A 180° shift is how I view the space between one year ago and today.

I think back to my marriage ending, still occasionally floating in my mind’s eye of what came before, during, and after that time. And that particular shade of black; that feeling of darkness when the tears didn’t have an off button and disappointment became my companion. Divorce is admittedly a very not-sexy part of my past, but one that’s left me better off without question. I’m reminded of a basic but meaningful Nada Surf lyric:

Maybe this weight was a gift,
Like I had to see what I could lift

I recall how fortunate I was to meet twenty strangers in a foreign country. I boarded an airplane that shook me to my core, then was challenged by new friends and shaken even more. Nothing will take that feeling away from any of us. Taking a risk and embracing new faces with love will change your perspective on life in an instant if you give it a chance to happen.

I revel in the memory of a travel companion leading the charge in spoken language and overall guidance within an Asian culture I knew very little about. The smells, the sounds, that image as she turned to look my way in Arashiyama’s bustling park. Giving people the chance to be extraordinary, when in their element, will alter a dated perception of possibility.

I decided that happiness is a choice. No matter the circumstance, and no matter the opinion of others, happiness is a decision we’re empowered to make each day. It’s important to understand what’s controllable in our lives and what is not. As Epictetus says: Events happen as they do. People behave as they are. Embrace what you actually get. Over the last year I’ve decided to be positive when I wanted to be anything but. It’s always a treat to see how those scenarios play out. Typically, better than you’d think.

I admit that just doing you is a concept I’m still learning to actively lean into. Feeling out the grey and embracing the notion that sometimes life is messy. I often remind myself to follow the moral compass I know to be best for the situation and leave a door open to those who don’t agree. Sometimes people won’t see the same things I do; not everyone will understand. I suppose a big part of saying less and doing more is holding your head high when you know you have no regrets. Stand for something, or fall for anything.

I staunchly support that when it comes to intimate relationships, if you’re not all in—meaning, if it’s not an absolute hell yes—you need to be entirely forthright about your feelings. People deserve honesty within shades of grey over chatter surrounding a black and white that likely doesn’t exist. I’ve experienced this first hand, on both sides of the coin, and the only viable currency here is truth.

I’ve embraced that, when fear arises, it’s typically something that needs to be addressed rather than moved into a folder marked complacency. Choose to get at the meat of the fear as top priority versus settling into a comfortable alternative.

I learned that being true to yourself and having no expectations will generate the most memorable periods of thankfulness. The moment we attach outcome to life’s scenarios we remove space for awe, emphasizing how we want things to be which is, of course, not in our control. Shape your life around what energizes you the most, but let the plans unfold as organically as possible. Plan less and live more when life gives you the option.

When it comes to the new year, let’s draw a line in the sand.

I say we recognize what energizes and what drains. I say we stop trying to fit into others’ opinions and walk our own way. I say we work hard and treat people as well as we know how. I say we travel, experience, and laugh harder than we ever have.

I say we proclaim aloud what we want out of life, then go get it. Saying what we want is good, but living what we want is great.

I say we cut the qualms and get real with each other. I say we put aside petty differences and offer grace to others. I say we let the healing happen. I say we let love flow.

But most of all, I say we share a smile over what happens now.

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