Week Three: A Love Letter
Welcome to week three! Writing a love letter feels like a natural next step after spending a week in gratitude. As I sat down to write mine, I realized how much gratitude is wrapped up in love. When I think about the people I love, I almost immediately think of all the ways I’m thankful for them. I don’t think love can exist without gratitude. And I’d venture to say that in all acts of gratitude, there’s a little bit of love.
I struggled a bit in deciding who would receive my love letter. I don’t have a romantic partner at the moment, so that was out. And I decided to spend my week of gratitude sharing thanks with the loved ones in my life, so I had just hit up a lot of the biggies the week prior.
I often like to think outside the box with these challenges. I always want to make sure that I really am pushing my comfort zones, and being as vulnerable as possible. When I thought deeply about the person I’d like to be writing a love letter to, what my heart wanted was to be writing to a partner. I don’t even remember the last time I wrote a gushy letter to someone I’m in love with. I felt myself trying to talk myself out of it, and I’ve learned that’s usually the sign that I have to go through with it.
So I wrote a love letter to my future someone.
The actual act wasn’t terribly scary — in fact, it was a really nice experience to envision this person and send my love to them, wherever they are. The scary part is the sharing. I feel very exposed putting this letter out there, in the same way I know you’ll feel exposed in sharing your heart with someone you love. With Scare Your Soul I’m learning that bravery and vulnerability are very tightly woven. I suggest you lean into that feeling of being exposed. If it feels like your heart has burst wide open and is beating loudly right on the surface — you’re doing it right.
In Courage (and Love), xx Alison
Hello my love,
Thank you for being you. Every day I wonder how I got so lucky to stumble upon you in this life. You bring my life such incredible joy and I love what we’re building here together.
Thank you for loving me. For seeing me. For understanding my deep wants and desires. I love navigating this crazy life with you by my side.
I feared for a long time that it was impossible to remain autonomous and free while also building a deep partnership with someone. Thank you for proving me wrong. What we have is so beautiful — thank you, thank you, thank you for respecting me and supporting me in my pursuits. And know how infinitely proud I am of yours.
You inspire me daily. You push me to remain at my best and then soar beyond that. I love just talking to you. I could talk to you forever and never grow tired. I love your mind. I love your stupid jokes. I know we’ll never stop laughing in this life.
I love holding your hand. I feel proud walking beside you. I’m so honored to be your forever date.
Thank you for loving me at my best and my worst. For having the hard conversations. For never going to bed mad. Thank you for considering me your equal. For always listening and responding thoughtfully. Thank you for holding me even when we’re angry. Thank you for somehow always having the right words when I’m sad.
Thank you for giving me the space to be a strong, self-actualized woman who is capable of standing on her own. And know that I so admire who you are as an independent person outside of me. But when we come together — I’m still blown away by the magic we create. We’re unbelievably strong apart, and even stronger together. Thank you for being my partner in crime. I love living life with you.
I love you, Alison
PS You’re also incredibly good looking and I could kiss you forever.
Week Two: Attitude of Gratitude
I don’t know about y’all, but I was feeling a high coming off of week one. I loved taking on the first challenge, I was very excited to share my experience with all of you, and I was so inspired reading about other people’s evenings of digital detox. What I love about Scare Your Soul is that the challenges are more or less very simple, but they often unlock something much larger. Thank you for continuing this journey with us, and welcome to week two!
I have so much in my life for which to be grateful. In the simplest way, all of my basic needs are more than met, which I know already puts me above and beyond so many people out there. I have a roof over my head, I can afford good, nutritious foods, I’m able-bodied, and I have a vast network of people who love and care for me. That in and of itself makes me so lucky. But I also happen to live in one of the coolest cities in the world, I have the luxury of pursuing my dreams, I have many passions and hobbies that excite me, I’m in touch with my spiritual side, I get to experience people from many different cultures and backgrounds and walks of life on a daily basis, and I feel fortunate that I regularly run a full range of emotions which keep me grounded, empathetic, creative, and altogether very complete. Very rarely to I find my life to be boring or mundane, and for that I am especially grateful.
