On Living Abundantly

CC License Dogwood
CC License Dogwood

This time of year is an interesting time of year.

Forget that the title of this post sounds like something a pushy megachurch pastor would write whilst handing you a magic prayer card and expecting tears.

This month I’ve been thinking about what it means to live abundantly.

Last year I started an abundance jar. I’ll admit that it got a little bit…forgotten. Forgotten enough that I’m actually not at all sure where it went. Is it in the box with my missing snow boots? Did it end up in Narnia? Did the White Witch turn it to stone? I may never know.

The idea behind it was to write the fortuitous happenings of the year on a colorful little Post-It and pop it in the jar. Even the jar held significance to me, as it was a beautiful cobalt blue glass vase that was given to me to take home after my beloved Gramma Mears passed away last year. Still, I managed to lose it. It had some good stuff in there, from finishing a book on New Year’s Eve to getting my first agent and being invited to speak on my first panels. But it was also missing some awesomeness, like Spouse surprising me in the middle of a bout of co-op Diablo III with a trip to the local laser tag establishment. Getting to meet Felicia Day and Osric Chau and Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles.

Fun fact: writing those names just reminded me that I had a dream last night in which I was teaching high school again and Jim Beaver was in my class. I accidentally addressed him as Bobby Singer and felt like the world’s biggest asshat. Why he was in a high school class, I may never know.

Anyway, the Abundance Jar was an Abundant Fail.

In some respects, this year wasn’t too hot. Financial woes, some serious family issues, more financial woes, and job stagnation have sort of been the name of the game. Approaching 2014, there are a few things starting to shake loose, but I’m faced with a few tough questions. The biggest one is really what I can do, what’s in my control to make 2014 the year I want it to be.

I could search for a new job, but there are trade-offs with every arena of employment. Where I am now I have a flexible schedule and the ability to pick up extra shifts to save for things. A 9-5 gig might have paid vacation time. There’s also the consideration of what it is I really do, which is write.

Which leaves me to ask:

What does living abundantly mean?

It’s not as simple as having money at the end of the month. Or being able to go wherever you want or buy a big TV. Those are, by and large, material considerations that don’t have much bearing on the day-to-day except to make you bummed out when they don’t happen.

There probably isn’t a moment that comes and allows you to choose one path where everything is peaches and lily pads. No, life is insistent upon being a trade-off. One thing goes right, something else falls spectacularly to crunchy pieces. Which is where this idea comes into play.

Living abundantly means loving yourself.

This is the time of year where people decide that after the holidays, they’ll lose weight or go to the gym or lose weight or not spend so much money. Or lose weight. Most New Year’s Resolutions have to do with that. It’s not to say you can’t want to get fitter or wedge yourself back into a favorite pair of jeans, but really, living abundantly needs to start with abundant love for you.

Get a little more sleep. Take a bath. Spend time with some friends. Watch a game or play one. Make yourself tell yourself something nice when you catch yourself being mean. If you call yourself fat, turn around and give yourself two compliments.

Decide where you want to invest.

No, I’m not talking stocks here. Who has money for that?

What you really have to spend isn’t money. It’s time and energy. Where can you direct those things that will provide you with the biggest cosmic ROI?

That might be the hippiest thing I’ve ever said.

But seriously. What activities can you prioritize that will make you enjoy your life a little more? Is it learning a skill you’ve always envied? Perfecting that shot with the bow and arrow? Getting your black belt? Doing a pull-up? Baking a souffle that doesn’t shrivel like a sputtering balloon?

I’m happiest when I take time to do something for myself. I returned from my convention feeling rejuvenated. Find things that make you go and do them.

Appreciate imperfection.

You’re never going to be perfect. Neither am I. I’m not going to break my back bending over backwards to try. I have crooked teeth that make me self-conscious and angry that my grandma spent thousands on three and a half years of orthodontia to fix. Some days I just don’t feel like doing anything at all. Glamour would airbrush the hell out of me and my life in general.

But there are great things, too. I have a husband who loves me a whole hell of a lot. Two adorably weird kitties and a dog who farts on my foot. My journey to publication won’t be like Stephenie Meyer’s — it’ll be more like J.K. Rowling’s, without her skyrocketing success. (I’m talking about the rejection bits.)

That’s the glory of being human. Things fail and turn out differently than you’d hope or expect. By obsessing over them, you do nothing but miss out on the good stuff filling in the gaps.

So I’m going to hunt around tomorrow for that damn abundance jar. I’m going to sit down and write down every good thing I have and that’s happened since I lost it. I’m going to set that thing on a shelf where I can see it every day. On New Year’s Day, I’m going to empty it out into a box and read every one. Then I’m going to start fresh.

Because that’s what the New Year is all about.

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