Right now, I'm sitting on a couch- a very nice couch from a store I love, and honestly, can't really afford. I saved for this couch. I special ordered it and was giddy with glee when it arrived 8 weeks later. 5 years old now, my couch is not the same as it was the day it arrived. It's mushroom-colored velour (which, fortunately, shows very few stains) is softer than it used to be. Most noticeably, the back pillows are misshapen, because I have a dog who thinks he's a cat and insists on sitting on TOP of them, rather than next to them.
And then, there's the rest of my house. My (small) living room is strewn with giant plastic dinosaurs, Christmas gifts, fire trucks, and probably a stray raisin or two. In my (alarmingly small) kitchen, dinner dishes sit undone after cooking a from-scratch dinner for my family. A desk is set up in the corner, partially for me (yeah, right), but mostly, because I know it's important to Shaun to have a workspace anywhere he spends a majority of his time. If it were up to me, I would prefer properly shaped pillows. I would like a pristine (large) living room, where toys didn't have to roam because they had a home of their own in some far-away play room. If it were up to me, realistically, my (awesomely large) kitchen would likely be stacked with Whole Foods take out boxes, because, rather than cooking a meal for my family, I would be happily indulging in daily grocery runs to my favorite store to pick up a grilled chicken breast and roasted asparagus at their deli. In my perfect world, everything and everyone would have their own place for their own things and their own passions.
But no world is perfect. And if given the option of solitary control, or inclusive chaos, well, I'd pick the chaos every time. I love people. I love people, honestly, more than I can explain. And sometimes.... honestly, more often than I'd like to admit... I love people more than I remember to love myself.
Shaun and I have a baseline of deep conversations, so it's no surprise that last week sometime, the subject of love came up. Specifically, whether love is more noun or more verb. He voted for uncontrollable, all-consuming "noun"- a thing that finds you and holds you, and that you couldn't shake even if you wanted to. I fiercely believe love is a verb. Love is what you do, and how you choose to act towards and for the person you "love". Love is a choice. Sometimes, when it is that all-consuming, honeymoon love, the choice is super duper easy. Who can't love when everything is shiny, new, exciting and romantic? E-A-S-Y. But, what about when someone's being a real idiot, and you disagree with their decisions, and it's hard to get even in the same book, let alone on the same page? To me, that's when love (verb) kicks on. It doesn't mean being a door mat, and conceding to someone's bad behavior. But to me, it often means acceptance, respect, forgiveness, and support. Love is making a dinner when you'd rather have take out, or letting your furbaby crush your precious sofa, or tripping over Hot Wheels in the middle of your living room floor- because it makes someone else happy. Because it means something to someone, even if it's not your ideal.
I believe in compromise (and really wish other people did, too). I probably believe in it to the point of my own detriment. After Christmas, I was forced to look in the mirror- like, really look- and ask myself what I wanted, and how that compares to what I have, or what I'm allowing myself to have. And the truth is: I am spending way too much time watering someone else's garden.
I don't resent or regret the sacrifices I make for the people and things I love in my life. I truly don't. What I do regret, sitting at the end of 2014, are the sacrifices- time, energy, care, money, etc- I haven't made for MYSELF. For a while now, I've been on autopilot, and have ignored checking in with myself to see how I actually FEEL about what I'm doing- or, in many cases, NOT doing. I've been coasting along, doing what comes naturally (loving people A LOT... maybe even TOO much), and I've forgotten the things I need to do to love myself.
There are some really hard truths I think so many of us face as we go through life. Among them:
So today, I went to Costco to do some chores, and I bought myself flowers. And that's when the title of this blog hit me. I need to water my own garden. Not because it's not watered enough by other people, but because it ISN'T watered enough by me. I'm starting to relearn how to make myself happy. I have been happy, but I haven't been fulfilled, and I know it's because I forgot why, and more importantly, WHO, I was living for. No one can be happy WITH me if I'm not happy with myself, and subsequently, good to myself. So today, I bought flowers. And I worked out. And I stretched while watching my son in the shower. Today, I woke up before anyone else in my house and read and meditated and prayed (something I'd forgotten the importance of, despite not being religious). Today, I put a whole lemon in each bottle of water I poured, because I love lemon, even if it means I have to go buy more midweek. Today, I put on flowery perfume I love, and lit vanilla candles. Today, I also let there be firetrucks on my floor, and paid Beckham a penny to pick up his (many) toys in the living room. I made a beautiful, healthy dinner and- shockingly- asked for help cleaning up. Today, when someone promised to do something for me, and didn't, rather than excusing them from the task they'd promised with a "it's ok...I can just do it later", I let them correct it and make it right, because they had said they would. Today, I loved myself and it didn't compromise the love I have for everyone else in my life...in fact, it probably enhanced it.
