Photo of Port of Miami from our Celebrity Cruise ship as we sail away by Caprius Photography.
For the last six (OMG! HAS IT REALLY BEEN THAT LONG?!?!) years on my birthday, i’ve been collecting various lessons, discoveries, and connections i’ve made throughout the year and turning them into a birthday post.
In case you missed any of the previous years here they are:
- 2013: 36 Birthday Wishes, Reflections, & Moments of EXTREME Gratitude
- 2014: For You — The Best Freebies, Ebooks, & Wishes To Ring In The New Year
- 2015: 38 Birthday Wishes, Reflections, & Extreme Gratitude,
- 2016: 39 Epic Lessons on courage, trust, love, and live i’ve learned in the 39 years of being alive
- 2017: On turning 40: 40 Lessons i’ve learned from 40 years of living a radically creative (and rebel) life
- 2018: 41 Things Drag Taught Me About Business Part I & Part II
The whole thing started as a personal way to “mark” the turning point in my life, but it has since grown into my favorite way i share everything i’ve learned, am learning, and just now beginning to understand with you!
This past year has been a pivotal one. Not just in my career, but in all aspects of my life. i’ve undergone massive changes, overcome many obstacles, and have reimagined my career and future in a more simpler, focused way to land in the space i am now—the intersection of decades of growth and a fresh start at the young age of 42.
“Fresh start” has been my theme for these last few days of 41 (and by the time you’re reading this, the New Year). Beginning anew. A tabula rasa. All the while in this fresh new start, honoring the experiences, the habits, the shifts that have changed me.
Below are 42 of the plethora of discoveries and things that have changed me in the last 365 days i spent as a 41-year old.
Use my list as a guide to creating your own.
Or take one of my little “experiments” and try it out in your own life.
Use these lessons in whatever way they will best serve you.
Because my intent for this list (and every other list before it) is that one or all of these things on it inspire you to see your life through a different lens or think of something—a situation, your day, the world—a little bit differently, a little more open than you would have before.
Photo of me sky gazing by Caprius Photography.
1. This last cruise.
i’m starting here because it is still so fresh in my mind and significant in my heart. To say that i did this cruise differently than all the other ones is a massive understatement.
Because the shift happened before i even left my house.
A few days before we were scheduled to leave, i set a general intention for the entire cruise. That intention kinda came to me one day while i was cleaning my house. All of sudden i heard the words, “soak up that which you seek.” Immediately, i knew this was supposed to be (and going to be) my intention.
i took those words to mean that everything i had spent my entire 2019 searching for—abundance, wealth, happiness, connectivity, aliveness—would all be present on this cruise. And my job was to notice and acknowledge it.
And i honestly believe that out of all the magical moments that i had, this one tiny thing that i did differently, i.e. set an intention and keep it front and center in my mind, really set the stage for an unforgettable cruise.
i felt the change so deeply that i have brought this idea of intentionality into my new birth and calendar year in multiple ways. Intentionality is both one of my guiding words for the year and something that i am bringing into my life daily via Abraham’s concept of Segment Intending.
So far, it has done wonders to help me feel more clear, organized, and, yes, intentional.
2. Taking an (indefinite) social media sabbatical.
This is a BIG one.
The idea of taking a social media break had been tapping me on the shoulder for quite some time. A few years ago after learning that one of my favorite writers, Alex Franzen, uses absolutely NO social media, i got curious about it. What would my life look like without Facebook, Instagram, Twitter? But i never pursued it any further than mental questions because, as a drag artist and performer, i believed that social media was as essential as the craft itself.
But this past year after i took a step back from performing and drag, those questions popped up once again. This time, having no real excuses not to (other than FOMO), i decided to make it my new moon in Scorpio’s intention to take a break from social media. It was just going to be for 28 days (the # of days in that new moon phase).
On my birthday, i celebrated 2 months of being social media free. And as a birthday gift to myself—and more importantly to my creativity, i decided to make my social media sabbatical and indefinite one.
But here’s what i’m NOT doing. i’m not saying that i’m going to stay off social media forever. i’m not giving myself any stringent ultimatums. i’m just letting it … happen. Flow. Right now, i’m telling myself that i am committing to being social media free in the 1st quarter. The same amount of time as i’m trying to finish up my new art as activism book.
This one BIG decision has changed me, my productivity, and my creativity in so many different and unique ways that i’m committed to writing, exploring, and sharing the insights with you.
Keep checking back here for more on my social media free journey. Or sign up here for my newsletter to never miss an insight. (This, my newsletter, also just happens to be the only way i will be communicating and sharing with all y’all beautiful humans.)
3. More reading
i’ve always been an avid reader, but this year i made a commitment to reading books that would improve my focus and inspire my creativity. Oh, and ones that would make me think deeply about my life, the world (and inspire me to change them).
