A Year of Loving Fearlessly

Here is the story of how a great, big fat fun, awesome (j) idea gets born…

Once upon a time, I was sitting in a Peet’s writing my review of Julie Klam’s book, YOU HAD ME AT WOOF, while waiting for The Boy (who was playing D&D with his insanely smart, geeky, nerdy friends who live 45 minutes away from us). I had been there a long time. I was cold from having been rained on. I couldn’t find the words I wanted for the book review I was writing, and there was a woman on a cell phone two tables away who was NOT using her indoor voice.

I was feeling frustrated and bitchy, and then my cell phone rang.

It was a text from my best friend’s niece, who I adore but don’t hear from often. It said, “Hey J, you’re beautiful. Love Hayley,” and it was as if she’d walked in and hugged me. I unwound. I relaxed. I grinned and texted her back to tell her that she’d just made my day. She replied, “Yay! I wanted to spread the love. xo”

I carried that little gesture around with me for days. I kept thinking about how touched I was by the unexpected connection, how simple it was for her to actually, truly “spread the love.”

And then I decided that’s what I wanted to do in 2011. I want to spend one whole year consciously, unabashedly, fearlessly spreading the love. It sounds easy and, of course, it should be. What’s easier than love, right? But I  know better. I know how life, and bad guys, and deadlines, and sleep deprivation can get in the way of good intentions, so I sat down and mapped it all out – a new way of spreading the love for every month in 2011.

January is the month of “spontaneous connection.” My goal is to spontaneously connect with someone new every day. So far I’ve sent two postcards (well one, but the other just needs to be walked to the mailbox). I called someone I’ve been intending to call for way too long, texted a sick friend, and looked for the perfect card to send to someone I miss. I couldn’t find it, so I’m making one instead.

Every now and then, I can tell that I’m stumbling onto something big. That’s how this is. I feel certain that I will not be the same person at the end of 2011 that I am heading into it. Like my Beckoning the Lovely project, this one is a commitment – a year of being present and aware and creative and daring, all in the name of love and connection which is, I think, maybe how the world should be powered.

I’m hoping you’ll join me. Every Monday, I’ll let you know how The Love Project is going. I’ll start this coming Monday. By then, I’m hoping you’ll have some love stories of your own to tell.

Soon after I thought of doing this I wrote to a friend. I was all hopped up on the possibility of a year-long love project. The more I wrote, the more excited and adventurous I became, until suddenly I felt a little self-conscious. I stopped. I double spaced. I took a breath. “I know it’s a little… Pollyannaesque,” I typed, finally, “but fuck it. The world needs more of that too.”

He wrote back. “j, you have got to put that in the post.”

So there it is.

Let the Love Project begin.

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72 Responses to A Year of Loving Fearlessly

  1. terrepruitt January 5, 2011 at 12:49 am #

    And by “someone new” you mean a friend. A different friend every day?

    Wow! So many projects going on. It is amazing. There is the post every day, the picture every day, now the Love Project. Wow. I can’t post or picture everyday so I am interesting in this. Can’t wait to see what you are doing! Rah-rah-rah!

    • j January 5, 2011 at 8:26 am #

      Terre, Yes, that’s the goal. A different person each day, at least through a month. Though, you know, if the same person inspires extra love, I’m not opposed to some showering. ;-)

      I’m really hoping, even if everyone doesn’t do it daily, that they’ll do it sometimes. Spontaneous, get-past-your-self-consciousness love. There is power in numbers, baby.

  2. James January 5, 2011 at 1:01 am #

    This sounds beautiful! Attitudes and action like this are just what the world needs more of and I’ll keep this in mind and think on how I can carry the spirit on. Brilliant idea and here’s to spreading love ! :D

    • j January 5, 2011 at 8:27 am #

      Yay! Spread a little my way and pop in here every once in a while to tell me a love story. You’ll make my adventure way more fun.

  3. jessica mullen January 5, 2011 at 1:46 am #

    Yay what a beautiful idea! The more love you give, the more you feel! I LOVE YOU RANDOM BLOGGER I FOUND I TWITTER! Cheers! Happy new year! We are all made of love!

    • j January 5, 2011 at 8:29 am #

      You inspired such a big goofy grin with your comment. Thank you! Happy New Year to you too!

  4. Lance January 5, 2011 at 4:39 am #

    I did this in November when I met you….I’m good for at least 18 months.
    sarcasm

    Great idea. As part of expanding my writing capabilities I’ve accepted two assignments from websites, one a music site, the other, a counseling/relationship type site, both are run by people near where I live. My goal is to meet new, interesting people that can enrich my life and my families lives.
    Good job again, j.