So there were a lot of avenues I could have taken when bestowed with the task of sharing daily doses of gratitude this week. I love that SYS included the element of sharing your experience with another individual each day. It’s extremely easy to forget about all the good fortune in our lives altogether, but even when we do remember, how often do we actually express it? I once heard an expression that goes something along the lines of, “Until you share it, it isn’t real.” Words are powerful things. How are the people in our lives supposed to know we’re grateful for them unless we tell them? How will we ever fully understand all the beauty in our lives if we don’t hear ourselves say the words, “Today, I am grateful for…?”
Because I knew I’d have to share gratitude with someone each day, I decided to express gratitude for someone each day.
This list ranged from my Grandmother, to friends, mentors, ex-boyfriends, and a food delivery representative.
The rule I set for myself was to go into each day open to the possibility of experiencing gratitude anywhere, with anyone. The result was an extremely varied list, filled with some expected and some altogether shocking names. I let myself be inspired in the moment, even when (and ESPECIALLY when!) fear started to kick in. I didn’t pre-plan anything. When I felt the impulse to express gratitude for someone, I jumped in immediately.
I gave thanks to my best friend for being my rock. We’re both going through very transitional times, and he manages to be there for me literally whenever I need him, despite the fact that he’s currently dealing with his own personal stuff. I shared gratitude for a manager who’s about to transition to a different job. She exemplifies what leaving a legacy really looks like, and I’ve learned so much from her leadership and her friendship. I expressed my thanks for my church choir director, who brings together two things I’m so passionate about each week: My faith and my love of singing.
I found myself in conversation with two different exes this week, and both times I felt compelled to share gratitude with them. Two very different relationships, but I luckily still have friendships with both of them. I thanked them for everything they’ve been for me, and all that I’ve learned from them — the good and the bad. These conversations were probably the most unexpected and the ones I almost talked myself out of having. But I’m genuinely grateful that they both remain in my life to some extent, and it felt exhilarating and cathartic to share that with them.
I thanked one of my roomies for giving me space with no questions asked on a night I needed alone time. That’s a friend who knows me inside and out, and understands my needs on a very deep level. And when my food delivery was over an hour late and the company called me, unprompted, to let me know they were not only refunding me but also crediting my account for a future order, I sent a GLOWING email sharing all the love and thanks for incredible customer service. It’s easy to write a scathing review when things go wrong. How often do we write in to thank a representative for making our day?
As I opened myself up to the possibility of gratitude, opportunities revealed themselves right and left. Out of the blue, my Grandma sent me the sweetest text that absolutely made my day. I called her later that day (something I don’t do often enough) and was able to thank her for more than just a simple text. One of my dearest friends is currently living in South Korea, and we’ve been playing phone tag for some time. As I was heading home one night this week, I had a feeling that I’d be able to finally connect with her that night. When I got to my apartment, I had a beautiful package waiting for me that I wasn’t expecting. I opened it and proceeded to cry deep, ugly tears. It was an incredibly thoughtful care package from the very friend I had been planning to call — all the way from Korea. I got in touch with her that night and was able to share gratitude with her not only for her gorgeous and extremely thoughtful gift, but for the beautiful gift of her friendship.
These instances brought to life a mantra I believe wholeheartedly: What you look for is what you’ll find. When I experienced my week through the lens of gratitude, it’s amazing how many more things I had to be grateful for!! Once I started actively seeking gratitude, my day to day looked all the more beautiful, complete, and joyful. I ended up expressing gratitude for much more than one person per day.