This year i kinda fell in love with Goodreads and while i’ve gone social media free, i’m still active on there because, well it’s books and it’s a lot easier to stay in your lane and not get sucked into all the madness that is Facebook’s Timeline. LOL.
A few of the books that i’ve read over the course of 41 that have changed me are:
Mean by Myriam Gurba
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (Still finishing up this one. It’s a big one!)
Create Dangerously by Edwidge Danticat (Still finishing this up. Picked it up in December and am still currently reading it.)
Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
Crossing To Saftey by Wallace Stegner
Modern Tarot by Michelle Tea
This year i’m being more intentional about the books i’m reading by committing to reading at least 12 books this year (one a month) AND picking out the books i’m going to read. Most of the 12 (save for 1 or 2) are books that i have on my list to read every year but get distracted by new and shiny ones. This is the year that i change that.
4. Developing a strong & consistent meditation practice.
In my free creativity and art guide, Start Your Art: A 5Min/1Day Mini Creative Revolution, i talk about how i started out and stayed consistent with my meditation practice by committing to the tiny goal of meditating for only 5 minutes. (See #29)
This past birth year, i meditated for 110 days straight! And for my 42nd birth year, my goal is a consistent 365 days of mediation!
i’m happy to report that at the time of this writing (Jan. 25) i am 11 days closer to that goal! YAY!
(In case you’re curious, i’m using an app called Insight Timer to track my days. Did i also mention it’s free?!?!? Download it now. You won’t regret it!)
5. USING my library card AAAAND! Taking advantage of their reservation & pickup at any library location system!
Cover design by me. Cover drawing by Jasmelin Cruz
6. Working with my flient (friend + client) Kayla’s 855 classroom.
Kayla and i go waaaay back; back to our TWU undergrad modern dance days. Even back then, Kayla has always been a changemaker—the kind of person that once they see that there’s an inequality, an injustice sets out immediately to make it right.
We’ve been working together for the last 3 years and i’ve helped her on numerous projects: artistic statements, bios, dance/artists fellowships and grants, and building and designing her newsletter.
But this last fall she came to me with a unique project that sounded fun, but i knew somewhere in my gut would be something way more profound than just another writing/editing job.
Kayla is a Model Special Education Teacher at Highbridge Green School in The Bronx. And the kids she teaches have seen a lot of life. Sides and shadows of it that you and i in our privilege will perhaps never know outside of television and movie depictions. And, with her 2019 all-male class, she wanted to do her teaching and curriculum differently. One of the things she wanted to do was put together a book made up of their poetry and memoirs and she hired me to help bring her vision to life.
Not only did i copyedit the student’s work, design the front and back covers (as well as the interior), i also got to meet and talk with each student individually—like i do for all my regular writing clients. In these sessions, we riffed about why they wanted to tell this particular story, what they wanted their readers to get out of it. i talked about the importance of self-expression and writing as a tool for initiating change as we read through their stories of survival and strength—traits most of them didn’t even know they had.
At the end of the first round of sessions, i started bawling.
Bawling because never in my 41 years of life had i ever been in the presence of so much raw talent, so much potential, so much life experience in minds and bodies so young. Eyes that have seen so much. Lives that, thanks to the internet and social media, i was able to connect to all the way from my home office in Dallas, TX. Lives that i hope more than anything that i have somehow managed—through my love of self-expression, creativity, and art— to change.
i left this project more resilient and determined to do the work i’ve been called to … to help artists and creatives who want to change and/or heal the world with their art and creativity make art. To help Othered artists express themselves. To help them harness their otherness into their power and into powerful art.
More than any guru or mentor i have read, hired, or worked with, these 12 kids changed my life.
They may grow up and forget me, but i will NEVER EVER EVER forget them.
Their book, Allow Me To Introduce Myself, and the work i did with them, is #1 thing that i am most proud of accomplishing this year—hell, maybe even in my whole life.
i am honored to share the book with you. You can download the book and read these kid’s powerful poetry and stories, HERE.
Please note, that the book has been modified from its original format in order to protect the kid’s privacy.
But their visual removal does not impact the spirit of unbreakablity this book encompasses and inspires.
7. Giving myself time to think, reflect, and just live in all the questions and ponderings i have about my future, my desires, and wants WITHOUT guiltily thinking or telling myself that i should be doing x,y, and z. Or that this is a “waste of my time.”
8. Shifting in (and out) people in my life.
Embracing and surrounding myself with people who love, support, and believe in me; people who are growing and evolving themselves; and letting go of friendships, acquaintances, tools and media that stunt my growth.
9. Hearing these words: “There is nothing more powerful than a mind made up.” Reading these words: “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people.” And saying these words to myself, “You are already rich, wealthy, and abundant.”
Still Life of Creating Dangerously by Moi.
10. Book: Create Dangerously: the immigrant artist at work by Edwidge Danticat
The last part of 2019 was focused on bringing to life a (tiny) book that i’ve had welling up inside me for quite some time.