    • j January 5, 2011 at 8:33 am #

      That’s awesome. Recently I took our new old adopted dog, Ash, to a “reuninion” with his pals at the adoption agency (who specialize in adopting out seniors). I don’t usually do that, but, like you, I wanted to connect with these people who were doing something so generous and good. I wound up having such a great time. (Ash did too.)

      We are all connected. Figuring out how to tap into that has been one of the most exciting parts of the last couple of years for me.

  5. Caroline January 5, 2011 at 5:55 am #

    :o) You rock. And coincidentally I found something online that I thought would be perfect for a friend I’ve never met, bought it, will send it but then thought, hmm, is that weird? Decided f*ck it, it’s not weird to send my friends random gifts, that hopefully they will enjoy. Ok, so not the same thing, but I think you are right, it is great to spread the love. You never know, the one day you send a text or postcard to that friend, they may really need it, right that moment. And who doesn’t love the idea of receiving love? Especially of the J kind. :o) The world is already full of douchebags, more “Pollyannaesque” ideas are just what we need. xoxo

    • j January 5, 2011 at 8:34 am #

      Exactly! I need to get your address. ;-) xoxo

  6. drm January 5, 2011 at 6:23 am #

    I love your projects. They are genuine and welcome the world around you in an expansive way. What I’m really looking forward to is how you expand the way that you define sharing Love, and what it brings you back from the world. Good luck!

    • j January 5, 2011 at 8:37 am #

      Thank you for saying that. I was coming out of some confusing lonely times when I started this blog. It’s been a wild ride getting where I am now. On Monday, I’m going to unveil my list of 12 ways to spread the love – one for every month. Some are going to require that I get creative and reach out even when it feels uncomfortable or scary. Truthfully, I’m looking forward to those instances most of all.

  7. Lydia January 5, 2011 at 6:35 am #

    In 2001, I decided I would try to not put myself in the position of regretting not following through on a loving impulse — whether it was saying or doing, to someone I knew or someone I didn’t. I can truthfully say that yes, this has the potential to change you on a deep level.

    • j January 5, 2011 at 8:40 am #

      I feel that, Lydia. As soon as I started thinking about how to do this in a way that would make it bloggable and inclusive, I felt the excitement that I get when what I’m doing is going to affect how I move in the world. That’s when I knew that no matter how nervous it made me to publicly commit to a year-long project, I’d do it. That fluttering of excitement in my stomach never lies.

  8. Kellie Walker (aka YourLifeInGear) January 5, 2011 at 6:45 am #

    This is a fantastic idea, j. Just fantastic. Thanks so much for sharing it with us.

    It’s going to be so much fun watching your 2011 unfold!

    • j January 5, 2011 at 8:41 am #

      Don’t just watch, Ms. Wonderful. Join me!

    • Kellie Walker (aka YourLifeInGear) January 5, 2011 at 10:25 am #

      Hang on a sec… . OK. Got both shoes on now and am ready to hit the ground running. Let’s do it!

  9. Sue alias Jack January 5, 2011 at 7:15 am #

    I’m in.

    • j January 5, 2011 at 8:41 am #

      Jack! *hug*

  10. elizabeth benson January 5, 2011 at 7:49 am #

    love this–and feel like you were in circle with us last night powerfully declaring your intentions. it makes me happy to read what you’re making posible–and like the one who prays for patience, i will be fascinated to learn about the challenges that arise in the love powered year and youniverse. thanks for living out loud, dear judy. it’s a joy to find you here.

    • j January 5, 2011 at 8:42 am #

      Declaring my intentions from afar. And thank you. It is a joy to be found. xo

  11. Melissa January 5, 2011 at 8:21 am #

    I totally want to do this. Having had more than a few of those text moments myself and realising that words carry people, like you mention, and it takes so little, really, to create a smile and change the course of a day…well, I’m sold. The tricky thing is making it happen and sticking to it when life gets in the way – so thanks for offering a structure to do this and reminding me of what’s really important.

    Gonna ride through that self consciousness; give a hug everytime I feel like I need one or would like to give one and prioritise connections….cos I think they’re the most beautiful things we have. xx

    • j January 5, 2011 at 8:48 am #

      That’s what struck me too, how little effort it took for Hayley to turn my mood around. Some of my ideas are bigger than that, but most aren’t. Especially this month. Spontaneous connection can be so easy. A text, a note, a card, a hug, as Lydia says, that “loving impulse” we already have but don’t act on. I’ll be riding through some serious self-consciousness too.