Another big takeaway is how emotional I felt in sharing these deep words of gratitude! In almost all of these instances, because my words and actions were completely unplanned, I got swept up in the powerful gesture of sharing gratitude with others. I don’t know if this is because it’s an under-utilized function in my life, or because genuinely expressing thanks is such a heart opener. I suspect it’s a combo of both. But it was a nice reminder that sharing gratitude does wonders not only for the person you’re giving thanks for, but for your own heart
and soul as well.
One more thing that came up for me that I think about all the time with these challenges: Why does it take a formal challenge with SYS for me to live my life in this way? Gratitude is free to give, and the benefits are tenfold! It’s the easiest way to make someone’s day, it ain’t too shabby for your own sweet heart, and the more you actively give thanks — I guarantee you’ll find you suddenly have even more for which to be thankful.
What are you grateful for this week? As you share with your appointed gratitude partners, I hope you’ll also share with us.
One final bit of gratitude from me — Today, I am eternally grateful for the Scare Your Soul community. This powerful group of soulsters keeps me inspired, motivated, and accountable. I hope you feel my virtual love and thanks oozing out of your screen.
Click here to join Alison in the free 12-week Scare Your Soul courage Challenge!
Week One: Digital Detox
Welcome to week one of our 12-week courage challenge! I’m so excited to be here with you. A little bit about me: I’m an actress, vegan, exercise-enthusiast, feminist, lover of carbs, believer in the power of the Universe, singer, reader, and writer living in New York City. Writer. That’s a relatively new addition to the list, and I often still pinch myself when I get to identify myself in this way. My love for writing was reignited a few years ago as I started journaling more frequently and even dabbled in some script writing in the privacy of my own bedroom.
But it wasn’t long before I felt a tug to make my writing more public. Before working with Scare Your Soul, I would have ignored that tug — Alison, you have no real background in this. Alison, you don’t have any time for this. Alison, you don’t have anything unique to contribute. It’s possible I may not have even felt the tug at all. But I can say with full confidence that by regularly flexing my courage muscles through small, daily acts of bravery with SYS, the result was a quick and easy HELL YES when that tug came. It feels like a major full-circle moment to be writing for Scare Your Soul now, and I couldn’t be more honored and thrilled to embark on this journey with each and every one of you.
So let’s dive in!
When I read the first challenge, I’ll admit, my thoughts were: This is cake. A digital detox doesn’t sound particularly scary to me, and to only implement it for one night after 5pm? Very manageable. I’ve actually done a variation of this challenge a couple times with SYS, so I knew more or less what to expect. What an easy, breezy way to glide into the first week of challenges.
Turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Even though I’ve done this challenge before, I couldn’t believe the anxiety that set in once 4:30 rolled around. Knowing I had only 30 minutes left to check up on everything for the night left me feeling stressed and agitated. I refreshed my email a dozen times. I toggled back and forth between Instagram and Facebook endlessly. I sent out texts as though they were my dying words. Get a grip, woman.
Shortly after 5pm, I had an audition. I felt equal parts uneasy and relieved that my phone was in airplane mode. Sitting in the holding room, waiting to audition, my hands involuntarily kept reaching for my phone. Our attachment to these devices has become so mindless, so secondnature. In any moment of discomfort, we’re so quick to turn to our screens. Once the initial wariness wore off however, I was actually able to be more grounded and present at my audition than I typically am.
Next up was the commute home. The other thing that always strikes me when I unplug for a bit is how dependent we are on our devices. Without my phone, I don’t know what time it is, what the weather is like, how to get anywhere, when to wake up in the morning, what the daily news is, not to mention it contains my running to-do lists, my schedule, endless photographic and textual memories, in addition to storing all of my music, podcasts, books, banking information and exercise data, all the while being a highly social platform that keeps me in touch with friends, family, acquaintances, celebrities and politicians from just down the street to all the way across the globe. My daily commutes are usually filled with music or a podcast, or catching up on the news, or a book, or sides I’m preparing for an upcoming audition. Without any of that at my disposal, I felt naked and a bit exposed. Am I capable of anything without my phone? Scary.
