BuiltaLife

Offering hope to those on the path behind me

#OneWord2021

It is time to choose my #oneword2021.

It is time to put 2020 behind us (finally, we will all have 2020 hindsight – yeah, I know, it’s been done already).

One of our pastors talked about this idea in his morning devotional. It isn’t a new idea to me, but I haven’t practiced if much or well in the past.

In fact, earlier this year, I told you all what my One Word would be for 2020. It was Purposeful. Sadly, I had to look back at the blog post to remember it which tells me I was not very good about leaning into my chosen word. I am still a fan of the #sixwordmemoir that I wrote:

Living for Today. Hoping for Tomorrow.

Kim builta, six word memoir

As I was searching for a word to carry me into and through 2021 I found myself on the OneWord website and reading some of their suggested words:

  • resolve, release, change, adapt, courage, sacrifice, brave, transformation, appreciate, inspire, health, battle

As I read some of these words, I reflected on my past several years. None of them were resonating with me. Trust me when I say I have to focus on some of these words all the time. Health, battle, change, adapt. Check. Check. Check. Check.

I wanted something that would keep me grounded, but not dwelling on the past.

After writing words such as BOLD, DARING, POSSIBLE, and INSPIRED, I finally settled on:

My word for 2021 is TODAY

In keeping with my six-word memoir, I will choose to live for Today. I will focus on what I can do Today. I will not worry about Tomorrow (“for tomorrow will worry about itself” Matthew 6:24). I will not be hung up on Yesterday and what I didn’t do, or what I should have done.

I will focus on Today. I can choose to be BOLD, DARING, INSPIRED, and full of POSSIBILITIES when I keep my focus on Today.

What one word will you carry with you into 2021?

What’s the Theme of Your Story?

Every great story has a Theme. Every character has a flaw that needs to be fixed. Every Hero has to grow.

One of my favorite movies is “The Holiday” I can watch it anytime, anywhere. If I am in a bad mood, it can lift my spirits. It allows me to escape my bad mood if only for a short time. Everyone should have a movie or book that can do that.

My favorite quote is from Iris (in fact I have probably referenced the quote in other posts here). She is having dinner with Arthur and he sums her life up in one line. Her response:

“You’re so right. You’re supposed to be the leading lady of your own life for God’s sake.”

Iris, in “The Holiday”

Sometimes I have to remind myself that I am supposed to be the leading lady of my own life. Maybe that is why I like the movie so much. I love the growth of Iris over the course of an hour and a half. I wish it were always that easy.

A few years ago I participated in National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. I wrote 50,000 plus words for a novel that I thought had great potential. (I still think it has great potential)

Then I sat back and wondered, what am I supposed to do with this now? It was a mess. I needed guidance. There was no order to the book and it was really just 50,000 bad words thrown together around one central idea. I had no idea what writing a novel actually entailed, I just had an idea for a story.

It sat dormant and occasionally friends would ask me “How is the book coming along?” I would hem and haw and say something like “I need to get back to it” or “It needs a lot of work”

This week I started reading “Save the Cat! Writes a Novel”. It was recommended in an online writing class I am taking.

“Save The Cat” helped me understand and identify the theme for my novel. And I am excited to get back to working on it. But it has done so much more than help me see how I can improve the story.

If you have followed this blog for a while, you may have figured out that I have been stuck. Grief can make you feel like you are going through life as though you are trudging through wet cement. Each step forward can feel like it takes everything you have to lift your foot with more and more dried cement caking on with each step. It is a slow, exhausting process.

As I was reading “Save the Cat” I realized the scenes in the book are not just what makes something a great read. It is also what makes any great character understand they have been the leading lady in their own life all along.

Yes, I know every high school English Teacher is shaking their head right now thinking “Are You Kidding Me? Were you not paying attention in your English classes?”

I had one (probably more than one) “All is Lost” Scenes in the last few years. The last one came when my cancer progressed after seven years of “stable”. I was complacent, accepting, going through the motions. I was not living the life I wanted. The theme to my own life had been eluding me.