In this book, i explore and unpack how we as Othered creatives and artists create amid sometimes oppressive circumstances. In short, i explore what i mean (and how to actualize it in your life) when i say, “harness your otherness into your power—and powerful art.” i was deep into writing this book when i picked up Create Dangerously from my bookshelf and started reading it.
Immediately, i knew why i had subconsciously chosen this book to be my last read of 2019 and the first of 2020. Because it is my book in the sense of the who and why i am writing it. Its powerful stuff—stuff that i needed to hold close as i refined my own ideas and book.
i also knew immediately that i wanted Edwidge to write the forward of my book. A goal that i have yet to set in motion, but will for sure in my 42nd year.
11. Daily tarot card pull
Every morning after coffee and taking Simon out and before i start my workday, i shuffle my Tarot of the Dead deck and pull a card. This card becomes a guide for my day. Kinda like an energy to work with and watch out for throughout the day.
This practice has not only deepened my awareness of my own energy and connection to the universe and the world around me, but it has also deepened my relationship to my deck as well as my intuition—something that i really wanted to focus on in my new birth year and beyond.
Sometimes the card i pull BLOWS ME THE FUCK AWAY in its align-ness to what i am experiencing and questioning. Other times it’s subtle. Either way, this daily practice has really deepened my connection to the universe, my own personal magic, and the manner in which i focus my day. #lifechanging
This (along with astrology) is a topic i’m committed to writing more about in the new year. Stay tuned for a free book on how i integrate magic (tarot & astrology) into my day, life, and art!
12. Getting serious about setting (and tracking) my new moon intentions
This greatly aligns with #11 above.
But in addition to all the above goodness, what tracking and journaling with the new moon does is help guide my focus for the month and help me mark and keep track of any big life/habit changes. Some of the HUGE changes i’ve made began as small new moon intentions—my social media sabbatical and the creation of my tiny book for example.
What has really helped keep me on track with my new moon work is Sandy Sitron’s The Moon Journal because it gives me a ritual to look forward to and a home to house all my new moon work.
i got this journal under the Virgo new moon (go figure right, lol) and have been using it since.
My goal is to get another one and begin it on the new moon in Aries so i can track a full lunar year of new moon intention setting! Something that the metaphysical nerd is me is UBER-excited about!
This list was inspired by THE CHECKLIST BOOK by Alexandra Franzen. Get the book at your local bookstore, local public library, or order it online: http://bit.ly/the-checklist-book
13. Creating my own systems, AM ritual—as well as honoring my own ways of working and doing.
For a long time, i believed that other people had it all figured out. That somehow they had found THE way to lead the most productive and creative lives. This year i discovered that i’d been searching for my way, my truth in other people’s understandings and discoveries of themselves.
Sure some of their advice and suggestions worked. But it never really stuck.
This past year, i slowly began to realize that any tool will work if i work the tool. The problem was that after the first few days the spark of wanting to, or excitement wore off and i was left with nothing.
After a few more times of trial and error, i said fuck it. i threw all their systems away and asked myself, “What do I need to have a successful day (aka life)?” What i found in that answer is that i needed to feel connected in a real, deep way to whatever ritual (AM, work, new moon) i put in place.
At the same time, i happened upon Alexandra Franzen’s idea of creating a daily checklist vs. using a planner, tried it, and fell IN LOVE with it. In this simple (i’m sure some would call archaic concept), i found a system that was not only customizable but also a beautiful way to keep track of—to look back on and see—my progress and growth.
i’ve personalized it a bit and have been using it since December 23, 2019 AND I LOVE IT. i feel more alive, more connected, and empowered to my day and work. (If you’re interested in learning more, check out her new book The Checklist Book: Set Realistic Goals, Celebrate Tiny Wins, Reduce Stress and Overwhelm, and Feel Calmer Every Day. i’m on page 81 and i’m OBSESSED!
But again, i have to remind myself that, yes the tool is great, but it’s not necessarily the tool; its the connection i feel TO the tool. And that deep, personal connection and resonation is what i want to bring into my new year—and the rest of my life.
14. Coming to peace with the inevitable fact that i will not live forever.
This has always been a hard thing for me. Death. The finality of it. The mystery that surrounds it. The harsh full stop of everything that was ever you. This past year death as an inevitability kept popping up, but nowhere more blatantly and intently than in my relationship with my creative soulmate, Paul.
This past year he trained to become a death doula and in our chats, he would talk about his work and his desire to create a deeper awareness and understanding of how death can influence our life and how we can use that energy to design our own deaths.
Design my own death?!? Now there’s a thought that scared the shit out of me. Who wants to think about a time—let alone design—where one doesn’t exist?
