A One-Year Blogiversary

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

Hey, friends! Guess what tomorrow is?

It’s my one-year blogiversary! (That looks made up, doesn’t it? It’s not, though. It’s actually in the Urban Dictionary. A fact I discovered after I googled it and realized that the word I thought I had so cleverly coined had already been invented by someone else. Ah well, such is life.)

Anyway, this blogiversary is noteworthy because it means that I have had an active blog for 12 months now. That’s 52 weeks, 366 days (yay, leap year!), and 105 blog posts.

But more significant than all the statistics is the existence of the two biggest things I was often missing in my writing practice: commitment and consistency.

I once read a quote somewhere that said if we keep doing what we’re doing today, we’ll have more of what we’ve got tomorrow. Unfortunately, a Google search turned up empty on this one, so I may not be remembering it exactly, but that’s the gist of it. And that is basically the embodiment of commitment and consistency.

The more consistently I wrote those blog posts, the more committed I became to writing them. And after a while that commitment developed into a habit, which then created a domino effect of growth and progress in other areas of my life. I developed more confidence (not a lot, but enough to be noticeable), more courage, and the narrative surrounding who I am and what I’m capable of changed.

So, whatever growth you want to see in your life, whatever change you want to make, I encourage you to stick with it. Make the commitment to build those consistent habits today and you will have more of what you want tomorrow. And next week. And next month. And before you know it, you’ll be celebrating your own blogiversary, or bookiversary, or healthierbodiversary. (Ok, so it doesn’t work with everything.)

Revised Expectations

Photo by Ilya Pavlov on Unsplash

A couple weeks ago I was working to make some updates to my website. I had it all planned out, had envisioned exactly how I wanted it to function and what I wanted it to look like. And so, armed with plug-ins and templates and instructional videos, I dove in.

Many frustrating hours later, I conceded my defeat. Website: 1; Sandy: 0. Given my greenhorn status, there were just some things I wasn’t willing to do to get the results I wanted. Like manipulate code or start all over with a different theme.

But rather than throw in the towel completely, I wondered if I just needed to revise my expectations. I had successfully made the changes I wanted to make without upsetting the functionality or sacrificing the simplistic styling of my current theme, which were two of the things I liked most when I initially chose it.

Did my updates match my vision? No. But in asking myself if they absolutely needed to, I realized the answer was also no.

I find this to be true in life as well. That sometimes we can be so focused on forcing ourselves and our lives to fit into certain shapes, bending and stretching and twisting in order to match or exceed expectations—ours or someone else’s—that we are often either perpetually striving or constantly disappointed.

Sure, it’s good to have plans and dreams and expectations, but we aren’t fortunetellers. We can’t predict and plan for every contingency any more than we can manipulate every situation and variable to mirror our best-case scenario. And we wouldn’t want to.

In my experience, it is in the moments when we don’t get exactly what we want that create the most growth and wisdom. And sometimes a disappointment in the present leads to an unexpected opportunity in the future. We just need to be open to it. To stop trying to pick the lock on the door that has closed behind us and instead walk through the one that has opened in front of us.

Is there anything going on in your life right now that has required you to modify your mindset or adapt your expectations?

FORO

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

Our digital world is filled with numerous acronyms and abbreviations and emoticons. It’s like an entirely different language. There’s FOMO and NOMO-phobia and YOLO. There’s SMH and ROFL and ILY. It seems everything, from phrases to feelings to actions, can be simplified into shorter forms that are recognizable to avid texters and even found in online dictionaries and reference pages.

There’s one acronym in particular that I hadn’t even heard of until I started blogging in March. Back then I made a commitment to myself to write two posts a week. Initially, it was easy. I had a surplus of ideas and not a single concern that the well would dry up. But eleven months and ninety-six posts later, FORO, or the fear of running out, has reared its ugly head.

At first it started as a little niggle in the back of my mind whenever I sat down at my desk. What if I can’t think of anything to write? What if I have nothing interesting to say? What if I draw a complete blank? Fortunately, that hasn’t happened yet. Something always seems to come to light. A story to share, a message to relay, a question to ponder.

But the FORO has remained, latent but ever-present, and lately it’s turning into something more. No longer a fear of running out of content, but a fear of running out of time. It’s one of our most precious commodities and we’re only allotted so much and I worry that I haven’t been using mine well. That God gave me a life and a purpose and so far I’ve squandered a good chunk of it immobilized by fear, insecurity, and doubt.

At the end of December I was determined to dedicate this year to simplicity and stillness and service. But here we are, already into February and what have I simplified? How have I been still? Where have I served? To be completely frank, I’ve been a total slacker in all three areas. The good news is I woke up again today. God has blessed me with a little more time to get my act together.

And act, I shall.

It might already be February third, but it’s not too late to rock this year. So if you, too, have found yourself in the grip of fear and your 2020 goals and pursuits and intentions have waned and wasted away because of it, decide to make this the day you get back on track. Right now is the perfect moment to start again. Hey, maybe we can even make that into a new acronym: RNITPMTSA. Then again, maybe not.