Just like every hero in any book or movie, I had to go through the “Dark Night Ephipany” to realize I was still acting like the best friend and not the leading lady.

That catalyst helped me see what I had really been looking for. While many have seen the change of the pandemic as limiting, to me 2020 helped me to fully embrace the leading lady role in my own life. Making choices and moving forward. I am chiseling off all of the dried cement that had been gathering on my shoes and I feel like I am moving at a pace that shows much more progress.

The “Stated Theme” to my own life is simple “What do I want to do with my life?”

I want to make choices that show I am the leading lady of my life.

One of my goals used to be to finish writing my novel. But I have upped my game and am stating that my new goal is to get my book published.

Now I just have to go revise it.

Is it a New Normal or an Opportunity to Change your Sails?

What do you think of when you hear New Normal?

I will tell you, I really don’t like the term. I have used it to express myself in the past.

After my cancer diagnosis and all that entails, I told myself and others, I must find my “new normal.”

When I was diagnosed with metastatic cancer, and the normal I had become accustomed to changed again. I had to figure out another “new normal.”

My husband died – “New Normal”

My hip replacement was removed – “New Normal”

Many people in the cancer realm talk about finding their “new normal” and I get it. I’ve done it too.

It seemed I was always discovering a New Normal

Now with the craziness that is 2020, the term is more mainstream. We have all had to come to terms with a “New Normal.”

It seems as if jobs have become either virtual or “essential.” Kids are learning from home virtually. We have become experts at using Zoom and interacting with friends and family in a new way. With the overlay of Covid, the whole country/world is learning and adapting to a “new normal.”

But what does New Normal really mean? And why do we say it as if we were happy with the Old Normal?

In 2020, even before the pandemic, I started a journey to discover who I am. I have a huge crush on (or at least a strong admiration for) Bob Goff right now. Last year I read 2 of his books. I have listened to almost every episode of his Dream Big Podcast. I am currently reading his latest book Dream Big and I also signed up for his Facebook Writing Class.

In his book Dream Big, he asks 3 very simple, yet very complex questions:

Who Are You?

Where Are You?

What Do You Want?

“Where you are today is simply the harbor from which your ship is about to sail.”

Bob goff, dream big

Some people might read that and name their ship “New Normal”

But after navigating the waters of so many waves and upheavals, I think I would rather name my ship “Great Expectations”.

I am choosing to not think of things in the terms of “new normal” anymore.

For me, that term implies I was satisfied, or maybe comfortable, with my “old” normal. When in fact, if I am honest about Who I am, Where I am and What I want, I would have to admit I have not always been happy with the “old” normal. So why would I think change or a new normal would be a bad thing?

I’m the first to admit that change is hard. And unless we are seeking change, it can hit us like a car careening out of control that crosses over into our lane and hits us head on – without much warning.

It has taken me a long time to understand that I haven’t always known what I wanted. I was too busy trying to understand what others wanted or expected me be – parents, teachers, friends, kids, bosses – and seeking their approval believing that was what I wanted also.

So…What do I want?

I’m still working on that answer. But I do know I want to have great expectations. I want to embrace the change and point my sails in the direction to allow the wind to take me on a new course where I can explore opportunities. Perhaps those opportunities were not on the horizon that I was gazing at for so long.

I am shifting where my eyes are looking, so I can see a new horizon, one that will likely include change. But I am going to trust that the wind that is guiding my sails will lead me to something beautiful. And if I have to pull into a harbor for some rest, that too, may lead to an opportunity to reset my sails before I relaunch.

Happy sailing from wherever you are launching from. If I see your ship sailing near mine, I will wave and say hello.

Writing the next chapter doesn’t make it final, does it?

Sitting at my desk, ready to start writing a new chapter, I snapped a picture.

I posted the picture on Instagram/Facebook with the caption “The view from my office chair. Ready to work on #writing that book.”

Computer open on desk, a large clock on the wall outside office doorway large
Everything I need to #write. Ready, set, GO!