But then a strange thing began to happen. The more i followed and listened to his experience and what he was coming to know, i began to understand (for the first time ever) and really hold close the idea that if i wanted to fully embrace my life, i would have to come to some sort of comfort and understanding that death is as much of a part of life as breathing. And so i began to examine my fear of death and slowly started to build a relationship with it. i’ve begun to use this imminent threat of finality as a motivational tool (maybe even my biggest one) to show up to the work that means the most to me—and to my own life.
i’m not the first to use death as a tool to inspire their life and get shit done.
Todd Henry wrote an entire book on how to do this called, Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day.
Steve Jobs used it as a tool as well saying, “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
My beautiful friend Paul has designed his passion and work around it.
And now, i’m learning how to do that too.
Do i still wake up panicked and in full fear that i am going to die? Yes. But now i know it’s not fear that i’m trying to change.
What i’m trying to change is how intentional i will live despite that fear so that when the time comes for me to die, there is no real panic, no real fear, absolutely no regrets because i have in fact lived my best life.
15. Learning the names of things around me.
Like the actual names. This was inspired by Natalie Goldberg’s writing rule of “Be Specific.” “Not car, but Cadillac. Not fruit, but apple. Not bird, but wren.”
Every day, i sit at my desk and look out my two windows at the birds and the trees. But they are not just trees. They are Bradfords. And the birds they house range anywhere from Cardinals and Bluebirds to Cedar Waxwings and American Goldfinches.
Entire ecosystems, entire worlds have opened up to me as i continue to pay attention and learn the actual names of things.
This one small shift has inspired me, even amidst all the hate and injustice happening, to fall back in love with the world.
16. Focusing my energy on just ONE thing at a time.
Not forever. Just for now. Just on what i’m doing at the moment. Right now, i’m writing this sentence and that’s all there is in the world … just this sentence.
This singular focus is an ongoing lesson (as well as a study in patience) but through daily practice and focus (haha see what i did there!!) i’m getting better. And really, i’m discovering, this is all i can ask of myself.
17. Being okay with and accepting the fact that more than anything in this world, i just want to create and connect with things, people, places, deeply. And giving myself the time and space to do it.
18. Really zeroing in on this fact: age, like time, is a manmade concept. And what being a “manmade concept” really means (to me) in terms of the bigger picture of life.
Places, rules, structures all stand because someone at some point in time said THIS is the way it’s going to be. Call it progress. Call it evolution. Call it whatever you want, the idea and concept of it are still manmade.
i (sometimes) get why we do it. But what i’m trying to negotiate is how these manmade concepts—like age, time, and what social norms define as valuable ‘work’—affect the quality of my life. And, most importantly, is the tradeoff worth it? i.e. is buying into some of these tropes and social structures worth more than my own happiness? Do i really need social media in my life if it’s not making me happy? Do i really need to believe that in order to be valuable i have to work in a way that society says is worth most even if it doesn’t make me happy?
This is the kind of esoteric and philosophical shit that haunts my brain whenever i zone out. And it’s just something that i’m going to have to keep on exploring and trying to understand. i finally became comfortable with living in these questions this year and hope to bring that comfortability with me throughout 42.
19. Acknowledging, admitting, and then ultimately accepting myself as a Nepantlera. A bridge. Someone who connects worlds.
Nepantla, as a theory and form of activism, was introduced by Gloria Anzaldúa in this bridge we call home: radical visions for transformation. It was an idea that i was always resistant to, but this past year i really started to embrace this new way of being.
It’s something that i have written about in private and something i’m open to sharing in the new year.
20. Admitting to myself that i do not know nearly enough about the rest of the world as i should. And, more importantly, making a commitment to do something about it.
This one really harkens back to the massive internal shift i had on our cruise.
i realized that more so than any other cruise i had been on, that i really wanted to know exactly where i was, the history and art of each island, and where exactly it was on a map. And the fact that i didn’t know really really irked me.
i also realized that my life, thoughts, the things i read, watch, and write are deeply rooted in American culture and perspectives but this is only a small portion of who i am—and who the world is. i come from a culture and people that are rich in its own history, its own lineage, its own language, it’s own art.
On the day of my 42nd birthday, i bought a desk globe and promised myself two things: that i would relearn all my geography and i would also go deeper by exploring and reading works, learning about the art and culture of my own gente but also others.
Kismet enough, it was in this energy that i picked up Edwidge Danticat’s Create Dangerously and discovered the first place i should educate myself on, Haiti—a place that i’m ashamed to say that my only reference points prior to Danticat’s book were the AIDS crisis and Labadee (a private Royal Caribbean island).
But i’m learning. And making a lifelong commitment to learning, exploring, and growing beyond and outside my American privilege. And this counts way more than any ignorance i’m ashamed to claim.
21. Brussel sprouts.
And learning how to cook them right (on a cast iron skillet). Completely life-changing. i am OBSESSED with them. And a little disappointed that they waited until my late 30s before making their way into my life. (Or, what i should really say is, until i was dope enough to try them!)
