done on purpose; deliberate.
Today I started pondering why?
I think it is because I have been operating on Auto-Pilot since Birmingham. Seriously.
As I do a little more work on myself, I realize that my 30s did a number on me. I really believe I was traumatized from losing the job. It felt like the ultimate in failure. Through no fault of my own, I found myself scratching and clawing to pull myself out of that dark hole I found myself in for 9 months. And then the downward spiral with my marriage, moving home to live with my parents…
It was all too much. I was so lost. So sad. I just kept going. Because that is what I do. I endure, I press forward, and I reinvent.
Here we are, 9 years later, and I think my muscles are trying to unwind from all of the tension from having to hold myself together. I had to push to get my life back on track.
Now, when anyone threatens to take that control away from me, I feel angry. Really, really angry.
I realize that now.
Auto-pilot is my coping mechanism. I think my subconscious is afraid to pull back the curtain and feel again.
It feels too dangerous.
I haven’t formed any meaningful relationships in years. I haven’t really tried anything new. I take that back, I do… but they are always far enough away to keep it safe.
While deep-diving into my soul, I’m learned there is a big hole left there, a hole where things that were so important, so valuable, were ripped away.
I covered the hole with a blanket, warm & safe. I started to fill the hole in and as I realized I would have to feel again, I stopped and just covered it up. I ran on auto-pilot.
I don’t want to do that anymore.
2020 is intentional.
What do I hope to gain from all of this intentionality? Deeper relationships, new experiences, and peace. Above all – Peace.
As I was making my 2019 Year In Review slide show of my life, I began to think of all of the slide shows I have made over the years. Specifically, this decade.
Want to travel down memory lane with me…. Have mercy.
That was 2009. I lived a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT LIFE. I lived in Birmingham, traveled quite a bit, and was married to the Egyptian.
Let’s keep going….
Still in Birmingham…. Let’s keep going…
Now we have moved into some challenging territory. Shaky marriage… about to be let go from my job… getting ready to rebuild my life back in Georgia…
Then I moved….
Then the rebuild came:
And FINALLY…. the tides began to turn…
To HANDS DOWN the BEST Summer of my adult life…
To a whole new world!
To many wonderful adventures:
To a challenging year health wise, but still good stuff!
To 2019 – One decade later!
Amazing how I have change – both physically, spiritually and emotionally! I have been married and divorce to being remarried. I have moved from Birmingham, Alabama to Macon, Georgia to Preston, Georgia to Plains, Georgia. I have worked for the American Heart Association, Tubman Museum, Cannonball House, and City of Americus. I wrote over 32 articles and was published in Birmingham Magazine, B Metro Magazine, Macon Magazine, and the 11th Hour. I join a handful of boards, helped create a Day Surgery program for the working poor, and even won the Georgia Commissioner’s award for Outstanding Leadership in Promoting Tourism. I’ve become a step mom and Glamma. I’ve made more new friends than I can count.
Life really is sweet… bitter sweet sometimes, but always a treat!
I’m super resilient. Like… really, really resilient.
Life has thrown me sh*t balls over the years and somehow I keep kicking. I get knocked down, only to rise from the ashes. Over and over and over again.
I don’t think I am resilient because it is some innate talent or gift. I really don’t think I ever had the choice to be anything but. What else am I going to do? Crumble? Who the hell would pick up the pieces?
Sure, I have a supportive husband and a handful of awesome friends, but they have their own sh*t to deal with. Of course, my family is there – but they are beyond stretched thin. I have no choice but to take care of me.
Well… I have not been doing the best job of that lately and it surprises me more than anyone else. When times get hard, and they get hard for everyone at some point, I may wallow in self pity for a day or two, but after a good cry in a super hot bath tub and a long prayer to God, I am able to pull it together. Not this time. Or at least not since the summer.
Things were getting progressively negative around these parts. From the contention with Tim’s family, to being so far away from my own (especially as my Dad battled Prostate Cancer,) to working in a job that often goes unnoticed or appreciated, to living in a community that seems (now that the honeymoon phase is over) to be so damn bitter, to just wanting so bad to connect and finding few to do that with.
I’m tired just typing all of that.
And it goes on and on and on…
I tore my MCL which has put a HUGE damper on my exercising. I’m now in Physical Therapy to correct the issue and man oh man… it is challenging. I had a broken tooth removed and I am recovering from that AND my Dad had a heart attack last week and is recovering at home with a stent. That alone is a lot of deal with.
Look, I get it – I am blessed beyond measure. Do NOT for one moment think I do not see that. I have accomplished my goals (professionally and personally,) I am “successful” in the simplest of terms. I have some really amazing people in my life (just NOT nearby,) and my family and I are in a good place. My husband is my very best friend and is super supportive (considering all of the mess we have to navigate with his family.) My house is adorable, my health is fairly good… yes, yes… I have a LOT.
