to me to say hello and I noticed a little leaf fragment on the side of her butt. I flicked it off for her and was horrified to realize it was not a leaf at all.. it was poop! Damn it Lu! I got up to wash my hands and called hubs in to see if she had poop on any other part of her. Low and behold, her back foot was covered in it. Time for a bath little girl.

This was not how I wanted to start the day.

I helped scrub her down and then left hubs to finish. I walked into the kitchen to get Lu a treat, she always gets a treat when she gets a bath, and felt a sharp pain in my foot. I looked and realized I had a minuscule shred of glass stuck in the ball of my foot. Oh that is just great.

We finished Lu’s bath and then I sat on the kitchen floor and hubs plucked the glass out with tweezers.

It normally takes me about a half hour to adjust to being awake in the morning and transition from beast mode to my human self. At this point I had been awake maybe 20 minutes. I was a bear.

Time to clear this energy. I satĀ  back in the sunbeam for a while and continued drawing and then thought about how I wanted to end the year, because I certainly did not want to end it in this energy.. I knew the answer instantly. In gratitude. I want to end the year in gratitude. I pulled out my phone and texted all the people I love and admire and expressed my love and gratitude for them while wishing them a happy new year. I instantly felt better. Then I went and sat in hubs lap for a while and cuddle with him and our clean pup.

As this is the last post of the year I decided I would do a true review of the year and share my personal favorite posts from the year. My year on this blog started in February as last year I was dealing with some heavy emotional work and had been on a break from writing when the year began.

So here we go, the best of 2016 from The Brain Work of an Idealist as chosen by the idealist herself:

February 2016: Acceptance

March 2016: I Built a Bridge

April 2016: Two Years Later

May 2016: Getting By Without a Mirror

June 2016: I Don’t Believe in Monsters

July 2016: Sacred Truth

August 2016: I Love Myself Most When

September 2016: I Am ——

October 2016: Now I Know Why I Am Here

November 2016: Letting It All Out Part III

December 2016: Hugs and Chickens

And my personal favorite of the entire year:

Constant Gardner

With corresponding art work for the post found on:

From Walls to Fences

Thank you to everyone who walked this path with me this year. Thank you for reading, thank you for responding, thank you for your support in all its forms. I hope everyone has a safe New Year’s Eve that finds you surrounded in love, comfort, and connection.

With unending gratitude,

Jillian
The Idealist

 

An Introvert’s New Years Eve

nye

Since high school I have disliked “holidays” like New Years Eve and Valentine’s Day. This post is not meant to shit all over those who celebrate them and do enjoy them, I just don’t.

I think the reason I single out these two days is because they both carry that same feeling and weight of pressure.

Valentine’s day carries a pressure of romantic gesture that feels forced and in turn unnatural. I am fortunate that my hubs is sweet to me all year long and is considerate and makes our relationship feel special on regular old Wednesdays evenings at 5:43pm. No special day is needed.

Here is the thing about that, to offer a balance to my opinion on this.. I have a girlfriend who has two young children and never used to celebrate Valentine’s Day for the same reason, and a few years ago we were talking about it and she told me that after having their first child she and her husband did start to celebrate Valentine’s day. She told me days like Valentine’s day and their anniversary suddenly became a bit more important because you can get busy with life and kids and work and not put the relationship first the way that you do when all of those things are not a factor.

I am not trying to compare relationships either, I used to almost sneer and laugh at people who celebrate this holiday though and my friend helped me realize I was being an ass. Maybe one day I will be thankful for a dedicated day where we know we are going to get a date night. I hope we never need Valentine’s day but it is nice to know it is there.

New Years Eve is different. This is a straight up issue of energy for me. Since I have been with my husband this holiday had been a nonissue because he is like me and does not want to do anything. My idea of “celebrating the new year” is to have days of quiet reflection, intention setting, and gratitude and then watch a movie and cuddle the night of. I do not like the crowds, I do not like parties, I do not like the noise.. It is all just too much. I get exhausted just thinking about how I have spent New Years in the past. I was always doing it someone else’s way, it was never for me and it never felt good. There was always pressure to party and I usually just wanted to go home.

