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.
Yesterday was a day that I felt I didn’t need to post. Not pictures of my body, not of my food, not of my dog. Just not at all.
About 7 years ago, I bought tickets to a Tom Petty concert as a birthday present for my then-boyfriend. In the car, we used to crank up Tom Petty songs and croon the lyrics in unison with Petty’s crinkly voice, drawing out the vowels, hitting the notes all out of tune. Seeing Petty live ranks as one of the highlights of my contest-going experiences (minus the stupid, drunk shenanigans my then-boyfriend liked to pull at concerts). Seeing news that Petty has died at the age of 66 is a heartbreaker.
I intermittently relied on “Running Down a Dream” and “I Won’t Back Down” as cardio songs during contest preps. Petty could pick you up, put you down, turn your frown upside down with his quirky sounds. His death carries a different impact than the one Chris Cornell’s shocking suicide had on me a few months back (an impact that I have yet to write about but is sitting on my lengthy “to write about for my blog” list). Petty’s death is a natural one. We know the idols of our times will age, wither, and pass. It’s just hard when reality hits and we witness what we think only happens to older generations…not our own. Just wait, Generation Y and Millenials. Justin Timberlake and Kesha will expire too. It’s human nature.
What is also human nature is the tragedy that occurred in Las Vegas two nights ago. Wait. What? What did I just say? Yeah. You heard me. Humans carry dark, confused, estranged, strange, conflicting, afflicting emotions inside their heavy hearts and weighty minds. I don’t know why the shooter did what he did. We may never truly know. I have a feeling mental illness of some depth and magnitude triggered his triggers. I won’t spout off about gun laws. (Though I do have my opinion; I am a liberal and I know I know…guns don’t kill people, people kill people. But heck…guns sure do make the killing a lot worse and more instantaneous.) But I will spout off about our society needing to do more to help the general population to detect and treat mental illness of any level without a stigma attached, with a safe haven and a private nook and enough health insurance to cover the lifetime of the illness…which is typically a lifetime.
Death. It happens to all. What is born must die. What has a start must have an end. What was once fresh, young, and alive must wilt, wither, and expire. We would rather it always happen swiftly, quietly, while we aren’t looking, when our eyelids are closed, our minds are shut. But didn’t that kind of happen in Vegas? Aren’t we—as a society—sitting with eyelids drooped to our phones, minds shut inside the box of our immediate circle that mimics our own thoughts and opinions, days passing so quickly we don’t even notice where the time has gone? A true tragedy is one in which no one learns a thing. Think about it: by definition, a tragic hero is one who dies by the hand of his own character flaw, who cannot escape the path that he traipses upon because he is too stuck in his own ways to see outside of himself. This is certainly a tragic event, full of senseless loss at the hand of someone who took it upon himself to eliminate life with raging bullets. But the real tragedy will be if we don’t learn from it. I see society today—draped in the blanket of social media—as an eyes-wide-shut community. I am just as guilty of it as the next person. So let us stream a conversation that has us break into our own psyches, discover how to break habits that box us in, and learn tools to break barriers so that we can swiftly evolve into an eyes-wide-open community.
I know what it is to be last
to be lost
I know what it is to rise
to shake my fist
to be more than just a name on a list
I know what it is to try
to wonder why
I know what it is to have won
to get back up
to get it done
In a well
To the sun
I am sure I'll burn
I might even melt
But all I have felt
Will build me
Bring me back
Back to my habitat
Out of ashes
Brushing off dirt
Shaking off dust
Only one way to complete
Copyright 2017 - Jodi Leigh Miller
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.