verb: to add fuel to, keep burning, tend; to increase the amount or strength of; to encourage; to feed abundantly; to excite or thrill; to increase the intensity of; to make happy
I’ve been floating around in limbo for a few years now, since my marriage ended 5 years ago. Spending time with toxic men and drinking with my girlfriends has been taking priority over my own physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. I haven’t been the best mom I can be, I’ve been sleeping too much and watching too much netflix, and my life has had little direction. I struggle with depression and anxiety and financial insecurity. I let my car insurance lapse and I didn’t know I was driving uninsured for 2 weeks because I forgot to pick up my mail. These things and various other signs pointed to the fact that I was barely keeping my shit together.
My recent unstable relationship found me getting myself into trouble out of spite and putting myself into unsafe situations with men, the worst being a little over two months ago. I found myself on the sidewalk alone in the most dangerous part of town at 2am. I was unable to tell the Uber driver exactly where I was. I had to keep him on the phone and walk 4 blocks for him to find me.
Then my mom had a relapse with alcohol and accidental overdose of sleeping pills over the holidays. I spent weeks wondering if our shared DNA was propelling me to the same destiny and if the direction I was heading would lead me to the same place – on a ventilator in ICU – at the age of 70. She is out of the woods, on a good path, and better and more hopeful than she’s been for two years now. It was a good wake-up call for her, and as it turns out, for me too.
The past five years have contained many lessons about attachment, letting go, co-dependence, addiction, love, and loss. Many mistakes were made, and last year culminated with a December and holiday season that left me on my knees. With the arrival of the new year and a blank page in front of me I felt a fresh start was calling. I don’t believe in resolutions but I do believe in intention setting. I started journaling and came upon an online course that spoke to me. It has tools for examining the previous year and creating intentions for the new one ( Susanna Conway: Unravelling).
In journaling I realized I have a lot going on this year to be excited for and proud of. My daughters are happy and healthy and a source of so much joy to me. I have a beautiful circle of amazing women in my tribe. I began school online last fall in an effort to get my life rolling in a positive direction, to get into a flow forward. The journaling has given me motivation, focus, and excitement about finishing my Associate’s degree in English this year, putting more energy into my spiritual and financial well-being, and connecting with family and friends who help elevate me to my potential. It became clear that in order to accomplish my goals and dreams I need to be as strong, healthy, and focused as I can be, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.
Part of the course is to ‘find your word’ for the year. In searching for my word I found I want to focus on igniting my inner fire for life and to stop giving my power away to men, distraction, and drama. I want to choose things in my life that build up that fire inside instead of scattering my energy and power. I didn’t want a passive word like ‘center’ or self-care’, even though they are appropriate. Some of the words that came were radiate, power, focus, ignite, and spark, but when “stoke” popped up in my head I knew that was it- because it also means joyful and excited.
Next month will mark 5 years since my marriage ended. Having gotten married at 19 and missing my single 20’s and the bar scene, I was very naive about men and life and had a lot to catch up on. I learned how to order a drink in a bar and that guys who hit on me don’t necessarily like me or want a relationship. I learned I shouldn’t do shots at midnight (that one took a lot of trial and error). My more serious relationships had a lot of bright red flags that I had to experience in order to say ‘never again’. I bought my first car, got my own checking account, my first apartment, and began a career as a massage therapist. I did many of the things one does in their twenties. I don’t regret any the mistakes I’ve made in trying to find my feet and am fully aware that I will make many more. But this is the year I hope to begin inhabiting my 44 year old self.
Stoke means making choices that feed the embers in my heart and avoiding activities and people that suffocate them or put them out. These embers have been glowing all my life, and I’m going to add kindling, oxygen, and fuel, to make my fire so strong and hot that it no longer wants to go out, and so bright it can share its light with the world.