The last 3 or 4 years we have been in IL for New Years and have spent it playing cards with his family, which has been great. This year since we stayed home we planned to do the exact same thing until our plans changed given the state of my family currently. We talked for a little bit about alternative plans and ultimately decided to spend new years with a couple we are friends with and have a low key evening at their home. It feels like the perfect fit.

It will be four people and a dog, and all those present are people I really enjoy. Hubs and I are making a charcuterie plate and bringing good dark chocolate to share. Our friends are getting champagne (yay bubbles). The weather has been nice the last few days and promises to continue this way.. I think it will be a lovely evening and I am excited to bring in the New Year this way.

The Power of One Person

kindness

When I was five I started kindergarten. I remember my first day of school, I sat at a table near the door and watched while all the other kids were dropped off and said good-bye to their parents. I watched as some cried, others just put their backpacks in the cubby and were walked to their table. It was a nonevent honestly. As far as I know I adjusted fine.

There was one thing though.

One day my class walked in a line to the lunchroom and we were all shown where to sit. My class was split up and I ended up at a table where I was the only girl and there was only one boy from my class sitting with me. I did not know the other boys and they were mean. I opened my My Little Pony lunchbox and pulled out my Ecto-Cooler juice box (Ghost Busters were all the rage in the 80’s), the boys from the other class began to call me Slimer (the ghost on the front of the juice box). I didn’t know what to do. I had never been bullied before. I was also out numbered. I did not have a friend, I knew no one. I just sat there and took it and it got worse. The taunting got louder, all the boys at the table except the one from my class were joining in and laughing. I began to cry. They laughed harder.

I will never forget the little boy from my class who was sitting next to me as all this was taking place. He looked over at me and asked if I was okay. I said no. He got a teacher. I don’t think he knew what to do either but I will never forget his kindness. He was the very first person in my short little life that showed me that kind of kindness. He could have easily joined in with the teasing in order to keep himself safe but he didn’t. At five years old he showed me empathy.

I was thinking about him the other day, even after all this time. There have been so many times in my life where something has happened that impacts me in such a way and is etched into my memory, for better or worse. It makes me think about how important it is, the way we show up for life each day, because you never know the impact you can have and how long lasting that impact can be for a person.

I remember the man, a stranger, who sat with me in the grass, in the pouring rain, on the side of road, and held my hand and comforted me while I waited for the ambulance to come after the car accident I was in 19 years ago. Almost 20 years later I remember his kindness and how safe he made me feel even in the midst of the chaos when I was covered in blood and soaking wet.

I remember the hospice worker, a social worker I am sure, who helped me and worked with me after my Nana’s passing when I was 9. She brought me apples and encouraged me to journal. She is the reason I started writing at such a young age. This blog may have never come to be without that person’s very small role in my life.

Some people are only with us during certain seasons of our lives, some are with for the long haul, some come in for a mere moment – you may never even actually know them. Someone you do not even know has the power to make you feel safe in a moment of crisis. We all have that kind of power.

Sometimes I think about the ever expanding universe and stars and galaxies I will never even see and I feel so small. But then I think of the moments in my life like those I have shared and realize our lives are not so small after all. We carry within us such power to do great things every single day when we walk out of our homes and I think that is one of the most beautiful things about life.

Boundaries are Hard in Families

The title of this post are words taken from my mother’s mouth. This is what she said to me tonight while we were speaking by phone, and she is right.

I am tired. I stayed up later than intended watching Project Runway and I am ready to crawl into bed. My babies are in bed waiting for me to join them and almost every piece of my being is dying to go fall into my husband’s arms. When I got up and started turning off lights and locking up one piece of me rose to the surface and started getting really noisy. She needs a voice and it cannot wait for tomorrow.

I have mentioned before how some stories prefer to be told in the darkness, I think that is why some of us lay awake at night troubled with deep thoughts. Dark pieces, shadow pieces, feel safest in the dark AKA night time.