22. Seriously Kon Maring my life.
i used the adjective “seriously” because i’ve tried decluttering my life before, but in March of this year i actually took the process seriously and decluttered my clothes, papers, and books using her method and it has completely reshaped my relationship to my closet, my office space, and my bookshelves. i still have a few more categories to go and will be tackling those in my new birth year.
But for now, i’m loving the progress i’ve made and being surrounded by things that not only spark joy, but inspire me to step into my greatness.
23. Swapping out old, stagnant words for ones that bring new, fresh energy.
For example, instead of saying, “i’ll try meditating for a week,” i’ve been saying, “i’m going to experiment with meditating for a week and see what happens.” And immediately, with just exchanging the word “try” for “experiment,” i feel a complete shift in my entire body. It’s a feeling of excitement paired with a sense of play. Whenever i don’t want to do something or want to do something by i’m afraid the habit won’t stick, i’ve used this word swapping technique to shift my mindset by shifting the energy around said thing.
In fact, its how i managed to complete #2 (social media break) and #31 (30-day alcohol detox) on this list. By swapping out “i want to” and/or “i need to” with “Let’s just experiment with X for 30 days or a moon phase and see how it goes.” One small change has helped create massive shifts in my life. It really is incredible to keep witnessing the power of small changes in my life.
24. AM Pages
A tool that Julia Cameron recommends in her classic book, The Artist Way. i’ve been doing a version of these pages on and off throughout the year and it has really changed the way i focus at the start (and really throughout my entire) day.
Haven’t heard of Morning Pages? HERE’S a great short intro.
25. AM Gratitude
Speaking of AM rituals, along with AM pages and my daily card pull, writing down 3 things i am grateful for every morning has helped me root myself in gratefulness vs. worry, anxiety, or stress about the day.
Out of all the mini-mental shifts i’ve made, this one has profoundly affected my mindset for the better.
26. Surprising my parents by coming home for Christmas.
Never have i ever in all my 41 years of life made a surprise visit to see my parents in Corpus Christi, TX. i’ve thought about it, played it out in my head like a movie, but i’ve never actually done it. Part of me feels like i was waiting for the right person (aka my wife) to do it with. The other part of me knows that i was too self-centered in my youth to really even think about it. And all of me knows that it couldn’t have happened at any other point in my life BUT this one.
My wife and i left Dallas at 5:45 am Christmas Day and rolled up to their house at 1:30 pm—just as my family was slicing dessert. My mother came running. She started bawling. i started bawling. C got teary and had to stop videoing.
It was literally the best thing i’ve done all year. And still makes my heart smile and my whole self light up whenever i think about it.
Photo by Caprius Photography.
27. “This is my Office.”
In the middle of the crystal blue water of the Atlantic with schools of fish swimming underneath my wife & i’s feet and the breathtaking slopes of the Grenada mountains as his backdrop, our catamaran and snorkeling guide spread his arms out to both sides emphasizing the breadth of the ocean surrounding us, and said, “THIS is my office.”
That moment reminds me that there are so many others who don’t play by the 9 to 5 work rule. More people than i know are choosing to design their own path and bucking the capitalistic idea of acquiring things as status symbols. Trading in the more is more mentality for the tranquility of nature. Of the promise of space. Pete’s happiness and gratitude in surveying his chosen office is the spirit and manner i try to bring with me every time i sit at my desk to write. To do my work.
Now after experiencing his grace, before i sit down at my chair, i take a moment to survey the openness of the day, the world that lives outside my office windows; i take a deep breath, stretch my entire body, arms out to my sides and say, gratefully, humbly to myself, “this is my office.”
28. Celebrating me & C’s 10 year anniversary.
On October 31 of 2019, we celebrated a decade of being together. On December 19, we celebrated 3 years of marriage. Loving her alone has taught me so much about who am, who i want to be, and (perhaps most importantly) who i want to be for her.
i never thought i would get married. i never thought that i could love someone as much as i loved myself. i never thought that any of this would happen for me. i wasn’t looking for it. But apparently it was looking for me.
As i write this entry, i realize that i have never written down the story of how we met. Of all the things that came into play—and all the things that had to happen, that i had to go through—in order to be ready for her. To be ready for real lasting love.
Maybe 42 is the year that i’ll get around to finding and shaping the language that attempts to express all this love i feel. And, at the very least, shares the story of how we (i) found love …
To be continued . . .
29. It’s not fame i really wanted, but something to outlive me.
i am learning that i can find this legacy more extensively and more satisfyingly in the work, the writing, the art i create. Are there still fragments of my double Leo ego that still craves the flashes, the spotlight, the red carpets? Absolutely.