I received several positive responses – especially since I posted this after a day or 2 after my last blog post.

One of the comments was from someone with whom I recently became friends on Facebook. We met in a support group. She replied, “instead of writing a book you should become a personal growth and development guide.”

Honest words usually come out when they are written or spoken quickly.

My own response to her comment surprised me and I have been thinking about it a lot for the last 48 hours.

I’ve had this book idea in my head a long time. It is an overdue final gift to my husband. 

my quick response to a comment on a photo on facebook

An overdue final gift to my husband. A FINAL…..GIFT……

I have been digesting those words and wondering “Is that true? Is this my final gift?”

NaNoWriMo Winner Badge
Official “winner’s badge” for NANOWRIMO 2018.

As many of my friends know I have been working, on again off again, on this book idea for 2 years now.

In fact, I started writing my novel during National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo) in 2018. I even got the badge for “winning”. Meaning I wrote more than 50,000 words in one month. A feat I never thought would happen since I have never written a book before.

Everything about the book is a dedication to my husband. The names I use are intentional and have meaning. The main characters are so familiar to me that I have not had to sit down and list out their character traits. Every bit, down to the last page, has been written as if he were sitting in the chair across from me while I write.

Now, as I contemplate the words of this book being a “final gift” – setting aside the whole “I don’t know what I’m doing or how to write a book” fear that every beginning writer has – I understand why this book is an ongoing project that I can’t quite wrap up enough to send to an editor.

If this is a final gift, what does that really mean?

It has been over 4 years since my husband passed away. Sometimes it feels like a millennium ago (especially during 2020 and a pandemic), and other times it feels like yesterday. Even now there are mornings when I wake up and look over to the other side of the bed to see if he is still sleeping.

So, if I finish writing this book that has been so lovingly written as a gift for him, and by some miracle I can talk a publisher into publishing the book…What happens next?

Will I continue to feel his presence in the chair across from me if I move on to a different project?

In all honesty, I have no idea what will happen. But I would like to think that every day as I continue to grow and become this new person without him here he is still my cheerleader sitting in that chair.

Maybe the real gift has no finality to it.

Perhaps it is to continue to move forward. And if one of those steps is completing this novel, then I hope he will unwrap it with all of the love that I will have poured into it, send me a little nod and say “That’s my girl. Keep going!”

What is holding you back from your calling?

I have mentioned to a few close friends that I have felt the calling to be a speaker and a writer. I mean, come on, as Elton John sings “I’m still standing after all this time, Picking up the pieces of my life…” But I’ve never really felt the time was right. Maybe it was fear, maybe it was not having the qualifications. Maybe it was something else altogether.

A couple of weeks ago I signed up for a book discussion group. We are reading It’s Not Supposed to be This Way by Lysa Terkeurst. The book has been on my GoodReads Want to Read list for a long time. In fact, it had been on there so long that I didn’t even remember that I had the Audible version so when I signed up for the group, I got the hardback book and the study guide.

I have heard of Lysa through some of the podcasts that I listen to and even some friends had mentioned her name and the book (which is why it was on my Want to Read list). But I did not know anything about her story. What I did know was the title of the book resonated with me.

She is right, I thought. It’s Not Supposed to be This Way.

Certainly, if someone asked me 25, 20, 15, 10, or even 5 years ago what I imagined my life would look like in 2020, never in a million years, would I have described what my life looks like right now. To be honest, I have had to make adjustments in a lot of areas in my life. But looking back over it, as Garth Brooks sings so well, ” Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance.”

Coffee on the deck at the beach
A fabulous way to start any beach vacation. Coffee, blue skies, and a view for days.

I will admit I still need to go back and read some chapters I skipped (I had an unexpected opportunity to sit on a beach for a week and relax and missed 2 of the book club meetings, but you would have made that choice too most likely).

This week, instead of playing catch up, I jumped right into the chapters we were going to discuss. I had errands and an appointment on Friday so I listened to chapter 7 via the Audible version I had purchased a long time ago. I really had no idea what would be in those chapters.