I’m just in an emotional rut. And this is foreign territory.
I have always been of the mindset that if you can plan something, set some type of goal, that having that “something” to look forward to could change your chemistry. I find that I am in a much happier place when I focus my energy on new endeavors. With the holidays just around the corner, there are a lot of opportunities to do just that! Especially when you work in a field like I do. I haven’t organized my holiday calendar yet, but I am pretty sure I have close to 17 events to attend. That is not a bad thing, since I LOVE this time of year.
Which brings me to the season. THANK GOD (literally,) that there is a Christmas. The hopefulness of the season is a gentle reminder that there can be good in this wretched world and the promises God has made for us. I have to hold onto those truths in order to navigate this funk I have been swimming in.
Luckily, I am taking the week of Thanksgiving off from work. Besides physical therapy and a dental appointment to refill a filling and get my teeth cleaned, I am good to do whatever I want. I plan to schedule some time in Warner Robins to float (sensory deprivation) and perhaps a massage. I want to sort of reset my battery and… pull my sh*t together.
I just need a minute to get it together.
My brain is scattered and I can’t focus. Life is just flying by at warp speed and I am standing there in a daze
or fake laughing to make you think all is okay.
And it is actually okay. I’m just not feeling it.
I’ve got some work to do on me and I hope wrapping this decade up will be the end of these insane transitions.
I married a Methodist this time. Not a Muslim or a Baptist or even a Jew. A Methodist.
You would think this would make us fairly equally yoked. (Christian termed for basically sharing the same beliefs.) We are both Christian and both of our church services have an order to activities.
You knew I was Catholic, right?
When I moved down here, I thought for certain I would find a Catholic church to get involved in and all would be well. Tim didn’t seem too concerned, until he actually attended mass with me. Once we exited the sanctuary he said, “What just happened?”
I couldn’t help but laugh.
For a South Georgia Methodist, his little head was blown. He said, “There was a lot of up and down. Why can’t I take communion? What’s the deal with the incense? I’m so confused.” And so it went…
To be a good sport I went with him and his mom to her church in the tiny town of Preston. There were probably 20 people in the congregation, none overly friendly. (I thought small Protestant churches were supposed to be friendly?) It was Easter Sunday and their Pastor (a woman,) gave the sermon. She stumbled, she mumbled, and I felt there was something lacking. No problem – small church, new pastor, a nice training ground.
I didn’t feel a spiritual connection.
Then I decided to try out the local Catholic church in Americus. Smallish congregation, very diverse, so much so that I am pretty sure that day I was one of the few English speaking gathered, and a really interesting priest. Then the music started. It sounded like a folk concert and probably the single, worst choir I have ever experienced. God bless ’em. Probably not my cup of tea.
At this point, I’m starting to get worried. Would I find my way? We visited an Episcopalian church in Americus. Beautiful building, decent service, semi-friendly people… but it was Episcopalian. As a Catholic, I just couldn’t. I kept thinking back to King Henry the VIII and all of the ruckus he caused with the church.. blah, blah, blah. (Yeah.. I can be so petty sometimes.) 😉
We attended yet another Episcopalian church, this time in Albany. Really nice people, decent service, but lord have mercy – They were hard selling us. You could smell the desperation to have a youngish couple join. Yeah, we never went back.
After we got into our new house in Plains, about one week later we got a request for our first visitor. (I didn’t even have my paintings up on the wall yet.) That visitor was a certain Super Power.
A Nobel laureate also.
Former President Jimmy Carter came over. (He lives 3 houses down.)
I thought this was a “welcome to the neighborhood” meet & greet, and it sort of was. But it was a little more than that, he wanted to personally invite us to his church. Sure thing, I’ll give it a go. But I warned him, “Mr President, I want you to know I am Catholic.”
“Nicole, denominations don’t really matter. It is about our love for God.”
His church is a Baptist church. And if you know my past experience with Baptist churches, you will know they were never very positive. Very anti-Catholic. But he assured me his church was different. I thought, “Well, if this guy can make peace in the middle east, then surely it can’t be that bad.”
So we went.
And I really, really liked it. Outside of the several layers of Secret Service security you have to go through (which I have since learned is common around here. Most of us even know the SS by name.) Then we were given assigned seats. Yep. Guess which aisle they put us on? HIS and Rosalyn’s. Very cool, BUT… everyone visiting kept staring at our pew. And of course, us, probably wondering who in the world we were.