But i’m learning that those moments don’t come even close to the feeling i get, the deep sense of connectivity i feel when i open my inbox and receive a note from someone telling me that my writing, my work has inspired them to share, to change, to make art.
i’m learning that inspiring, helping, changing even just one person through my work is, now, the kind of fame i am actively seeking.
30. Fully embracing and enacting tiny goals.
i’m a “big or go home” kinda gal. And When i want to start something—mediation, writing a book, yoga, the gym—i want to go to ALL IN. Like to the extreme. Because if i don’t the voices in my head start screaming, IT’S NOT REAL YOGA UNLESS YOU DO IT FOR THE FULL 1 ½! YOU’RE NOT A REAL WRITER IF YOU DON’T WRITE ON YOUR BOOK FOR 8 HOURS A DAY!! IT DOESN’T COUNT IF YOU ONLY MEDITATE FOR 5 MINUTES.” And the yelling goes on and on and on.
And for the longest time, i let these thoughts of all or nothing, of extremeness, hold me back from actually writing, trying mediation, and practicing yoga.
But this past year my desire to do these things outweighed the hater in my head and i made the decision to just mediate FOR 5 mins for ONE DAY. ← This one small change created an avalanche of shifts in my life. (i wrote about the experience and how you can make this shift to begin your art project [writing, design, acting, whatever it is you want to create/do] in my tiny book, Start Your Art: A 5 Minute/1 Day Mini Creative Revolution, you can download it for free HERE.)
Because the truth of it is, 5 minutes of meditation is still meditation. Is still beneficial and more than enough time to feel and see the changes. 5 minutes of writing is still working towards a finished novel. Going to the gym one day out of the week is still a win.
We all know this. Hell, i’ve known this for decades … intellectually. But i’ve never embraced it as a practice until this year. Now, the tiny, the 5mins, the small has revolutionized my entire being and how i show up, create, and produce in the world.
If i had to pick THE ONE THING that changed me the most radically this year, this one would be it. Thinking tiny. Shifting from infinity to just 5 minutes has changed the game for me.
i KNOW it will change the game for you too!
31. Going 30 days without alcohol
i love a good craft cocktail and bottle of wine, but around July i started to feel a bit sluggish. My nights ran into my days, my brain was in a constant state of haze, and i wasn’t getting anywhere in my writing (or career). And i started wondering if my love of Cosmos might have something to do with it.
So i decided to do a 30 day cleanse to reset my body and test out my hypothesis. i started my 30 day alcohol experiment on July 17 and finished my 30 days on August 17th my mom’s birthday. While i discovered it wasn’t 100% the cause of my feeling and being “off” (there were many other things at play like being a bad vegetarian/vegan, taking in too many teachers, and not moving my body), it did reset me in a big, beautiful way.
My goal from now on is to do this kind of reset every year. i’m thinking about making it July again. Kinda like an annual thing. i’ll keep you posted! Hey, maybe you’ll join me?!?!
32. Focusing on Engagement vs. Entertainment
You know that feeling when you crave something, but you just don’t know how to describe it? It’s like you can’t find just the right words to express what it is your searching for becuase it just feels so damn elusive? This discovery was one of those things for me.
2019 had me feeling some kind of way … i wanted to get off social media, detoxify my body, shift my mindset and goal setting habits, etc. But i didn’t know exactly why i wanted to do this, what i was craving, and/or hoping to put in its place.
Towards the end of the year, i reread Todd Henry’s book, Die Empty. i wasn’t sure what inspired me to pick up the book again—i liked it the first time i read it, but it wasn’t a book that necessarily changed me in any big memorable way. i started reading and in the chapter, Be Fiercely Curious, i found what i what was calling me in a subsection called “Entertainment vs. Engagement.”
I suddenly realized how those little spaces ‘in between’ are now filled by entertainment …. When I have nothing to work on (and even sometimes when I do), I can check Twitter, e-mail, or browse my favorite website for something to entertain me…. When I reflect on some of my best ideas I’ve had … they often occurred in the spaces ‘in between’ my commitments.”
But it was the last sentence in the following paragraphed that seared understanding into my soul:
There is more opportunity for entertainment, but less of the breakthrough synthesis that often comes from deep, purposeful engagement with experiences.
In this short section, i found the language to describe what it was exactly i wanted more of in my life and the new year—Engagement. Not entertainment. We often sacrifice and substitute magical moments of engagement—conversations with strangers, a Blue Jay on a branch, the ray of sunshine on our face—for entertainment—scrolling on Facebook, binging Netflix, obsessively checking our email. All these things i am coming to discover are empty acts that serve no real purpose in my life other than to entertain me and satiate my need for instant gratification and to be ‘doing something’ at all times.
It was this desire for more real life engagement that led me to finally get off social media. It’s the continual desire for deeper meaning and connectivity that keeps me off of it.