      And I love the idea of hugging when you need one. I think we often wait, hoping for what we need, instead of just sort of closing the space and giving what we need. (I might add “giving what you need” into the mix on Monday’s post.) You’re such a smarty pants.

    • Kellie Walker (aka YourLifeInGear) January 5, 2011 at 10:27 am #

      Hugs are the best. Whether you give or receive, you walk away feeling better.

      Hugs rule!

  12. Pam January 5, 2011 at 8:24 am #

    I love this.

    I’m always happier when I act on big-hearted impulses.

    One of my high-school teachers assigned me to create a service called “happy notes” which were delivered to people in class. I created a simple note & copied a bunch onto green paper (we had excess green paper): people could write them to their friends, or to random other students. They said things like: Great haircut! or Glad you’re out of your cast! I enjoyed it very much. When I sprained my ankle, one of my friends created a giant replica of a happy note and got all my friends to sign it with get-well wishes. Lovely, lovely, lovely.

    Enjoy!

    • j January 5, 2011 at 8:50 am #

      Love letters is one of the monthly themes. I can’t wait for that one. I think I’ll be awesome at love letters. And so is “a heartfelt, absolutely true, one-of-a-kind compliment a day…” You can tap right back into that high school awesomeness!

  13. Laura Marcella January 5, 2011 at 8:35 am #

    This is a wonderful idea! And yes, the world definitely needs more Pollyannaness in it!

    • j January 5, 2011 at 8:51 am #

      Pollyanna badassery. ;-)

  14. Tall Pajama Man January 5, 2011 at 8:43 am #

    Once again, my super hero, you have touched the tuning strings of my heart, and opened a door to a vast field ready for play. It reminds me of the video link at the bottom for free hugs, a video that I must admit I both laughed and cried watching, seeing something so simple, you so powerful transform lives, if even for a moment.

    I took a similar challenge many years ago, and my life was changed in such a profound way – now you are making me want to jump into the challenge in some way.

    interestingly enough, my message on Sunday skirted around this idea. I love it when that happens. :-)

    I’m ready – to love out loud, to love with abandon, to love to the extreme… or at least, just to love like a hug, and let the love fuel its own fire.:)

  15. Tall Pajama Man January 5, 2011 at 8:48 am #

    Sorry, the link didn’t paste right. Here it is

    • @boonieschick January 5, 2011 at 4:30 pm #

      ohmigosh, there are so many tears blurring my eyes, I hope my fingers are finding the right keys. Thank you for sharing this video. I’m crying with joy.

  16. j January 5, 2011 at 8:57 am #

    All fixed! Whenever I see this video, I’m so sure I’d have hugged him right off. I hope I would have. And I love how the world turns color when people start responding. There’s a DMB video that is similar.

    I think there will be some filming during the course of this. Definitely pictures. “Love to the extreme” makes me giddy.

  17. marshaeps January 5, 2011 at 9:31 am #

    I am a smitten kitten. Now I know what I can do with myself on a daily basis; dole out the love!!!

    What a wonderful way to embrace a new year; showering the people I love with love.

    You melt me.

    • j January 5, 2011 at 4:44 pm #

      Awww. You had me at smitten kitten. ;-) I’m hoping we’re starting a movement here. (Aim high is a goal in 2011.) xo

  18. Belle Wong January 5, 2011 at 10:16 am #

    This is beautiful, Judy. You’ve given me a great idea – I have a few other intentions for this year, and I’m going to bundle in your Love Project into the mix.

    You know, I was starting to step into the New Year Blues, but you’ve just provided me the inspiration I need to step right back out of it.

    • j January 5, 2011 at 4:47 pm #

      It’s amazing what just thinking about the Love Project does for me. I’m generally more responsive, less likely to let my mind wander off when I’m talking to someone, more likely to stop, interact, engage. I think this is only the beginning. I’m so glad you’re joining in!

  19. Mark Richardson January 5, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    What a cool idea! I feel better just reading about your experience.

    • j January 5, 2011 at 4:47 pm #

      Ha! I’m here for you, Mark!

  20. Ann Marie January 5, 2011 at 3:41 pm #

    I’ll filling out those comment forms (when they’re easy) to say I liked the service, web site, whatever. I figure customer service people mostly hear complaints, so throw ’em a bone when something goes right, too.

    • j January 5, 2011 at 4:48 pm #

      That’s a great idea. Reminds me of when Dillon called the 1800 number on the back of a truck to tell the operator the driver was driving great. :-)

  21. @boonieschick January 5, 2011 at 4:25 pm #

    This sounds like major j-magic. I’m sure a whole year of loving fearlessly *will* change you, and we’re all so lucky to hop on for the ride. This is my Year of Being Selfish About My Own Writing, which would seem to be in the opposite direction. So you can be my lucky rabbit’s foot and remind me to love, love, love while I’m being selfish.