Guys… I have a little thing called Panic Disorder. I sometimes get super anxious and begin to have a panic attack. Guess what happened? Yep. Mind you, you would never know, I just coughed a little more than usual (trying to get a deep breath.) Even with all of this attention and my need to feel invisible when I am not in a comfortable space, I persevered and we did return. A few times. I was even considering joining, but in my typical commitment-phobe self and the fact that I felt like I did not want to officially leave the Catholic Church, I bowed out.
It was very public. *sigh*
Imagine this: We are standing in a circle holding hands at the night time service. Maybe 30 people, the Carters being 2 of those people. Suddenly, the preacher asks if anyone would like to join the church, to speak now. I was just smiling and watching and suddenly….
Me: Yes sir?
Me: Um… we really like it here. But.. um.. we are just visiting.
I look at Tim panicking.
JC: We would really like you to join.
Me: That’s really sweet of you guys. Thank you, but not at this time.
Y’ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I freaking told one of the most powerful men in the world NO. I felt like such a putz.
I felt that strongly about it.
Needless to say, I did not return. I felt too humiliated.
So we visited the Methodist Church in Plains.
And we really, really loved it.
I made friends there and there was plenty to get involved with. The pastor is very intelligent (I think he would make an excellent priest,) and his wife, as it turns out, is now one of my friends down here. So when I tell you the rest of this story, you will understand why the decision I made was a hard one.
We went for probably 8 months. Fairly often, even started going to Sunday School.
But something was missing.
I also found myself pleading with Tim to wake up and go to church on Sunday. His kids were totally not in favor of going.
Then I joined a bible study and my hope was I would find fulfillment and bond with the other parishioners. What it did was make me question what I really needed in my life. I started reading the Bible again and remembering all of the things I had sort of forgotten. This was a good thing.
Then we took a hiatus.
But I was missing something. With all of the issues going on with his family and me being away from my own, I needed that spiritual connection. So I bit the bullet and tried one. more. church.
St. Teresa’s in Albany.
I loved it. It is definitely not home (home being St. Joseph’s in Macon or Prince of Peace in Birmingham,) but there was something about the space. I felt God’s presence. I fell into a familiar rhythm.
I had a long talk with Tim about church. As it turns out, I was making all of these compromises for him and the girls and really, it wasn’t as important to them.
But it was for me.
I decided on a church. Finally. Back to the old ways – my way. Back to what fulfills me. With Tim by my side (and sometimes the girls,) I will get what I need.
I think at the end of the day, I need to remember that it is not necessary for me to compromise what I believe and need in life. 3 1/2 years living down here and it took us this long to figure it out.
But we did. And that is what is important.
*for those of you not understanding the title, it is the old saying for how to make the sign of the cross. Forehead, abs, side to side. (Spectacles, Testicles, Wallet & Watch.)
Has it really been July since I last wrote anything?
Apparently, it has. Sorry about that.
Sorry about not writing as much or writing about real things like I used to.
Sorry about all of it.
Come to think of it… who I am really apologizing to? I suppose… myself. I’ve sort of let myself down in this department and I truly wanted to be more consistent. Blogging used to be my therapy and was a wonderful way to put things in perspective. I have let that go because…
Life. Responsibilities. Fear of looking vulnerable. Fear of people judging. Blah.. blah.. blah.
But blogging/writing… it is so much a part of who I am. It’s sad that I put it up on a shelf.
If you have followed me since Destination Unknown 1.0, you know I used to write daily about EVERYTHING. When I say everything, I mean – everything. I lived in a much bigger city and had a sense of anonymity. When I moved back home, I remember sitting in a interview for a museum job and the director telling me that he Googled me and read my blog. I sat there with eyes wide open. I had written about my abusive relationship with my ex-husband and so much more. He let me know that because of my writing, he actually wanted to hire me. However, he knew that the town would get nosy and it was best to probably hide or delete the posts. So I deleted them.
I needed a job. It was post recession and I was trying to climb back out of being let go from a job in Birmingham and needed a way to house and feed myself (outside of my parent’s charity.)
I deleted the good stuff. The heart wrenching stuff. The stuff that made my blog relate-able to thousands of women. (I’m not exaggerating. The amount of emails I received from women all over the world was amazing.) I shut it down. I canceled the reality show.
Then I attempted a softer version with this blog. And yes, I keep it semi-real from time to time. You will find more of what I am doing and less of what I am feeling. The jobs turned into awesome experiences, and the bad relationship turned into a healthy relationship, and I hate to admit it, but chaos and drama makes for some awfully yummy prose.
Here is the catch… a lot of that crap still exists (on a much smaller level,) but I have been trapped in the responsibilities/job/small-town/government life privacy trap.