33. The ocean aka being in the center of the sea with nothing surrounding me but endless miles of water.
Sometimes the ocean just feels so big that when i’m in the middle of it, i wonder if this is what pirates and sailors must have felt—this expansion, this freedom. This limitless potential of anything and everything, of a never-ending existence. An expansive breath of life.
This year i discovered that i get this same expansive feeling of freedom driving down an open road. It’s the feeling of being a tiny speck in the middle of nothing and everything—kinda like that picture of our galaxy with the arrow pointing down and a caption that reads, “You are HERE.”
That’s my definition of freedom. A neverending expansion—with me in the middle of it witnessing the vastness. i’ve discovered, this is the feeling i seek. That i value. That i want more of.
My major discovery of 42 will be figuring out how to bring more of that into my life.
i also discovered that i get smaller versions of this rush when i travel and experience new things. This is why i’ve made one of my major goals this year to experience one new thing every day.
So far, 25 days into the year, it has been the best decision i’ve made.
35. Sometimes, it’s good news.
As in, the envelope i’ve avoided opening for months because i thought it was bad news actually contains major blessings (like the kind i’ve been manifesting towards).
True story: 2 letters came in the mail for me. One was from a bank i’m no longer with and the other was from my student loan. Both sat unopened for weeks. When i finally had enough of their energy lingering, i opened them both up and … SURPRISE!!
The old bank one contained a check for $208 that i had NO IDEA was coming to me. The second brought news of a waaaaaaaay reduced monthly student loan payment. What both envelopes taught me that day was sometimes when we avoid something, we are not only avoiding the bad things, but the awesome abundant things that we’ve all been asking, praying, aligning ourselves with, and working our asses off to attract.
Another shift i’m trying to make in my 42nd year is to approach every envelope, every situation as if the universe is plotting FOR and with me, not against.
36. There are worlds outside of our window, bordering the outside of our phones just waiting to be discovered.
And my (our) job is to remember, to retrain ourselves to see beyond our own orbits—our phones, lives, stresses, brains—so we don’t forget who we really are (humans with a deep desire to be witnessed and create) and what we are a part of (a neverending galaxy).
This (re)discovery came to me as i gazed out my office window at the Bradford trees. In their barren winter branches, were two squirrels that, right as i looked at them, touched noses prompting me to immediately create a story that they were in love. A few seconds after they left, a Downy Woodpecker and a Pine Warbler landed on the few branches that still contained a handful of amber falling leaves.
i just sat and watched in marvel at this whole entire ecosystem that existed in just this one Bradford tree. If the world outside my window was this rich and pulsating with life, what kind of galaxies did all the other trees on my block hold?
37. It’s not necessarily the vacations i crave, but new experiences.
While i still love a good cruise, what i’ve been digging into is the fact that it’s the new sensory experiences—the food, sights, sounds, experiences—that i really crave when the burning desire to ‘get away’ or go on vkay strikes. Unpacking exactly what it is i’m searching for when i desire a vacation has been a huge turning point in how i plan and focus my daily life. What i started to understand at 41 is that i don’t need to wait for my next vacation to feel this sense of aliveness; i can feel this way anytime i want by simply introducing something completely different into my life. Trying (vegan) sushi for the first time at 42 makes me feel just as alive, awake, and engaged with life as taking that first step onto the cruise ship. And the sushi cost me waaaaaaay less!
Miso soup instead of coffee in the AM? Hell ya! A full day of silence in 2020? Let’s do it!
This conscious breaking free from the daily monotony of my routine seeps my day in magic and aliveness! Intentionally setting out every day to have a new experience has completely reoriented and re-engaged me with life.
My big goal for 42 and 2020? Have one new experience every day for the entire year! And guess what?!?! I’VE ALREADY HAD 25 NEW EXPERIENCES!! WHAT WHAT?!? To help me stay on task, i’ve purchased a Slingslot planner to record my new experiences daily, have committed to writing about it on my blog, posted a checklist of new experiences i’d like to have in 2020 (i’ve already completed TWO of them!!!), and i bought this book and this one to keep the experiences flowing!
i’m seriously in love with this experiment and will be writing and sharing a (free) tiny book (soon) dedicated to designing your own new experiences experiment! Make sure to hop on my newsletter list HERE to be the first to know when that new (free) book drops!
38. Dallas is a REALLY big city.
The kind of BIG city that i’m not sure i want to live in anymore …
And the more i think about it, the more my gut hints that Texas (and maybe even the US) isn’t either …
40. i need WAY less than i have been conditioned and/or nurtured to believe i do.
From money to actual physical things, i am discovering that it’s not the number of things in my possession, but the quality. It may have started with Marie Kondo but it’s developed into a whole new way of experiencing and interacting with the things i already have around me.
Since i’ve decluttered, i’ve been left with things that i am truly in love with. And what i’m discovering is that if everything around me is something that i love, really want, and appreciate there isn’t the sensation of a constant void. Or that feeling that something is missing which eventually leads me to buy more things. But because everything around me is so full and vital, nothing feels like its missing. i feel … whole.