When I arrived home, I realized the weight of this challenge for me. I contemplated going for a long run or hitting up the local bar alone sans phone, both of which felt like unique tests. But when I reached my empty apartment, I knew the thing that scared me the most was the thought of sitting alone, unplugged, in a quiet space for the rest of the night.
See, just a few weeks ago I called things off with someone I really care about. I miss him a lot, and it generally just sucks.
In the week or so that followed this decision, my response was to stay as busy as possible. I was working out like crazy — sometimes two, three times a day. I was extremely social, spending time with as many friends as I could. I dove into work, clocking 18 hour days. I had a big audition that I prepared for like my life depended on it. Anything to keep my mind off of him and to keep my body from remembering that it had something to mourn.
And to be honest, it worked. Maybe I was high on endorphins. Maybe I was too exhausted to care. Maybe I shoved those initial painful feelings so far down that they were simply inaccessible.
But when I set foot in my quiet apartment that I had been avoiding for two weeks, I knew what I had to do. I had to slow down. I had to sit in my reality. I had to be alone, and process, and honor wherever I was at. And without the distraction of a cellphone, or a computer, or a TV screen, I knew I’d really have the opportunity to just be with myself.
I ate dinner in silence, with nothing to do but enjoy the food in front of me. I don’t even remember the last meal I had that wasn’t accompanied by my iPhone, or Netflix, or at least some music in the background. I curled up with a book. I have a stack of about 5 or 6 books on my nightstand, all half-finished. I often tell myself I need to be reading important, socially relevant books, and guilt myself out of enjoying a good novel. But on this quiet, unplugged, emotionally charged night; I wanted a novel, so I allowed myself a novel. I took a nap. My poor body hadn’t stopped in weeks, and was so grateful to give in to the couch and get some meaningful rest. I experienced bouts of true, pure boredom. I desperately tried to remember all the lyrics to Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now.” I had a ten minute debate with myself on whether my default pronunciation is “Car-mel” or “Cara-mel” (jury’s still out on that one.) Eventually, I was craving movement. I unrolled my yoga mat, and began an at-home practice. I haven’t practiced on my own in a while, so it felt almost foreign to me. It was a slow, meandering flow. I spent a lot of time in child’s pose. I did a lot of hip opening. I treated myself to some head- and hand-stand practice (something that usually scares me in a classroom setting!) and I enjoyed every moment. I let my body dictate my movements. I really sat with myself, and listened to myself, in my quiet, empty apartment.
This was when I felt most vulnerable. The thoughts and emotions I had been trying to ignore for days were there to greet me. Surprise, surprise. But you know what? I survived. I wasn’t even as emotional as I expected to be. The experience was more reflective. Contemplative. I was able to acknowledge and embrace what’s in front of me in a very full and honest way. I allowed myself to actually live my experience, instead of merely observe it, or ignore it altogether. This led to a larger realization. The anxiety I felt when it came time to unplug and commit to a quiet night without devices came from a narrative that sounded something like, “I can’t afford to take a night off of my life.” In these silent, exposed moments, it dawned on me — that kind of thinking is so backwards. Unplugging doesn’t remove me from my life. It allows me to actually experience my life.
What might you be ignoring, or avoiding, or pushing away in your life? How might you be using the busyness of our technology-filled lives as a crutch, or a band-aid? Can you identify parts of your life that you aren’t truly living?
A funny side note: When I returned from airplane mode the following morning, my sleep tracker indicated that I got 14 hours of sleep, starting at 5pm. Because if my phone is laying dormant, what could I possibly be doing with my life besides sleeping?
This week’s challenge reminded me that tuning in to myself is the surest way to live my life most honestly and fully. I hope you’ll share with us what came up for you. Congratulations on taking one small, giant step towards a bolder, braver life.
Click here to join Alison in the free 12-week Scare Your Soul courage Challenge.