Here is the thing – I NEED to write more. I keep so much more inside due to my age, my position, my location, etc. I have not developed a true tribe outside of work. I pretty much go to work, go home, cook dinner, go to the gym, then go to sleep. Only to get up and do it again – OR attend some event in an official capacity. It looks like a LOT of fun, and it is sometimes a lot of fun, and often if I describe it as fun, it means I probably (actually) did have fun. But it has NOT been easy.
I promised to share what it is like to move to a place where you know no one.
I also promised to share what it is like to live in South Georgia, become a step parent, and to navigate government life. (to a lesser extent/work-wise.)
I’ve decided to hold myself accountable and share those experiences with you.
Attempt: Daily. If I get at least 3 a week, I’m doing great. I won’t always post these on the Destination Unknown FB page. But you can subscribe. Most will make it there, others will just be here. (Unless you are a really, truly close friend and are on my private FB page – that page will see it all.)
Is it worth your time? It just might be!
I will be tackling:
Moving to a small town and what that looks like for a girl that would thrive in a larger metropolitan area.
Marrying someone with teenage daughters, when I never expected (or honestly wanted) kids.
Building a house and what that means when you don’t entertain anymore.
Navigating a super toxic in-law situation/ex-wife situation. DUDE… if you only knew.
Building a relationship with an incredible man. Legitimately incredible and what I have learned this time around.
Working in not just a small town, but sharing that space with a super power. Seriously!
Wanting to be an agent of change, yet surrounded by people who are comfortable with the status quo.
There is much more. A lot of good to. I promise there is good.
The truth is, I’m in that not-so-good space right now. Somethings have transpired that were completely out of my control and really have very little to do with me, but it is affecting me. I have a tremendous amount of anxiety right now and have taken steps to set healthy boundaries. As for family: My family is good. Dad is sick, like (really) sick, but otherwise, my relationship with them is fine. My niece is kicking butt at life and I am watching it from a far. I call my friends back home from time to time to have a safe space to talk. Tim is wonderful and I am having to support him as he sets healthy boundaries with family members that have used guilt and co-dependence as a way to control behaviors. Our home is lovely and we are finally moving into the re-decorate stage. As for work, my numbers are awesome (but the support is lacking.) But folks, that’s just the surface stuff.
Nothing is perfect, right?
Here is a sneak peek at a few highlights since July to catch you up:
I did attend the Georgia Governor’s Conference in LaGrange. Was so good to see my tourism besties, but totally sucked being in LaGrange. I’m willing to give the town one more shot, but um…
Tim, Alex and I made it to a childhood delight – the Robins Air Force Base Air Show. Loved it… caused some issues later.. that’s a WHOLE other blog post. 🙂
Don’t worry, all will be well. All IS well. Just re-shifting and trying to figure things out.
And how did I allow myself to get roped into so many activities?
The truth is- I decided to live intentionally. I said No to the things I did not want to do and yes to things I did want to do.
Apparently I wanted to do a lot. 2019 has been better for it! I got so busy living life that I just quit worrying about keeping old friends up-to-date on my current goings-on and decided that if new friends wanted to know what was happening, they would need to make an effort. That’s right, dear readers. I, Nicole Kirksey, decided to stop being the one that tried to make relationships work. It took 46 years, but I am living my best life free of any entanglements that might not have my best interests at heart.
How ’bout dem apples?
For one, I have recommitted my life to seek spiritual matters on my terms. Yes, this means I have been attending a church. Not particularly my denomination, but it is nearby and I really, really like the congregation. I’ve missed a few Sundays recently due to travel, but for the most part, there is a definite improvement in this area. I like it. It feels right with my soul.
But I have also been very busy with work. In the past three weeks I have completed at least three speaking engagements. One: At the State of Georgia’s Regional Visitor Information Center Conference in Jekyll Island.
I also got the chance to speak to the Presidential Pathways Travel Association about how to use strategic marketing to promote your destination or attraction. And just last night I spoke at the District 2 Town Hall meeting at a local church. Not too shabby for a kid who actually enjoys public speaking. (Though I have to admit, no matter how many times I do it, I get super nervous right before!)
At home, we have been busy landscaping our yard. We finally settled on gardenias, knock-out roses, and azaleas – all white flowers for the front yard. I’m looking forward to seeing the fruits of our labor.
I’m also proud to announce that Karen-Ann attended her very first prom! Isn’t her dress just beautiful?!
But wait… let me back up a minute. The last time we chatted I had just gotten back from my 46th birthday weekend in Atlanta. Well….. our 2nd Anniversary trip was the VERY. NEXT. WEEKEND. Yes, Tim and I have celebrated two years of marriage (with very few bruises.) And guess where we ended up? In my favorite town in Georgia – Savannah.
