Review of 2012 & Preview of 2013

I’ve been reading Happy Black Woman for ages, and in general, I love to read her monthly reviews. Basically, she looks over the past month and discusses what went well, and what she’d like to improve. But seeing as how 2012 ends in two days, a yearly review is in order. Snagged from HBW:

Flickr Credit to: Joli Sourire (OFF)

Flickr Credit to: Joli Sourire (OFF)

What I Want to Remember About 2012:

What was the most valuable lesson you learned this year?

Taking chances on myself, most definitely. That’s definitely something I want to keep doing as the year progresses – investing in myself, and my own personal growth and goals. 

What was the biggest personal milestone you reached this year in your relationships, health, finances, education and/or lifestyle?

I think I’ve had a few milestones this year: I cut off the locs I’d been growing since December 2008, and reading about Oneika cutting her own acted as the final push for me to do it. And today I went to the barber to get it shaped up (since it was uneven) and mowed down since it was way too big. I don’t miss having locs at all, nor do I miss having long hair – which I’ve had my entire life. This was especially enlightening when I did some quick math, and found that when/if I spent $50 a month to get my locs re-twisted, I’d spend about $600 a year. (Wow). But if I just got my new fro cut down every few months, at about $15, that’s obviously a massive savings. 

And I moved to Philadelphia for a new, contract job, even though I didn’t have anywhere to stay when I got here. Everything worked out, and I landed two great room mates and an apartment in a really nice neighborhood. 

I’ve also made some investments in my spiritual growth, such as meditating and praying every day – when I wake up, and right before bed. And I’m on the look out for new material to supplement my growth and finding new ways to help me get the type of life I want. Before, I would spend a lot of time reading, but not practicing. Now – not so much! 

What professional accomplishments (at work or in your business) were you most proud of this year?

Starting to do web development on the side. I’ve only just begun, but I’m really dedicated to becoming proficient in programming and building my skill set. While the job I have now isn’t best suited to me, it’s really opened my eyes to what I’d love to do – working in technology and computer science. So, stumbling upon a new career goal is DEFINITELY an accomplishment!

What was your favorite family/friends moment from 2012?

Hm. I think my favorite moment was being able to chat with Constance, a friend I made off of Twitter, for like two hours (or something) as we chatted about social justice.

What was the best book/blog/song/movie/restaurant/city/country/etc. you discovered this year?

Another hard one! The best book I think is Summer Sisters by Judy Blume. It’s really, really good. I highly recommend it. I don’t know if I saw any tremendously good movies this year. But one of the best blogs I discovered is about menstruation activism – which I found inspiring and knowledgeable. 

What I Want to Leave Behind As I Enter 2013

Which personal development area(s) did you make the LEAST progress on this year: health, finances, education, relationships, family, work and/or lifestyle?

Finances. That’s definitely my Achilles’ Heel. Even though I make more in my current job than I did in my previous, part-time employment. It’s still really frustrating to have student loans, credit card debt and chronic obligations (ie: cell phone bills, food, internet, utilities, rent, etc). One of my goals is to simply make more money so I can [literally] afford to do the things that matter to me the most. 

I also didn’t make any progress on my health. While I acquired a free membership to a semi-close gym, I actually hate gyms and the idea of working out (or even having to attend a class) agitates me. I looked into taking an aikido class downtown, but it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. I’ve been searching on and off since October, but haven’t locked into anything yet. My eating habits are semi-better, but I really need to learn how to cook. Currently, I eat a lot of pasta. A LOT. 

What promises (to yourself or others) did you break in 2012?

I told myself that I’d take my credit card debt more seriously – since it’s not a lot – and actively work to pay down at least one of the credit cards. I haven’t tackled it at all, but I know why. I just need to DO it. 

What arguments/gossip/hurtful comments, if any, did you participate in or make this year that you wish you could take back and/or apologize for?

Hm… I do like to hear gossip because it makes me feel like I’m in the loop. I don’t hurl hurtful comments, not because of self-control, but because when I’m upset with someone I tend not to go that route.  

What opportunities, if any, did you miss out on in 2012 because of fear or procrastination?

I’m not sure! 

What did you do in 2012, if anything, that was out of alignment with your values?

I’m not sure – my values are changing all the time! Hah. But, I think a big one with my spirituality is that even though I know I should work on it, I haven’t. 

What I Want to Bring Into My Life in 2013

What do you deserve more of next year? What do you deserve less of next year?

More of: Commitment – to myself, mostly. I rarely prioritize myself, and my own goals. I normally spend a lot of time worrying about what other people may want from me (ie: family) or worried about how I’ll be perceived by doing x, y or z. So in 2013 I want to spend LESS time fretting over other people’s opinions – not just about my life, but about things in general. My goal for 2013 is to alter my mindset so that I can manifest the type of life I want. Being around people who doubt themselves, or allowing their negative perceptions of the world to get to me won’t help me. 

What personal milestone(s) do you most want to reach in your relationships, health, family, finances, education and/or lifestyle?

Relationships: Dating. Even if it doesn’t end up with a relationship, I want to explore that. 