Last year, I thought I found this unprecedented strength when I decided to change my life and be who I wanted to be. Now, I realize, it wasn't strength I found, but love. Self-awareness. Dedication to my own happiness. I'm after that, again, and it took one day of conscious effort to get me back on a track I was waiting for months for some magical force of nature to guide me back to. Turns out...I am the magical force of nature. I was just spending too much time watering everyone else's garden. I'm excited to see what's underneath the surface of my soul, and what just might grow with a little more self TLC.
This is the first year my 2 year and 8 month old son is really starting to grasp Christmas. With that, has come (to my delight) endless opportunity for bribery (Santa really wants to bring you a bike if you eat all of your dinner), Jewish guilt (Santa is going to be very sad if you interrupt our conversation...), and empty threats (I don't know if Santa will remember where we live if you don't brush your teeth). Despite my naughty-list-worthy mom-antics, watching Beckham get excited about a holiday that- let's face it, as an adult, becomes more about crowded malls and less about holiday magic- has reignited a kind of magic in my household.
I've watched my son this season start to believe that anything is possible, while at the same time, being very simple in his wishes. He wishes for more books read to him at night. He wishes for a bike like the one he has at school. He wishes for chocolate milk when we go to a restaurant, and for permission to bring ALL his stuffed (and plastic) animals to bed. And it's gotten me thinking... Are our grown up wishes really all that different? When it comes down to it, don't we all just want to feel like we have freedom to make our own choices, things that make like fun, time to do the things we love, and endless opportunity to be surrounded by the people (or things) that give us comfort?
I have a confession: Somewhere this fall, my fire died down to embers. I don't know why or how. If I didn't feed it enough, or if I fed it too much. I've felt, for a few months now, that I simultaneously need to be hustling harder, but also need to be chilling out more. It's an odd dichotomy to be in the middle of, mentally and emotionally.
My family has been in town and my mom and I started evaluating this predicament. I've done so pretty cool things during this lull of mine, but it's as if I have the firewood, the matches, and the gasoline to pour onto everything, but I just am standing there- all of those tools in hand, not entirely sure what to put where, or how to get anything going. And I guess, for me, it comes down to this: I have let myself start believing that magic isn't real. Not for me. That you can work really hard, and if you're lucky someone will notice, but if you're not, you're screwed. I've let myself start to live like I promised I never would; as if possibilities are limited. As if life is hard . The irony being, that my life has never had the conditions like it does now to be completely and utterly fulfilling, passion-filled and straight-up-easy.
So now, for the hard part: Lighting the match. I know how. I've done it before. But understanding that matches don't always light the first time. Sometimes it takes several before one catches fire...and even then, a lit match in a pile of wood doesn't always burst into flame. Sometimes, it takes taking step one a thousand times to even get to step two, to see you have to go back to step one yet again to get step 2, 3, 4, 10 to even TAKE.
My Christmas wish, and New Year's resolutions are one in the same: To find the magic...and more importantly, to believe in it even when it's hard to see. Believe that I am who and where and what I am for a reason much bigger than I understand and to not honor that by living up to my potential is a giant "eff you" to the gifts and opportunities, mentors and support I've been given. Hard work is what we all have to wake up and do anyway. And it's easy to wake up and work your butt off when you're triumphant. But when you're not, the belief that it's not all in vain is what insists that you continue to move forward. The belief that someday someone is going to look at who you are and what you stand for and say "I get it. I'm a fan.". I need that. I need that magic so the days when I'm standing with a match (or a blow torch) in my hands, I know that I just need to keep using the tools and the knowledge I already have.
I read a quote the other day that I may need to print out and plaster around my house, car, and everywhere else. It said, "Work until you don't have to introduce yourself anymore". I'm Isabeau Miller. I'm a songwriter and a performer, and I also like to blog/write/speak about stuff I can't ignore. And I hope someday I don't need to have an elevator pitch. That when someone says "Isabeau", people just know. But until then...More than something magical plopping dreams-come-true in my lap, I want to be infused with the belief and faith in the power of hard work, the inevitable-ness of opportunities, and MOST importantly, the infinite conviction of my belief in not just magic...but myself.
The happiest of holidays to all of you. May your magic shine today, and through 2015.