We drove the 3 1/2 (maybe 4 hours) to Savannah, Georgia. We made a beeline for City Market and decided to wander down Broughton Street. It was sort of fitting that we kicked things off with a little Parisian Flair (since our Honeymoon was in Paris. Oh yes, it was! Want to read about that magical experience? Click HERE.) I sniffed and swooned over all of the beautiful items at the Paris Market. My main source of satisfaction came from a delicious assortment of macrons.
If you will remember, I was in macron heaven in Paris… well technically Versaille, and I discovered the mothership- Ladurée. The one I am about to devour above was a rose flavored pastry. Sweet baby Jesus… it is worth the trip.
We left Broughton Street and headed over to River Street to look for something a little more filling. It was about two in the afternoon and I could very easily eaten my arm. I went to my tried and true spot – Bernie’s Oyster House on River Street. Oh the stories I could tell, about 22 years of stories. But for now, I will tell you about the fantastic stuffed shrimp and great conversation with my awesome hubby.
After lunch, we were in top spirits and Tim had one request – to visit Savannah Sweets. Well of course, I had to oblige him… and well…
I just noticed something on the ground. Look to the left of my purse. That, my friends, is a dangerous frozen concoction from Wet Willies.
Okay, maybe my over spending in a candy shop had something to do with my lack of inhibitions…. or… anyway.
We left our little adventure and drove to meet two really wonderful friends of mine that happen to reside in Savannah: JJ & PC!
We enjoyed viewing their new home and catching up on the world. Around 7 that night we invited them to join us for our anniversary dinner. I mean, why not? It was PC’s birthday just the night before and honestly, isn’t celebrating so much more fun with friends? So we headed to Circa 1875.
I opted for for the Steak Frites and a champagne cocktail. We dined like the bourgeoisiethat we were pretending to be and had a marvelous time!
The next morning we went with JJ & PC to church then decided to find this little coffee shop I had heard so much about.
It is so much more than just a place to grab a cup of coffee – it’s an experience. While the shop is run by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and the customers really come in for the unique customer service experience. It made such an impression on me and I think it would for you also. Here is a little more about their mission:
Next time you find yourself in Savannah, do yourself a favor and check these guys out. #NotBroken
We were very lucky to have acquired a $50 gift certificate to the Pirate’s House. The Pirate’s House does history and good cooking right! Yes, it is a bit touristy, but YES it was worth it. Situated a block from the Savannah River, this former inn became a rendezvous for pirates and visiting sailors from the Seven Seas. The building remained intact through the centuries, but lost its spark & had fallen into disuse after World War II. Finally, it was saved and now it is one of Savannah’s most famous landmarks and restaurants.
After lunch we checked into our hotel and took a nap, only to head back out to wander City Market and finally head for a cocktail. We stopped by Churchill’s Pub on Bay Street and proceeded to indulge our fancy at the rooftop bar!
We had a wonderful time sipping wine and beer and chatting about life in general. This was exactly what my soul needed. After our cocktails we headed to Kevin Barry’s Irish Pub .
KB’s is my FAVORITE place to visit in Savannah. It has authentic Irish music every single night! Here we were on a Sunday night, having cocktails and fun. Gosh I miss living in a larger, more metropolitan city.
After drinks and dinner, we headed back to our hotel to rest before our drive home.
To say we needed to relax and unwind and not worry about family and children would be an understatement. We needed this. We needed this so very badly. Because when we got back to town, the whole world flipped upside down.
For one, my dad’s diagnosis ended up being a little more complicated than we expected AND on top of the cancer, he now needs open heart surgery. In. The. Same. Year. Talk about a lot for one human to handle. He basically needed to clear his head and came down to spend the week with us. I’m glad he did and I am glad I was able to be a safe haven when in need. Keep him in your prayers. He’s my dad, and I’ve only got one. Our parents age and we all will have to deal with this… but…
And we celebrated Easter together as a family.
Which just happened to be Autumn’s 13th birthday. Geez, Louise. She is a sassy 13 year old. I mean SASSY. Blue hair, alternative lifestyle… like… who is this kid? Where did my little Autumn go?
But you know what? I love her. And I am proud that she is attempting to live her best life ever. She is smart, she is funny, she is kind, and she is a good kid. What more could you ask for?
Tim and I took some time to visit with my mom’s side of the family. My great-aunt Sarah turned 90 years old! It was great to see her and the rest of our family.
It is so strange seeing everyone. I rarely get to see them in person, which in and of itself is weird to me. We were all, or at least in my child’s mind, we were all so close when my Granny (my great-grandmother) was alive. I saw them so much more often and felt a sense of community and family. Now, not so much. It is a shame. I have always tried to keep a relationship, to the best of my ability, with cousins and aunts and uncles on both sides of my family. Can’t say I’ve been the most successful at it, but I have tried. It’s all any of us can do.