Health: Taking up a sport or physical activity – preferably self-defense or martial arts. 

Finances: Make more money, pay down credit card debt. 

Education: Continue attending web development courses, so I can learn to program. Find a mentorship and a network of other women who program to nurture and support me. 

Lifestyle: Live in my own apartment (no room mates). 

What professional accomplishments (at work or in your business) do you want to see for yourself next year?

For my writing to become a bigger part of my life/work. To be able to program – and get paid to do it. 

What do you want to learn in 2013?

Love. Manifestation. God.

What do you want to cross off of your bucket list in 2013?

Moving abroad to work. 

What I Want My Life to Look Like in 2013

What part of your life do you want to pay more attention to in 2013?
My work life. I definitely want my resume and cover letter and networking skills to be top notch!

Who do you want to spend more time with in 2013? Who do you want to spend less time with in 2013?
Hm. I’m not sure. I want to be present for myself, and spend less time with people who I don’t like or connect with. 

Which activities, habits or behaviors, if any, do you want to stop doing in 2013 because they no longer serve you?
Procrastinating. Doubting myself. 

Which activities do you want to start and/or continue doing in 2013?
My spiritual habits: praying, meditating, reading books (both fiction and non-fiction). Writing. Learning to code. Photography. Practicing the spiritual lessons I’m learning. 

What will your ideal day look like next year?
My ideal day would start off with me waking up in my solo apartment, with my cat purring next to my face. She’d be fluffy and adorable. The day will start with prayer, meditation and yoga. Then a shower. I’d eat breakfast first: toast, eggs, orange juice (my favorites). My cat will be meowing for food. Later I’d pop open the laptop, checking my e-mail while my partner is singing and getting ready for the day. The cat is on the laptop, swishing its tail. So I pick her up and take her to the balcony, where our apartment overlooks the Mediterranean ocean. That day all I have is a meeting over Skype, some code to clean up and to put the finishing touches on my novel before sending it to the publisher. My lover is ready to head out – we’ll be spending the day in Paris, and I can easily work on the train, and then spend the rest of my day meeting up with friends, and going out to dinner in my favorite city. 

How Atheism Enhanced My Goddess Worship

I’ve spent like an hour trying to figure out how to start this post. What way is the most interesting? Or the most controversial sounding?

But that’s really time consuming – and distractive. So I’m just going to tell you: I want to talk about god. Why? Mostly because as I learn more about atheism, I begin to re-evaluate what I believe in and why.

Essentially, I tell people I’m a pagan, but specifically, I consider myself a Goddess worshipper. It basically means I don’t acknowledge or identify with the male concept of deity. In Wicca (which is where I got my start), deity is divided into male and female: the God and Goddess. They’re equally important and one isn’t valued more than the other.

Unfortunately – I don’t connect well with male energy. I went to a single sex college, and a vast majority of my friends are female. Even in the blogging and twitter universe, a high percentage of the people I follow are women. So it seemed like a natural transgression to worship a female deity. When you worship, it’s about doing things to keep in touch with the Goddess. There’s prayer (which is basically conversation), performing rituals and altars that you can set up.

However, it can be extraordinarily difficult to find books relating to Wiccan spirituality. But I found an excellent one titled “The Circle Within” by Dianne Sylvan. The book breaks down how to create a spiritual relationship with the Lord and Lady, which I thoroughly appreciated. It’s the only book to date that I’ve found that relates closely to my own spiritual leanings.

So – how does the conversation about atheism enhance my relationship with my own faith?

The biggest question atheists asks is: how do you know? It can be difficult to answer this question without delving too into more spiritual jargon. I could say, “It resonates with my spirit” but that presupposes that the questioner believes in the human soul. I could say, “It just feels right or it makes sense to me” which is fluff – only a conversation rife with frustration can be conducted from this statement.

Why do I believe in some of the things that I do? Because I’ve experienced physical manifestations of my belief system. I’ve been around people who are able to confirm what has happened to me. I’ve been around people who are equally rational in their approach to paganism, and their own experiences.

Atheism allows me to take a step back and reassess, to make sure my spirituality isn’t just something that lives in my head. I need to live it everyday because I want to be able to explain to people what my faith is, and what it’s about.

I’m also an cerebral person, a lot of my process is in my mind. So although I know for a fact (mentally) that the Goddess is real, and I value other people’s experiences with Her, I don’t feel it in my body. There’s a strong disconnect that I need to address. I give praise to Her and acknowledge Her, but I need to work on the bond.

As I speak with atheists, I realize that the potential for me to just preach but not practice is still there – even though I’m part of a different ideology than Judeo-Christian Abrahamic faiths. I realize that it’s much easier to spend time in my mind, going over what I can or should do than actually doing it. That I keep waiting for other people to tell me how to practice.

Atheism isn’t my cup of tea, but in these past few days, I’ve learned a lot. Not just about other people, but myself as well.

What about you? Do you have a personal ideology or philosophy that you spend more time talking about than actually doing? Have you done anything to change or challenge that?

 

 

 

Having Faith isn’t just about believing in Diety

“It’s hard to fill a cup that is already full.”