    Can’t wait for the first Monday report!

  22. j January 5, 2011 at 4:48 pm #

    Well, there will be a self-love month. Maybe you jump in then. ;-)

  23. Meg Sweeney January 5, 2011 at 5:15 pm #

    I love this. Just acknowledging the love, and with a card or letter too.
    It is so easy to fixate on the negatives, the ‘outdoor voice’ is funny.
    I am looking for love everyday too and am focusing on the place and with whom it happened. I may not send a note, but be happy to spot it, then write it down.
    looking for love, Meg

    • j January 6, 2011 at 12:06 am #

      Hi, Meg! I like the idea of focusing on the places where (and the people with whom) love happens. I think you’re right. We focus on the crap instead of on the nutrients in our lives. What if we threw our energy into cultivating that which feeds us?

      There will be much writing it down this year. I promise!

  24. Earthianne January 5, 2011 at 5:51 pm #

    This is a great idea, j. I imagine it would be challenging but I know you’ll also have a lot of fun doing this. Be prepared for the onslaught of joy and love that you’ll get back from the grateful recipients of your love and attention. :-)

    I thought of starting to do more frequent acts of kindness, not jut random, but I’ve been procrastinating yet again. You’ve inspired me though to get serious about this and plan and do it.

    I notice a few people have similar projects though not as intensive as yours, e.g. one year. It’s a great thing that a lot of people are thinking about this sort of thing at this time. Love is in the air it seems, and we sure do need to give and receive more kindness and loving.

    • j January 6, 2011 at 12:10 am #

      I think I’m already experiencing it – the onslaught. 2011 is only 5 days old and already I’ve been the recipient of such warmth and generosity, touched in surprising, lasting ways. It’s very cool…

      “Love is in the air it seems, and we sure do need to give and receive more kindness and loving.” Yes we do! I am eager to hear about your adventures in kindness!

  25. Carmen Sisson January 5, 2011 at 6:19 pm #

    What a lovely idea. Inspired.

    • j January 6, 2011 at 12:10 am #

      Thanks, Carmen. I think I’m on to something.

  26. Michael January 5, 2011 at 7:43 pm #

    Your journey this year has all the earmarkings of something potentially viral and, at the risk of hyperbole, world changing. You constantly amaze. I hope everybody catches this and that no vaccination is ever found.

    I can’t wait for the video. :)

    • j January 6, 2011 at 12:11 am #

      Well, I think it’s safe to say it will be j-world changing… and that is a start.

      “I hope everybody catches this and that no vaccination is ever found.” Me too!

      Think you should help me plan a video event. ;-)

  27. LunaJune January 5, 2011 at 8:42 pm #

    wow… it because of things like this that show me over and over again
    what a wonderful soul you are, and how glad I am to have gotten to know you :~)

    I have such wonderful friends too … and have never doubted their love because they constantly remind me in such wonderful ways…. like a phone call just to say… Ï love you ” … just a little love… to lift you through your day.

    What a wonderful thing to do… and not only will it change you… it will change soo much around you, can’t wait to watch the wonders unfold.

    offering the world your love….instead of keeping it inside and just feeling it letting that wonderful light out and lifting others with it… wow… watching the ripples of this post…feeling the wave… can’t wait to see how far it will go…

    first order of business…
    Judy… I love you… your light touches so many :~) your cape.. flys high

    • j January 6, 2011 at 12:14 am #

      Thank you June! I’m a big mushball right now! I’m very happy you’ve gotten know me too. My life is all the more sparkly for your presence! I love you back, beautiful woman!

  28. Walker January 6, 2011 at 4:17 am #

    Very, very cool. I’m still contemplating the photo a day idea, and now this! It seems to me that in giving this love, you’ll not only brighten a day, but enrich your own life immeasurably.
    I’m going to write a card today!

    • j January 6, 2011 at 11:14 am #

      I think I’m already noticing a difference. Last night, keyed up over something, I couldn’t sleep. I turned on my light and NPR and I doodled a postcard for someone who had doodled something wonderful for me. I let my mind wander over the little green card and realized that doodling is super cool awesome, but doodling TO someone as part of the Love Project was even more fun, more meaningful and enriching.