This past year due to a shift of writing focus, i found myself with a lower end of year income than i’ve ever seen. But that lower income forced me to really evaluate and define what it is exactly i need. What i discovered is that my needs are way less than what society wants me to believe is necessary. Or what i’ve conditioned myself to believe i needed to be happy.
This has instilled a whole new sense of freedom and relationship to money.
Through this process, i’m finding that it’s never been about having all the money to buy all the things (like i initial thought), but that—much like my discovery about fame—it’s much more about having enough money where accessibility or experience isn’t hinged upon whether i can afford it or not. It’s about being able to afford it all, but not wanting it. Does that make sense?
It’s an idea and concept that i’m still toying with and hope that 2020 brings more clarity around.
41. Not all whiskey drinks are bad.
(But most are. LOL.)
i actually had a whiskey drink on our last cruise that tasted like hard candy. This past week, we went to the TX distillery for a happy hour date night (and as my new experience for the day) and i had a Texas Tea. It was good.
i surprised myself by not immediately (and dramatically) gagging. However, goodness aside, it is still not—nor will ever be—my spirit of choice!
Photo of my 2020 Goals List Clipboard & my fabulous sticker tabs by Moi.
42. There is no rush.
All my life, i have lived under a self-imposed stopwatch. An always ticking timer that is myself. More strick and harder on my spirit than any man-made contraption, my personal sense of urgency and the constant berating of my internal clock has led me to rush so many moments in my life that i can never relive. Never get back.
i’ve tried many times, in all the ways prescribed, to change this. Harness your inner guru? Check. Stopping to check and ask myself “What is the rush?” when i go into a time tizzy? Triple check. Trying to stop it before the madness even begins, “Why do you feel the need to get there right now?” Not enough checkmarks in the world. And while mediation has helped (A LOT), i still felt like some key ingredient i didn’t know about was missing.
That ingredient, it turns out, was me. Me as in, me, myself, and i wanting to slow down. Me as in my reason for slowing down had to be more compelling and outweigh my desire/need to get there. To rush. To be done.
But this not-so-secret ingredient didn’t come till about the last month or so of my 41st year. i had just finished reading an essay by Alexandra Franzen with the same title as this final entry. Now, i had heard these three words over and over again and never felt pulled to implement them in my life. But it wasn’t the words that initially captivated me. It was her story that attached itself to those words. Her story gave those words meaning. And it was that meaning that resonated with me and caused me to pause.
After that little spark, i couldn’t get the phrase out of my head. There is no rush. There is no rush. There is no rush. Soon, every time i would try to fast forward through an experience, i kept hearing those words. But again, nothing really changed.
It wasn’t until i sat down to write this annual birthday post that it all came together.
i was already feeling the pressure to finish because i started writing it so late. (i usually start these bday essay in November but i didn’t start this one until December 20ish.) So when i saw the 27th (my birthday) getting closer and closer and i was nowhere near being done, i felt myself going into rush mode.
Okay, so i can cut out this idea …
i’ll just keep every entry super short …
Fuck it. Just one sentence. No explanation. No stories …
Basically editing myself, my creativity, all the fun parts—the parts that i and you love—out just to “finish.” To get it done and out on my self-imposed deadline, my birthday.
i was hacking up my work, my art, my messages to satiate an internal need that didn’t care about the quality of the work. It only cared about getting it done.
And then i realized, this was not the way that i wanted to live my life. This was not the way i wanted to share. To create. To work. To pay homage to my art.
My entire year of 41 was all about finally making peace with the fact that i crave, need, and really really thrive in those moments of deep, below the surface connection. It’s why i took a social media sabbatical. Why i stepped away from drag and performing. And why i wanted to be an artist to begin with.
And rushing this post was not the way or energy i wanted to begin my 42nd year on this planet.
And then i heard it … There is no rush.
And i finally understood.
It was more important to me to do and put out great work that reflects my desire for depth and resonation than it was for me to just finish. To just check something off my list as done. That desire finally outweighed and meant more to me than just being done.
You would think that this is a given in a writer’s line of work, but in this fast-paced, click-bait, ‘need to capture someone’s attention in the first 3 seconds,’ this deepness and slowing down to create, to read, to connect is dying.
And i, also, have been participating in its death by rushing my work.
i’ve set my intention for the entirety of my 42nd year to be this change of resurrecting depth and taking as long as it takes that i seek.
And so while this birthday post may be waaaay late and long overdue, i can honestly say that i have never been more proud of an annual bday post—hell ANY post, essay, article in general—than i am now.
This bday essay is the me i want to be.
The me i am changing my life to become. One day, one small decision at a time.
May you take tiny, aligned, purposeful steps towards drastic, deep, and life-altering change.
That’s my birthday wish for you.