- Avatar

I recently sumbled upon this blog post about being a freak, by Jonathan Fields. It’s about being different, not “fitting in” – a subject I know all too well. It surprised me to see all the comments from other self-proclaimed freaks. I had never truly considered my own freakdom something to champion, it’s right on par with why I never call myself a non-conformist; I just don’t think like that. But, I probably should because I’m all about authenticity. Or at least I’m trying to be.

Being authentic is actually really, really hard because it’s about being aligned with our core beliefs in a very consistent and real way. It means quitting a job that you don’t like even if it means not having money. It means rejecting the friendship of a person who doesn’t appreciate you at the risk of being alone. Being authentic is about loss, because you can’t live the same sort of life as other people.   

My view of authenticity is basically spiritual. It means looking at a situation, or a person and wondering; Does this serve me? Am I living authentically by making this decision? It’s hard, because there’s no consistent or correct answer. It also means being connected to Spirit and knowing what makes your particular Spirit happy. A task that requires a large dose of introspection.

For example: my Spirit really, really loves cats. I’ve had an intense love for cats (and animals in general) since childhood. And when I went to the SPCA today, I wanted to get my “cat fix” and see all the adoptable kittens.

Living in Spirit means being authentic, and being able and willing to recognize a situation that isn’t in your best interest. This could even be as simple as not cleaning your room, leaving your house in shambles. Before I do any spiritual work, I at least make my bed.

This has certainly been weighing on my mind the past few days as I struggle to figure out what makes me happy, what I want to do. It’s been a struggle as I deal with my insecurities; like how I wanted to major in Biology in college but got a gigantic C in my first bio class. It scarred me, and I definitely regret getting caught up in my fear instead of just tackling it head on. I took the safe, fear-induced route -by taking classes I knew I would do alright in, instead of venturing out and taking classes in subjects I had no experience in. Even though I’ve been out of school for nearly a year now, I resent never having taken more political science or history courses. Or attending more school productions – which were actually really good! I hated not fitting in, even though I desperately wanted to. All my regrets about college make me despise the entire experience, making me wish I had never attended in the first place.

Maybe if I had been living authentically, I could’ve made friends (or found the gusto to transfer, despite it being my second time). Maybe I could’ve discovered a class or a professor who would’ve revolutionized my entire collegiate experience. But I played it safe, and scared – and I resent that. My biggest regret to date is not having taken the opportunity to live my life as me.

So as the Avatar quote suggests, how can I learn more if I’m unable or unwilling to empty out what I think I know about myself and the world that I live in? So I want to live as authentically as possible, even if that means living as a freak.

Communion

Who am I? Who am I? Who am I?

And who do I now choose to be? (p. 129)

- Communion with God by Neale Donald Walsch

The search for identity is something that seems to plague most people in the worst possible way. People chase after ideas, hoping to find fulfillment in these pursuits. You move to discover yourself. You dress a different way to attempt to forge an identity through clothing. The paths to identity are so numerous, it’s almost impossible to truly fathom what they all could be. In fact, I moved to “discover” myself, as if I were a lost kitten, mewing for her absent mother. But in my readings, particularly those by Neale Donald Walsch, I am slowly coming to terms with a much different idea.

You see, in most new age texts (if not all of them), the teachings suggest that life is a school, and that we’re here to learn. That everything has meaning, and that it is our task to uncover them. Trials and tribulations are tests, and if you “fail”, you merely repeat the lesson until you grasp it. This way of thinking have definitely sat well with a lot of people, and for myself, I gravitated toward that idea. I mean, I spent 22 years of my life in school, so the fact that life is a giant classroom, with quizzes and graded papers, isn’t far from my normal experience.

But – I’ve started to examine a different sort of truth. A truth that suggests that I have much more power than I originally suspected. There’s this infinitely famous idea of destiny, life purpose and fate. In fact, the idea is insanely romantic to think that we’re put on this Earth to accomplish one single goal. And it’s also incredibly overwhelming. To me, it’s created this intense desperation to find out who I am, what my talents and skills are so that I can accomplish this single task. Who am I meant to be?

It’s a question that has been burning in my skull for ages. I poured over my natal chart, took countless personality tests, and compared notes to others (albeit internally). How was I progressing? Was I further along, or getting left behind? It seems like everyone knows what they’re doing except me!  Cue the freak out, the self-consciousness, the poor sense of self. How was it that everyone else seemed to have such a greater grasp on LIFE?

Now, though, slowly I’m deciding that life isn’t a school, but it’s about Who I Am (or, Who You Are). By picking, deliberately, certain experiences, I am coming closer to my Spirit, and to figuring out what makes me who I am. Sometimes it’s difficult because I forget about choice, and instead feel more like a victim or someone who gets way too caught up in what other people are doing. A lot of the time I feel powerless, like I can’t really make the changes I want, despite how much I want them. It just requires a lot of faith.

But I’m learning, and trying in very small doses because I have to believe in myself. At least in some capacity. I’m the one who has to live my life, so I definitely want to have as much fun as possible.