This hasn’t been the easiest year. But it also hasn’t been the toughest. Each year that continues in my life, I see no matter the up, a down will come up. But more importantly, I witness that no matter the down, I always come up. Up for air. Up to new heights. Up and away.
I am 45 today. Cray…as they say. I don’t feel it. I’m told I don’t look it. I’m pretty sure my mother would agree with me that I don’t act it. We aren't guaranteed anything in this life except to have choices. I’ve been mulling over a speech I’ll present this weekend at the FitOps camp in Waxahachie, and that theme of humans always having choices seems to prevail in my mind as the focal point.
Look at yourself. Do you have tattoos? Do you color your hair? Do you put your keys onto the same hook every day? Do you buy an extra pair of tennis shoes when you already have 20 and really need to pay the electric bill instead? Do you lease your car or own it outright? Do you take the highway or stay on the frontage road? Do you fly through a yellow light and proclaim it’s orange when it turns red while your car is in the intersection? Do you take your phone into bed with you each night, or do you read a book? Do you go on a second date with that girl or guy? Do you take that step or stay in place? What do you do with your space each and every minute of each and every day?
I have this thing about New Year’s Eve, this idea and theory: however I spend New Year’s Eve is indicative of how I will spend the year…how the year will transpire, transgress, digress, progress. I spent this last New Year’s Eve alone, on my couch, Roxi snuggled beside me as I watched a movie without a single human being in sight. I wasn’t bothered by it. It was my choice. But what did bother me was knowing that because of my superstition, I was quite possibly sealing my fate for the year. It would be a tough one, and I would be alone for much of it. Notice I said, “alone.” Not “lonely.” There is a difference. The thing about being “alone” is that it has a clarity that “lonely” does not provide because “lonely” is shrouded in sadness and self pity. But “alone” opens a door for awareness.
It took a bout of watching people I thought were close friends of mine kind of disappear into their own worlds, their own lives, and either forget about me or become so immersed in their seemingly amazingness of living that they couldn’t step down and hold my hand—even ever so lightly—as I fought through a series of struggles. It took a bout of being surrounded by an atmosphere of judgment and negativity that felt strangely reminiscent of previous relationships I’ve endured and had learned to let go. It took a bout of me being fed up with feeling simultaneously like a stagnant pool of water as well as the person treading water in that pool, ripples being made but only because I was kicking my legs in one place and going nowhere fast. Getting sick at the beginning of my prep and counting on one hand the number of people who truly were there for me and offering to help me, listen to me, check on me daily brought a tough awareness into my life that I had forgotten about, lost sight of in the world of social media that makes you feel quite popular but isn’t reality. Placing last after working so hard and watching things go awry in the final hours when my gut had argued with me to not not not go off the plan that sat in my head brought an awareness of how much I need need need to listen to myself, but I can only do that if I quiet white noise and quarantine myself from dark judgment that some lay on others thickly like a peanut butter on a slice of bread.
I reached a point this year where I said I am done. Done. Done I say. I have a gift that I am squandering. I have something to give back to this world, but I need help and guidance to do it. It was time to take fear by the hand and lead it to the bleachers lining the gym dance floor, telling it, “You stay here awhile. I promise to come back and get you, but for now, I need to dance without regret. I need to jitterbug with hope. I need to sway with faith. I need to get close to risk, put my head on that dangerous bastard’s shoulder, feel the warmth of his body until a fire builds in my loins that I can no longer contain my excitement and I release ecstasy into the world.” When I write—when my fingers fly across the keyboard, when my self awareness stops fighting my stream of consciousness, when my words take flight—I feel a rush through my veins. My heart pounds against the walls of my chest like a fist against a locked door. My scalp tingles, my vision sharpens, my hairs rise, my muscles clench. I am wired.
I look back at New Year’s Eve and my decision to be alone, and I see now I had to do it. I had to reach solitude so I could clear out the back closet of my mind and the dusty boxes of my heart and discover an open space just begging for a new chapter.
In two months I will begin graduate school at the age of 45. In two years, I will be done and will walk away with an MFA in Writing. I will be in debt. But I would have a greater, bigger debt if I only played it safe and didn’t set aside my ego and pride in order to build a gift that needs shape, critique, revision from people who know more than I do about the craft of writing.
So this is my choice. I choose to step forward and stop treading water. Happy Birthday to me.
Jodi Leigh Miller is a Women's Physique IFBB Pro with experience in all divisions. She is a record-achieving power-lifter, posing specialist, certified trainer, life coach, and author. She holds an English degree from The University of Texas at Austin and is a certified educator. Jodi was recently accepted into the low-residency MFA in Writing program at Pacific University Oregon and begins January 2018. She is an experienced, knowledgeable, multifaceted phenom who shares her soul in this blog.