Sooo… back to that whole friend & family thing. Yeah… I haven’t been as successful as I would have liked. My family lives farther away. That’s mainly my fault, I’m the one who happened to move. My in-laws include me, but it is sometimes hard to make new connections when there is someone else constantly standing in the place of where I technically should be. (The ex.) She’s not going anywhere. Blah.
The relationships are all pre-established and the kids are the link that keeps everyone together. I had hoped to move here and kind of have this ready made safety net of friends (my sis-in-law and her partner are close to my age,) and even my oldest step-daughter is at least an adult. Though they are kind to me, I am not really a person they call upon to go places or do things or anything like that. And you know what – that’s okay. I accept it and can create my own tribe. Though that has sort of failed miserably.
I have met a lot of really nice people. Honestly. I have been invited to group gatherings, and as much as I appreciate that, it is hard to create those personal relationships when surrounded by 50 other people that are already close. Again…. their dance cards are full.
I guess I am going to have to one day bump into another newbie in town. Perhaps that person can be my coffee & shopping & travel buddy. Yep.
I have a few more stories to tell, but honestly, I’ve run out of steam. This will give me more to share in the coming days as I TRY to get back to blogging. I haven’t really felt like it… since I spend more time alone or with Tim, I’ve learn to become a little more private (about the big stuff.) Or at the very least, more carefully curated. I decided enough was enough. Back to authenticity… because honestly, is anyone really noticing?
There has been a lot of talk lately about creating a “sense of place.” Maybe it is your community where people are coming together to install public art or create a business incubator. Maybe it is your church where the congregation is seeking to attract millennials with an in-house coffee shop and movie room or even your home, where you are trying to find a sacred spot in a corner to meditate. Whatever the case may be, the signals are clear – we are all in need of connection. We need to feel connected.
One of the many mindful practices I have incorporated in 2019 is devoting more time to connecting the dots for myself. I am attempting to treat my work space and my home space as a sacred spot to spark creativity and to energize. Even when it comes to groups I am choosing to devote my time to, I want to make sure that it resonates with my soul.
Sound corny? Probably.
But it is working.
Just this past Tuesday I gathered together with 76 tourism stake holders in my community. My job was to create a retreat where we concentrated on team building and took time to network with leaders in our field. One of the speakers dealt specifically with Creative Placemaking. This workshop got participants thinking about ways to attract visitors and at the same time, create a sense of place for locals. Everything from installing public art or creative way-finding signs to re-purposing empty buildings and blighted neighborhoods.
At the end of the day… it got me thinking.
It made me think about my own life and how I could transform my personal space.
It could be something as bohemian as a meditation corner. Or maybe even something like this:
Or maybe a nice reading nook.
I think finding a space to decompress and recharge my battery is key. Afterall, I’m an ENFP. I may be an extroverted-intuitive-feeling-perceptive person, but I, too, need to find a place to leave that frantic energy and allow my brain to cultivate creative ideas to share.
I learned a few new ways to do just that at the retreat.
We had a fantastic workshop on the DISC personality test. Here I am with my fellow extroverted people/people. We love to chat it up and are open to new ideas.
But then we answered a question that proves not all extroverts are alike. We were asked a simple question: If given a choice, would you rather finish a task or check in with people.
Our large group of extroverts suddenly divided. Across from me (you see in the photo above,) were our task-oriented outgoing folks. I am more of a “check-in” with people extrovert. Which means, if I like you – I will help you. If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. The folks across from me are not only single-focused, they are vocal about it. Which means we could butt heads even harder than with the people on the other side of the room – the introverted/Task oriented or the introverted/people-people. The Introverted-doers typically avoid my personality type (to the best of their ability.) And the relationship-driven introverts are the people my personality type would call, “Some of the nicest people we have ever met.”
FASCINATING stuff. I’m learning even more about what makes me tick and others around me. It’s like a huge self-awareness bulb just went off and I feel like I can function better.
Boy… it only took 45 years and 11 months. 😉
Overall, the day went really, really well and I felt like I had accomplished a huge step in building my department.
In the very same week we had a First Friday event in downtown Americus. Here you see our local organic/small market sharing a mini workshop on making your own bath salt. It was such a treat to go in and have this happening, plus a wine tasting right next to this table. Across from that a Georgia Grown cheese and jam tasting. Talk about a sacred space! I loved walking around and checking out the new products, learning about some of the local dairies, and sampling items. If you ever get to come to Americus, make sure to check out Center Stage Market.