I mentioned that over the holiday there was family drama that hubs and I have not engaged in.. I have not decided how much I am willing to share yet.. I am processing while I write..

What I can say is that a few years ago I made the decision that there was an extended family member I needed distance from. Every time we (hubs and I) were around this person at family gatherings they made us uncomfortable. It was really more than that though, I cannot put my finger on it, it was something I felt on a intuitive level, there was bad energy coming off of this person, I felt bad and negative when I had to be around them.

Hubs and I made ourselves scarce for a while. We did not attend as many family gatherings with extended family and were choosy about how we engaged with the extended family (specifically who we spent time with and when).

At first my mother attempted to lay a massive guilt trip on me about this but I (we) were stead fast. I have said for a long time that I do not believe in forced anything, including obligatory familial relationships. I have written about this in the past. Well after about 6 months or so this person was at the center of an enormous family controversy and most of the rest of my extended family began distancing themselves as well.

Suddenly no one was giving hubs and I shit for our decision to create this physical boundary we had created. Go figure.

As time has gone on it seems this person has either consciously or unconsciously made more and more decisions that would result in their further isolation from the family, not my concern honestly.

The extended family has up to this point been patient with this person, polite (in most cases), and towed the line. This I believe has mostly been in the interest of not upsetting my aging grandmother who loves her family and would be hurt by any fracture within the family system. So the ever growing crack has been ignored, until now.

Something happened this week and this person has very openly waged war against another family member. Our once dysfunctional but connected family has now been ripped in half and everyone is scrambling to pick a side. It is hysteria. The emotional fallout for some is extreme. Family members are feeling pressure to choose between their relationship with their siblings and their sons/daughters, or their son and grandson, or their niece and nephew.

My extended family, like many, has always experienced a level of dysfunction but it has been manageable up to this point. The pressure of the obligatory relationship, the guilt of disappointing the matriarch (my grandmother), plus religion and familial bonds have kept the family together up to this point. It appears all this has dissolved leaving nothing but confusion, pain, and a massive power struggle.

My parents are caught smack in the middle of the mess. Hubs and I immediately stepped back as a way to preserve our relationship and sanity, this is not ours to deal with. My parents could do the same, it is not theirs either technically, but I know they will not. Doing so would mean they would have to “abandon” family members and I know they will not do it. I put quotations around the word abandon because I want to highlight that it is what I believe their perception is but maybe not necessarily what is objectively true.

Hubs and I have offered emotional support via phone to my parents. I am not willing to get any closer to the eye of this storm than that right now. We have changed our New Years Eve plans and will not be with family now. It is not that I do not love and support my family, I am just not willing to insert myself into a situation that is a raging emotional disaster and none of my business.

This will blow over in time, or it won’t. Either way hubs and I will make decisions over time about what our boundaries will look like as things progress. Our boundaries on this have allowed us to continue to enjoy our time off together even as this fire rages on. I am not the fire department, I cannot extinguish this flame, and I cannot save anyone who does not want to be saved.

I feel good about how hubs and I have been able to offer help, and how I personally have been able to support my parents emotionally. Tonight we talked for a while and I felt good about the conversation, I tried to help them step back from the situation and see it from different angles. At the end of the conversation my mother mentioned how they really need me around right now. This was in reference to me letting them know earlier in the day that we have decided not to come over on New Years Eve. When I originally told her we would not be coming I explained it was because we had made other plans, which is true. When she brought it up again I explained about the boundaries we have set for ourselves right now and that we would more than likely be observing these boundaries until the situation is under better control. We are not willing to get sucked in and this is undoubtedly the only thing my family will be talking about on New Years Eve. We are not interested in starting our New Year in that energy.

I invited my parents over for dinner at our house, and told them we could make other plans with just them but that we would not be spending time with the rest of the family while this situation is fresh.

I could tell be her tone that my mother was disappointed. After years of setting and maintaining healthy boundaries in that relationship though she has learned I cannot be swayed once I have made up my mind.

