#celebratecultivate: begin

For the past few years I have participated in a reflective practice during the month of December as a way to honor the year that is ending and create intention(s) for the year ahead. In 2009, I participated in Gwen Bell’s #bestof2009, which evolved into #reverb10. In 2011, many bloggers contributed to their own reverb projects, providing prompts and community for  #reverb11 and repeated in #reverb12. In 2011 and 2012 I jumped around various reverb communities and chose prompts which provided the best opportunity for me to reflect and share. In 2013 I joined Project Reverb hosted by Kat, Sarah, and Meredith,. In 2014, I continued with Project Reverb, which also provided monthly prompts throughout 2015 once #reverb14 ended. In 2015, I responded to a few prompts from Project Reverb as well as Kat McNally's prompts. I have not blogged consistently since then for many reasons, but I’ve deeply missed the practice of writing in this space.

This time of year allows me to slow down a little and spend some major time writing and thinking and connecting. So, I’m participating in #celebratecultivate with one of the #reverb10 founders, Kaileen Elise. If you’d like to join in, check out the instagram and subscribe to the prompts sent out each week, or make up your own.

How did 2018 begin for you? How do you want to feel when 2019 begins?  

I began 2018 with a refocus on my health and on my physical strength/well-being. I believe in the mind/body/soul connection and I knew 2017 had been rough on all of those aspects of my selfhood. None of my jeans fit. I found it difficult to breathe when I walked up stairs. I’d become unaware of the food I ate, eating mindlessly, when I was bored, finding comfort in food. My grandmother, the woman who helped raise me, who supported me through two degrees, friendships ending, two breakups, and many other joys and disappointments of my young adulthood, died in 2017 and the grief I experienced as a result left me feeling unanchored and lost. I feel like 2017 was a year in which I simply survived rather than lived; though there were moments of beauty and connection, my attention was scattered. So, in 2018 I wanted to change that. I wanted to take charge of myself again. I needed to repurpose my path and be present and conscious and mindful. I had no idea what that was going to look like, but I knew I wanted to actively work on self-growth. I chose the word “pursuit” to frame these intentions and I started going to Burn Boot Camp where my wife was a member as part of their New Year’s promotion called “Raise the Bar”. This simple decision not only changed my year, but it has changed my outlook, provided a space where I’ve met amazing people and continued to challenge my body and mind in terms of what I thought possible. I feel my awareness not just of my body but my capabilities as a whole, opening in unexpected ways, and I feel as though I’ve found my way back to myself, but a better version with much more confidence.

I want to move into 2019 with an appreciation for my life, for my loved ones, my colleagues, those around me. I want to do a better job at letting those I love know how deeply I care for them and what they mean to me. I can get incredibly inside myself and kind of assume people I spend my time with understand their importance to me, that I value their friendship and affection. Though I am significantly expressive in my marriage, I am less so in my friendships. But I am not someone who wastes time with relationships. If I enjoy someone’s company, we hang out, text, chat. This seems obvious to my Aquarian mind. If I spend time with you, you mean something to me. If I have your phone number, and you have mine I consider you in my circle of those I care about more than a little :). But in 2019, I seek to be more mindful of my connections, more purposeful with them, and ultimately, more grateful.

I haven’t selected a word for 2019 yet, but I have a few ideas. I like to sit with them for a while to see what continues to present itself, what just feels right. I need time to process. I’m hoping these reflective period is just the thing I need to lay some groundwork for the year ahead while recognizing how rich and full my life is.


On Listening and the Failure of Language

I'm not a great listener. I'm a good talker, a good storyteller. But I get wrapped up in it, the memory, the story. Listening is an art. My mother is an excellent listener. She ended up in this family of storytellers, can barely get a word in most days. And so she is our listener, our confidante, our observer of things. I've been thinking a lot about listening lately, attempting to explore the quiet, to be still and observant. It's a practice I'm working on, and a big challenge for me. I've been thinking about my grandmother who because she suffers from memory loss no longer wants to drive the conversation. "Just tell me about you," she'll say to me when I visit or talk to her on the phone. I recently watched Still Alice (which is an incredible, moving story where Julianne Moore plays a woman who has early (very early) onset Alzheimer's. I did not read the book so I can't say a lot about their differences or similarities, but what struck me in the film was how precisely it captures memory loss, and the struggle of how to perceive and conceive of one's self and relationship to others because you can't remember something. This film is incredible; I so strongly identified with the struggle of the family but moreso I saw a portrayal of what my grandmother faced and continues to face, the searching for words, moments, the knowing something and not knowing it at the same time. Julianne Moore is so fantastic. She's able to offer this glimpse into a terrible disease. It's a compelling portrait and it broke my heart.

Recently I stumbled across this from Anna Deveare Smith's new book Talk to Me

We can learn a lot about a person in the very moment that language fails them. In the very moment that they have to be more creative than they would have imagined in order to communicate. It’s the very moment that they have to dig deeper than the surface to find words, and at the same time, it’s a moment when they want to communicate very badly. They’re digging deep and projecting out at the same time.

The idea is that the psychology of people is going to live right inside those moments when their grammar falls apart and, like being in a shipwreck, they are on their own to make it all work out.

I don't like to be in situations where language fails me. Talking, language, holds me up. It comforts me. Language excites me, thrills me. I love the way certain words sound. I like the way they feel coming off my tongue. I'm often terrified that I will lose my voice, my way to project into the world. To be speechless, to not know what to say throws me for a loop. I remember in elementary school a friend of mine was asked a question in class and she responded by saying, "Just ask Devon; she knows the answer and if not she can make something up that will sound like the answer." I was unsure at the time how to take that; my reputation as a loudmouth was known to me. I raised my hand a lot in class; I hated knowing the answer and someone else getting it wrong. I hated watching others struggle for a response. It is hard to learn to be quiet, to let others speak. I know that I learn something when I do, but my go to has always been talk, talk, talk. I often talk over M and assume I know what she's saying. I jump to conclusions before really hearing others out. It's a habit I'm trying to break. I'm trying to be a better listener.

But when language fails my grandmother, when I watch her search for what she wants to say, and provide the answer for her, I can see the relief. The shipwreck is over. Still, I miss the way she once drove conversations, even when it felt like she was interviewing you. Today, she can't keep up. I read, listen to her body language. I take her hand. I tell her I love her. It's all I need to say; sometimes all there is to say. That language, thankfully, is never lost.