      So yeah, I think this is going to be personally transformative. And the more people that join me the more fun it will be. I hope you will. (You know, in between all those pictures you’ll be snapping.) ;-)

  29. Estrella Azul January 6, 2011 at 4:22 am #

    This just further proves how amazing you are, Judy! Can’t wait to read more about this over the year :)

    I’ve been doing the “one week of extreme nice” Gretchen Rubin suggested on the Happiness Project and it’s been great, so stretching it out for a year like you just described seems like a wonderful idea!

    Starting right now:
    huge loving hugs to you, Judy! Have a sparkly day ;)

    • j January 6, 2011 at 11:17 am #

      You had me at “amazing.” ;-) Thank you! I missed the “week of extreme nice” call from Gretchen. That’s very cool, and I like the little bite-size goal.

      I’ve broken my year out into bite-size pieces which I’ll talk more about on Monday. Bite-size love makes me laugh.

      Thank you for the loving hugs, sweetie. Right back to you! xo

  30. kaleighsomers January 6, 2011 at 8:40 am #

    Two of my favorite things wrapped up into one. Love & projects? Awesome.

    You’ve inspired me to send random love-note texts to people. It reminds me of that concept of holding open a door or smiling at a stranger and watching that evolve into an endless string of kind gestures. I hope your love project goes viral.

    • j January 6, 2011 at 11:20 am #

      I can’t wait until I do a month of love letters. I’ve thought of so many creative, fun ways to execute that one. Love-note texts are wonderful, that’s what Hayley did for me. I foresee you making many a friend’s day.

      I hope the Love Project goes viral too. It is, after all, exactly what the world needs more of.

  31. juliana January 6, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

    Sounds like you need some of these: http://iloveyoucards.org/

    I bought some a few months ago and they’re so fun to leave around.

    • j January 6, 2011 at 6:01 pm #

      Those are adorable. I think I’m like a walking “I love you” card right now! ;-)

  32. TinfoilMagnolia January 6, 2011 at 4:34 pm #

    This is an awesome idea, as usual. When I read this last night I realized that I had sat at my desk yesterday and send a get well card to someone in a club I belong to, but don’t know very well. I just felt like she might need it. I normally wouldn’t have done it but it felt right. To then read your blog about doing exactly that…..wow. I know you’re in my life for a reason. I look forward to more of your pollyannesque ideas.

    • j January 6, 2011 at 6:06 pm #

      Well, I’ve been at this for 6 days and one thing I’ve noticed is how sometimes it’s as easy as (to borrow Lydia’s term again) acting on a loving impulse. I’ve been surprised at how often I’ll feel a surge of dazzled gratitude or a welling up of “Wow, you’re wonderful” and I realize that I just didn’t act on that before. I’m much more likely to remember to act on the impulse now. I can only assume at the end of the year, I’ll be having to refrain from showering the world with love.

      Or not.

      I love “I know you’re in my life for a reason.” <3

    • Kellie Walker (aka YourLifeInGear) January 6, 2011 at 6:10 pm #

      j,

      Your replay to TinfoilMagnolia is how I have approached my relationship with my husband from the very beginning. I have acted on every impulse to tell him that I love him, to thank him or just to tell him that I like him. It’s amazing how great it has made our relationship.

      Thanks for reminding me that I can do that with everyone!

      Hugs

  33. Liz January 6, 2011 at 8:43 pm #

    Love, love, love! Bumper sticker in my office “If not for love, then why?”
    I’m joining you (kinda already was by your side)

    Love,
    Liz

    p.s. How do you find the time to respond to all your comments? I am having a tough time responding & there are not even that many. You’re amazing.

    • j January 16, 2011 at 1:20 pm #

      Well sometimes, like now, it takes me quite a few days to respond. Sorry!

      I make time to reply to comments because I’m SO grateful to you all for not leaving out here to play all by myself. How could I not respond? If it ever gets to be too much, I hope I let go of other less fun things before I let go of engaging with you. (You know, things like vacuuming, and cleaning the bathrooms, and paying the bills.)

      I guess I better not let go of paying the bills, but you get the idea. <3

  34. Mo January 16, 2011 at 1:07 pm #

    sooooo cool. way to go I love it. And hey you have spontaneously connected with me. Am off to spend the rest of january doing some love spreading! I read a post yesterday that felt so cynical. its so gorgeous to see this today.

    • j January 16, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

      Awww! Thank you for taking the time to make my day. Big smile!

  35. Rita January 17, 2011 at 10:16 am #

    I would be honoured if you would consider me your “spontaneous connection” for the today. Wow! A friend of mine just flipped me your post. 2011: The Year of living Fearlessly (in life and love), that’s my year and I am willing to bet that you and I have far more in common than just that! I will be back. xx

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