I love my family very much. It hurts my heart that we are experiencing a fracture on this level. For me there is no love lost on the individual that in my eyes has created this fracture, it does not make the situation any less sad though. This person is experiencing disconnection and has been for such a long time and it has now led to this. Hurt people hurt people, that is what taking place in my family right now. I hope in time this wound is able to be healed, for some if not all of my family members. I am hopeful, I know many do not share my optimism. It will be up to each person to decide how they are going to show up in this moment of time in our family’s history. Personally I am thinking of my grandfather, the patriarch that passed away years ago. I think it would hurt his heart as well to see his family in this state. I believe individually we are all better than this and are capable of the kind of love that heals deep hurts. I hope that collectively we can get there.

Hugs and Chickens

home

Hubs and I were driving through my home town last week to pick up Isaac for his sleepover when the car in front of us suddenly slammed on the brakes and swerved almost completely off the road. We could not figure out what was happening and then we saw it.. A huge white chicken running away from the front of the car into the grass on the side of the road. Yep, I am home.

I know I am home (in my hometown that is) when we drive through the center of town and have to be mindful of chickens crossing the road. The chickens are my home town’s mascot. They roam free, do as they please, and the entire town accommodates them. Up until it was recently demolished they were often seen hanging out by the Popeye’s Chicken, the irony was lost on no one, so the owners put in a “chicken crossing” sign in order to help keep them safe.

Earlier in the week I had been in town spending the day with my Mom and Moo, we stopped at a local second hand shop so I could donate some home goods I was getting rid of and there were the chickens roaming around the gravel parking lot. Moo jumped out of the car as we unloaded so she could chase a big black and white hen.

After Todd and I saw that chicken last week this post started to write itself in my head. I know I am home when… A post about what home means to me.

When I was a child home was the oak trees I grew up climbing, the tangerine trees I filled up on all season long, the fields of wild flowers where I picked Black Eyed Susans in the spring. Home was the sound of the train going by, and the sound of the marching band from the high school on October evenings from my open window as I drifted off to sleep. Home was Papa’s Lovely Noodles when I was sick and collard greens and sausage balls at Christmas. Home was camping trips and fall vacations and playing with my cousins and dancing to Burl Ives records in my grandmother’s living room. Home was the tree house in my back yard and watching the Labyrinth on Friday nights when I would sleep over at Papa’s. Home was catching toads and digging up earth worms in my grandmother’s rich soil and picking up box turtles that lived in the fields. Home was my parents singing Adelvice, The Ants Go Marching, This Little Lamb, and Inch Worm at bed time. Home was my uncle and aunt always making time to play with me.

As a teenager home was the comfort of my mother in times of turmoil. Home was summer evenings at the lake behind my friend’s house, it was my boyfriend holding my hand as he shifted gears in his car while we listened to Blink182, it was my father consoling me. Home was the play group I belonged to, and Madonna’s greatest hits backstage with my girlfriends. Home was watching Scream and other cheesy scary movies on Friday night sleepovers with my best friend. Home was English class and Art class. Home was driving my red pick up truck listening to A Perfect Circle and New Found Glory and Dashboard Confessional. Home was weekly beach trips with my cousin.

In my twenties home was my best friend, her acceptance and humor and mayhem. Home was my Friday night favorites, the group I went out with every weekend. Home was dancing and road trips and girl time. Home was our favorite bars and the comfort of knowing the regulars and the bouncers and the bar tenders. Home was concerts and music in general. Home was playing with my niece and nephew when they were babies. Home was my parents nursing me through the most painful break up of my life. Home was my first apartment of my own. Home was conversations with people I admired about books and music and life. Home was my bedroom furniture that my dad and I stained and sealed ourselves.

Then at the end of my twenties I met my husband. Home became our first home together. Home became the community we live in together. Home became his family and Chicago and other parts of Illinois. Home became his friends and his stories and Lucy. Home became sitting on his lap on the couch and laying my head on his chest. Home became feeling safe in a car again. Home became his hugs, being completely enveloped in him. Home became adventures together and funny dances and reading books in bed together. Home became Washington D.C. and all the other places we have made memories in. Home became bands like City and Colour. Home became the home we live in together now and the neighbors on our street.