And talk about the sacred – I got to address an old friend: the American Heart Association. Remember when I used to work for them in Birmingham? I traveled all around the Southeast spreading the importance of heart health. Well… Friday was National Wear Red Day and our staff decided to Go Red For Women. We had Phoebe Sumter (local hospital) provide blood pressure checks in our Visitor Center. Outside of the great community benefit, it was bitter-sweet for me, because it brought back those old feelings and my old life: living in Birmingham, married to someone else, a whole different set of friends and activities – it felt like a different Nicole. And each year I get to relive it…. even just for a day. It is not always comfortable…
But the beauty is: it gets easier and easier. That whole life was 7 years ago, but feels like a lifetime. I’m assuming I’ll never really have positive closure, but the pain is not as extreme. Proof that time does heal all wonds.
This weekend we got a glimpse into the future. Tim’s oldest, Alex, is a rising senior and is beginning to think about college. We started the first of what I assume will be many weekend trips to explore colleges and universities in Georgia. We started off 2 hours from Plains in Valdosta, Georgia at Valdosta State University.
The school put on quite a show! Their marketing efforts to attract students was very aggressive. Tim said they sent a text, just about every day, reminding us about the big Open House day coming up. This went on for several weeks. Even after the trip, they sent a survey with three options:
Yes, your search is over.
Maybe, VSU is in the running.
No, VSU is not for us.
Poor Alex, she didn’t know what to think. We were afraid to respond, because we knew the hard-core text/sell would come after that. Not sure if it was a good method or a turn-off.
Needless to say, she enjoyed the visit. They put on a very exciting pep rally and allowed you to explore the different degree options.
In a way, this whole visit reminded me that Tim is about to enter a new phase in life and I need to help him create a sacred/safe space – An Empty Nest. I can feel his apprehension. I can feel his anxiety. However, the inevitable is coming. I need to make sure our nest is comfortable and designed with a new life in mind.
I think all of this pending change had Tim seeking something familiar. We headed out to the farm, and specifically the cabin. We took Cotton with us and I think I counted at least 4 times with him saying, “I sure do miss it here.” I felt like this was a sign and I realized I might need to step up my game as a supportive partner. Life is changing fast, and my introverted-task oriented guy is not a fan of change. Maybe… this is where I come in.
Maybe God puts us with people – in situations – in environments where we are the one that shines and where we might act as the anchor. Maybe my ability to travel the winding road with ease is just the security my big strong man needs in his life during this next phase.
As we sat in church on Sunday, I looked over at him and his youngest daughter and realized how precious this time we have left with his kids is. I also realized that life can turn on a dime. I know… I’ve lived enough and changed enough for 3 life times.
If the universe is constantly sending us signals and God is directing our paths, I think this past week was loaded with previews of what is to come. It is up to me to trust the path, create sacred space, and slow down just enough to savor what is now.
So, I think it is time I break up – break up with my past, what could have been, and what is no longer.
Does that make sense?
I’m transitioning – AGAIN. Don’t worry, nothing is wrong – quite the contrary, everything is exactly as it should be.
Let’s see if I can explain:
Birthdays always make me a little reminiscent of days gone by. I often look back at my friends, my work, my hobbies – whatever – and find myself wistfully comparing my old life to my new life. I feel sad that so & so does not call as much or visit as much as they used to. I over glamorize a past job that I had, or maybe even the absolute freedom to do as I wanted when I was a single girl. Ugh.
Guys… the truth is – the honeymoon period of moving down here is over. Nothing more, nothing less.
The expectations have shattered (as they always do,) and now I am left with reality. What was once quaint and adorable and friendly feels more constricting, less friendly, and limited. (But it is not.)
Perceptions, my friends. Perceptions.
This is that point in every move where I take a good, long look at the issue and then say… “Oh… wait a minute. I’m officially settling into my new role.” Yes, my friends, the dust has settled.
What do I see? Newer, but a limited amount of possibilities. I am clear on how things work around here, be it with work or family. I understand my limitations and I am comfortable with navigating the rougher waters. I’m setting boundaries, where once I simply left the door wide open – hoping to see how things would pan out. And thank God I am that way, or I would have never made some of the connections that I have been fortunate enough to make. But at the same time, I need to sweep out of my life what I never should have allowed in: toxic people, judgmental people, and negative people. (Again, don’t worry.. I never actually let them burrow, but they did come in for a visit.)
I had a lot of little things to work through in 2017: married life, becoming a mother, a new job, AND building of our home. (Which we are still getting settled into.) We just celebrated one year of marriage, and while on our trip, we counted our blessings, our lessons, and made numerous realizations….. and it was GOOD stuff. I am so ridiculously lucky.
With that being said… here we are. Gone long enough from my hometown to where I rarely hear from any of those people by phone, in person, online or otherwise. I have sort of just… fallen off the radar. Which often make you wonder why I even kept the connection in the first place, but then I relax and realize some folks are simply for a season. The others are there, but it appears I will have to do the scheduling (and honestly, evaluating whether those relationships are worth investing my effort into anymore.)