As I backed out of my driveway I heard Lysa say “Every syllable of the last chapter is true.” Hmm, ok, I will have to go back to that and read it I thought.

I continued listening while driving down the toll road on the way to my appointment at Texas Oncology. Treatment for Metastatic Breast Cancer doesn’t stop for a pandemic, so I was headed for my monthly blood work, treatment, and appointment with the nurse practitioner.

“The ink hadn’t even dried from the last chapter when the need for another mammogram turned to the need for a biopsy. Everyone, including my doctor, assured me there was little reason for concern.”

Lysa Terkeurst

Seriously? Was I listening to my story or hers? I wasn’t sure at the moment. It sounded so familiar. I won’t spoil chapter 7 for you any further, but let me say I could have written a chapter very much like the one I was listening to if I had written my story in 2003.

As most of the people I know living with cancer can attest, cancer muggles (a term I have adopted after reading it on Twitter to refer to someone who has not had cancer) will say things like “Everything happens for a reason” or “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle” when they are trying to comfort a newly diagnosed friend. Honestly, I think they say that because it makes them feel better, speaking from my own experience it does NOT help the person staring down the road of chemo and radiation.

I don’t subscribe to the “everything happens for a reason” philosophy. I do, however, believe that we can turn our pains and scars into something that is helpful to others (which can then be mistakenly identified by those on the outside as a justification for the “everything happens for a reason” comments).

I often find myself wondering “Now What? Am I supposed to take these lessons and share them with others? And if so, how?” Or in more simplistic terms…What is my new calling?

Monday night the group watched the video and delved into the study guide that accompanies Lysa’s book for Chapters 7 and 8 (or Session 4 in the study guide). For the first time, I was beginning to understand why I have not pushed forward on this calling that has been lurking in the back of my mind.

In Chapter 8 (Letting Go of What’s Holding Me Back), the author walked through a passage from Psalm 51. Written by David, his words go through a progression of Confession, Cleansing, Creating and Calling.

As I sat and listened to Lysa’s discussion the proverbial light bulb started to light up. Although I had been going through these steps in my own way over the past year, it finally made sense why I

  • recently reached out to someone to say if she “needed a motivational speaker to talk about resilience, let me know” (and why I might have taken several deep breaths when she said “I might just take you up on that.”
  • reached out to another person to ask for help in “pulling together a talk about resilience from a true getting up and speaking perspective.”
  • finally “allowed” myself to sign up for a Writing Workshop that has been on my list (yes, I like lists – my Enneagram 1 wing showing) for several months.

The calling has been in the back of my mind for a long time, but I needed to process and walk through these other steps first.

The confession – Although she was talking about sin, I don’t believe that sin caused my cancer, or my husband’s cancer. But sin also means a separation from God, which means that I had been angry with the pains I had been through and had kept God at arm’s length for a long time. I hadn’t abandoned God, and I didn’t thing God had abandoned me, but there was a distance in our relationship. Several books, therapy sessions, and lunches/happy hours with friends has helped me to understand that God is still in my corner and is waiting for me to reclaim the relationship.

The cleansing – For me, this has mostly been tied up in grief. Allowing myself to fully experience the stages – and being ok with them not being in any kind of order (that 1 wing again) – recognizing them when they happen and allowing the feelings to process. Unfortunately, there is not a timeline for processing grief. And when you continue to see friends die from a disease that you have been living with for 10 years, the process can begin all over again.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me
Grant me a willing spirit

The creating – In grief terms, this has been reaching a level of acceptance. It has taken me a long time to accept what my new life looks like. I have asked God to help me accept and love who and where I am. A new creation based on the ashes of the past. And I’m grateful He has had the patience to show me how to love the person I have become.

The calling – I am placing this in God’s hands. Now that I am ready to listen and heed the calling, I feel certain, God will put the people in my path that will lead and guide me to wherever this calling is taking me.

What is holding you back from pursuing what God is calling you to do?

Maybe It’s Not Supposed to be This Way. Maybe, just maybe, if we embrace it, life can be better once we get to the other side.

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