Now I know I am home when I feel myself pressed up against him. I know I am home when I drive down my street and see our trees in the front yard. I know I am home when I drive through the city. I know I am home by the sound of the train passing by at night. I know I am home when my mother and I talk like friends. I know I am home when my Dad and I talk and balance life for each other. I know I am home when Lucy is tucked into the nook of my knee. I know I am home when I am on the floor playing with one of my nieces or nephew. I know I am home when my brother and I are being honest about things that hurt. I know I am home when I am with one of my soul friends and our energy and conversations lock us into another time and place where it is just me and her. I know I am home with my social work people where ideas and emotions flow freely. I know I am home when I am covered in paint, deep in a book, writing, and feelings otherwise inspired. I know I am home when I feel free and loved and safe.

I know I am home when I look at my life and feel calm and peace and gratitude.

I know I am home when I can look at myself and say I love you sweet girl, you are magic.

I know I am home.

Christmas Gratitude

thank-you

 

This year I felt like a five year old on Christmas again. My family was so good to my husband and I in terms of gift giving. I felt so understood, the gifts were so thoughtful and brought me such joy. My family bought me canvases, mala beads, scarves (I wear scarves daily), coloring books, books, wind chimes, lotions.. and on..

I have been collecting coloring books since 2007, long before adult coloring books were all the rage. I started on Charlie Brown, now I have a little bit of everything. I have to say I still like coloring books for children more than the adult coloring books in general. Hubs managed to sway me this year with the coloring books he found for me. He got me 4, one is national state parks, one is of birds, one is of forest animals, and one is of plants and flowers. These are not ordinary coloring books though, they are realistic and have descriptions and explanations under each photo. Imagine if National Geographic created a coloring book series, that is what he got me. They are both beautiful and educational. I have truly enjoyed coloring in them.

My brother-in-law bought me four new books I cannot wait to start reading. I am currently reading two books, I feel the need to finish one before I start another. I am almost done with Viktor Frankl so when I am I will start something new.

I also just very grateful for this time off with hubs, I cannot express that enough. Two weeks of time just for us. We are getting projects done around the home, going on dates, having much needed introvert time (together but separate), it is so relaxing and nice.

I am currently working on an a wearable art project and am feeling really inspired by the creative process. This is a new venture for me, I am taking my creativity off the canvas, it is a lot of fun.

The year is ending on such a good note. Like many I think 2016 was a bit of a beast but there are always bright spots and we are existing in one of them currently, for that I am grateful.

You and Me Against the World

you-and-me

I am so grateful for my husband. This is true everyday but some days that gratitude feels amplified.. Today, this week, has been one of those times.

We have been talking about our future recently, long term and short term, and allĀ  I can say is again just how grateful I am to be walking through this life with him by my side.

We are making plans for a vacation in the spring/summer to celebrate my graduating with my Master’s degree. There is a trip that has been on my bucket list my entire life, it is the trip of my lifetime, the one I have always dreamed of, and we are planning it. It will by a light at the end of the tunnel for me as I finish my last semester in grad school.

His parents are coming to visit in a month or two, so looking forward to that!

Hubs and I have had the last week off together and still have another week together before he returns to work. It has been mostly bliss. There has also been a bit of drama brewing in my family which have made sure to distance ourselves from. We love our families but we are quite clear on the separation between our life together and their lives. We can love our families and not get pulled in to situations that have nothing to do with our life.

The situation that has come up in my family has given hubs and I opportunity to process together and discuss our life together and what we want it to look like going forward. I have always been the black sheep of my family, I do not see that changing, I am just thankful that I am walking through life with a partner who has the same perspective on family and what we want our own budding family to look like.

I have mentioned that I feel this next year will be transformative for me, I think part of that might be he and I redefining what the word family means to us. The very thought of it makes me feel calm.

I am so excited about this next year. I feel more sure about the greatness it will hold than I ever have in my entire life. I feel myself on the cusp of greatness. I feel my relationship with this amazing human being I love on the cusp of greatness. I feel something powerful is coming. I am open, I am ready, and I am grateful.