The Importance of Play

Last week Tuesday represented a multitude of lasts. It was the last day of the year, the last day of the decade, and the last time I’ll ring in a new year in my thirties.

But there was also a first.

It was the first time in nearly twenty years of NYE celebrations that Angelo and I spent the evening on our own. With neither of us feeling 100%, we decided to stay in, playing board games while waiting for the ball to drop.

These weren’t your average, sophisticated, adult-level games. Nope. Given the choice, we threw it way, WAY back to childhood with Sorry! and Battleship and Mastermind. We built an oddly shaped structure (shown in the picture) while playing Super Blockhead and performed surgery with a little metal tweezer in Operation.

I had forgotten how much fun these simple games could be—though, in all honesty, part of the entertainment was due to our ineptitude in playing some of them. (I seriously don’t remember Operation being so challenging, but I jumped every single time that unholy buzzer went off. And I set it off A LOT!)

Although most of the hilarity would fit in the you-had-to-be-there category, suffice it to say there was a great deal of laughter. And because my laugh, like my mother’s, seems to be inextricably linked to my tear ducts, there was also an equal amount of crying.

The evening as a whole was enjoyable, both relaxing and cathartic, and it was a reminder of the importance of play. As children, play is easy, it comes to us naturally. But as adults, bogged down by the weight of responsibilities and obligations, play is no longer a priority. Our muscle memory declines and because many of us forget how to do it, we miss out on the opportunity to experience these simple pleasures, these moments of unrestrained delight.

So my challenge to you (and to myself) is this: make time—I mean consistent, intentional time—to play. Rediscover the toys and games you adored as a kid, buy yourself a coloring book and fancy markers, paint, swing, go sledding, dance. By committing to unleash our inner child through her favorite activities, we will spring forth into this New Year with buoyant feet, uplifted spirits, and joyful hearts.

Life, after all, is itself a game. How will you choose to play it?

How I Made It To The End

Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to direct your attention to the two words shown in the photo above. Do you see them? Those are magical words, my dear friends. They’re magical because, by definition, they are the mark of completion; however, today, they indicate a new beginning. They’re magical because, although short and sweet, they bear a tremendous amount of significance, for in the midst of those six letters lies the power of persistence, the pride of completion, the proof of progress. They’re magical because the moment I typed them, I transformed from someone who is writing a novel, to someone who has written one.

At the very same moment you’re reading it, that two syllable phrase is resting nicely in its place of honor at the bottom of a 289-page, 88,755-word document that I have spent three years molding and shaping into its current form. Is it perfect? No. Is it better than it was a year ago? Absolutely. As am I. A better writer, a better editor, a better person for having accomplished that which I set out to do.

This journey has required more of me than I ever thought possible—more resilience, more commitment, more effort, more vulnerability—and although the process has been mottled with toil, tears, and the temptation to quit, I persevered. Despite the days and weeks and months I spent analyzing the calendar and creating word-count and completion goals that went unachieved; despite the years that began with the dogged resolution to finish my novel manuscript and ended with a sigh of regret and defeat; despite the hours I wasted hoping and praying that this attempt would be different only to fall into the same self-sabotaging habits, this time around did, indeed, turn out to be different.

As I sat at my computer staring at the two words I’d dreamed of writing for a very long time, I wondered why. Why was this year, this time, this go-round different from all the others? What kept me going even when the going got tough and my natural inclination to quit kicked into high gear? My initial thoughts were too numerous and lengthy to mention here—though I have expounded upon many of such subjects during The ABCs of a Purposeful WIP series I started back in May—but as I pondered it further, I realized the simplest, yet most substantial addition to my life over the last year and a half was the element of accountability.

Life coaching, as well as a website, blog, and Facebook page all provided for me a sense of responsibility. Whereas I used to hold my goals and doubts and fears close to my chest so no one could see them, I began to share them. With my coach, with my Facebook followers, and with all of you. Holding on to an even remote possibility that my words could reach just one person who needed encouragement, who needed inspiration, who needed to believe that she/he, too, could trade in the habit of inertia for the push of progress, I determined to keep going.

But that accountability was only the beginning. It led to a personal vow to build a purposeful and consistent online presence. And that blog and Facebook-posting consistency bled into my daily routine, forcing me to create boundaries around my writing time, which, among other things, contributed to self-discipline, growth, and progress.

I have been touting the phrase “progress is possible” for months and now I am living proof of it. People, if there is a dream you’ve been chasing, a goal you’ve been aspiring to achieve, a seemingly out-of-reach desire that you hold and hide in a secret place, I am here to tell you that you can do it. If I, a self-proclaimed quitter, could finish this novel manuscript after a lifetime of unfinished stories and unfollowed paths, then you, too, can do that thing God has put on your heart to do. If you believe it, you can achieve it. So believe it. And then go do it.