I’ve been gone waaaay too long from Birmingham to really know what is going on over there, and honestly, that situation was different, it wasn’t my hometown. Then I find myself in the new space- delicate, new relationships budding up everyday. It’s like I plant a seed – and sometimes the flower blooms, and other times it just fades away. It’s fascinating to witness!
Embracing these transitions has always been a specialty of mine. I am the queen of re-invention and like the phoenix – I rise. 😉
However, there is something about this transition. It’s because this is the final move. THIS will be home. (Unless life decides to uproot me yet again. And if anybody knows whether or not that is possible, I most certainly do.
To help me get a better handle on what is going on, I did a little research and even read old blog posts on my old blogspot journal that highlighted the other major shifts in my life. I think the biggest difference was the fact that this time, I transitioned by choice and in the past, it was because something hardcore had happened in my life.
One common theme kept recurring were the following:
I need to expect to feel anxiety & a little depressed. According to an article I read in Psychology Today: “Whenever we move forward we leave something behind, and this creates a psychological state of grief, however small.” In other words – We are out of our comfort zone; our imaginations run wild; and we worry about an unknown future.
I need to realize that this is a new chapter in my life. While I need to acknowledge the loss of what life used to be like, I do not need to get stuck in the past. Acknowledging that a door is closed is psychologically healthy; spending your time staring at it is not.
I need to think positive. According to that same article in Psychology Today, during times of transition, when everything seems to be in flux, when my old patterns have collapsed, I may feel unsteady but are also most malleable to change. Apparently now is the time to explore, brainstorm, consider the make-over before my life begins to naturally solidify into new patterns.
It’s good I hit the ground running. I gave myself very little transitioning time. I basically jumped right in. I didn’t have time to over think, to over plan. Things have happened more organically, and I think in the end, that is a good thing.
I also read that I need to get support. And about a year and a half in, I decided to chat with a therapist for a couple of sessions to sort out any anxiety and home sickness I was feeling.
And finally, set realistic timelines & expectations. Which is why I wrote this post today.
I needed to work out what was going through my head since the big 4-5 hit. Creating a sense of place and finding my tribe are high ticket priorities when it comes to my happiness. I’ve been impatient with the process, and now it is time for me to relax, reevaluate, and make this my home.
Growing up, adults would often ask me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I’m fairly certain I responded with occupations like: Dancer, Actress, Journalist. Maybe not in that order.
Then as time moves on, we set out to become those things. I danced for many, many years and eventually had to give that up because of issues with my feet. I auditioned for many roles in community theater, took acting lessons, until right before college when I officially made up my mind that I wanted to do something more practical. So I went on to become a journalist.
In your 20s, people ask you, “What do you do?” I would always reply, “I’m a TV News Producer.” And please note: it was said with complete pride. I had set a goal and achieved the goal and wanted everyone to know about it.
By the time you get to your 30s, life takes a few twists and turns and your friends and strangers get a little more philosophical with their questions. We went from, “what do you want to be” to “what do you do to “what is your word?”
I would respond with- writer. Why? Because ultimately, that was what I had become. I had written the news, then I went on to work in media relations and wrote press releases and speeches, then onto other jobs which required tons of writing. Later, I even became a free-lance writer. As the years rambled on, I thought I was getting smarter about the question. I changed my response to- storyteller.
But that’s not my word. That’s not who I am, that is what I do.
I ask YOU this now – What is your word?
Just who are you?
As I have gotten a little older, I finally came up with my word – resilient.
1. (of a person or animal) able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.
“babies are generally far more resilient than new parents realize”
synonyms: strong, tough, hardy; More
2. (of a substance or object) able to recoil or spring back into shape after bending, stretching, or being compressed.
“a shoe with resilient cushioning”
synonyms: flexible, pliable, supple; More
I am resilient. To test this theory, visit my old blog – Destination Unknown – Part 1 (you can find the link in the About Me section.) Man oh man, I have proven that I can fall down and dust myself right back up and come back stronger each time. (Takes that whole phoenix rising from the ashes cliche to a whole new level.)
However – NOW. Where am I now? What is my word now? How have I changed, or rather, how have I evolved?
I’m not sure.
I recently watched Eat, Love, Pray again. It was one of my all-time favorite books, then, of course, I loved the movie. That final scene, when Liz finds her word….
She discusses her Quest Theory. It struck me – my blog, Destination Unknown, epitomizes this theory, and honestly, her final word was so appropriate for my new marriage to Tim.
Maybe my word for now is… Attraversiamo.
And maybe it’s just a temporary word in this extremely transitional time in my life. And maybe… 2018 will bring a new word.