Thursday, May 30, 2013

Esse Quam Videri: To Be Rather Than To Seem

I'm acutely aware that this is the internet, and it's accessible by anyone. That's why I don't talk in any specific sense about work or personal relationships--at least beyond celebrating what I'm thankful for. For over two years, I've enjoyed being able to share things in this format, but somewhere along the line of oh, near strangers and my family and my childhood friends and my coworkers and my parents commenting about posts or saying they've enjoyed the blog, I've developed a bit of, I don't know... stage fright? No. I wouldn't call it that. I'd just call it self-awareness.

Suddenly the microphone was on and I wasn't sure I had anything to say. So I told a few jokes and hoped no one would notice the wrinkles on my shirt. (The wrinkles are a metaphor for my imperfections and insecurities, in case that wasn't clear.) Once I started thinking more about how my posts seemed, the joy disappeared. I still pushed myself to post on more personal topics, but I no longer felt relieved after I pushed "publish". I sort of felt sick to my stomach.

It's been a little like that in real life, too. I'm proud of how much I've pushed myself to pursue new friendships and, you know, start a brand new job in a brand new city, but along the way I realized I was holding back in my interactions with people. I was trying to understand who I was by understanding what I was showing people about myself. The result was undeniably limiting. I wasn't showing all my parts and by doing so I wasn't showing my best parts. I wasn't showing my worst parts and therefore I wasn't really connecting.

Similarly, I have been trying to understand who I am by understanding what I share on the blog. You guys seem to love the funny, light stuff, but what about the darker, heavier stuff? How do I represent all the sides of me? Because isn't that the point? How do I know I'm really representing my true self at all? What is self? What I see or what you see? Does it matter? do I become comfortable sharing all of this with anyone who could come across my site? Talk about self-acceptance and self-confidence. Gulp.

This is all very existential, I realize, but the point I am trying to make is that the more I tried to see myself through other people's eyes, the more stifled I felt, and the more my capacity to connect and share and create and just be me was limited.

Being in Chicago and having the opportunity to start fresh has been eye-opening in this regard, and I'm absolutely positive that it's the reason I even started thinking about what I was publishing. (Trying to accurately and attractively describe myself in an online dating profile didn't really help the situation.)

"You can be anyone you want to be!" said a well-meaning friend upon the announcement of my move. After a brief period of extreme hesitation, I'm relieved to report that given the chance to be anyone, I've chosen to be myself. It just took me a bit to realize it was okay to be my whole self.

Ironically, what resolved this for me was asking myself not who I am, but what kind of person I wanted to strive to be. Someone who lives out loud. Someone who doesn't try to hide the struggles--who, maybe one day, can embrace them. Someone authentic and genuine and bold.

Oh. Uh. So, what was I waiting for? Permission?

So, I've given myself permission to be funny and deep, and confident if often a little bit anxious, and practical and carefree, depending on the day. Permission to be a hybrid hippie-yuppie, an adult-child, a sociable recluse. Permission to be a little giddy and a lot terrified to try out online dating. Permission to be sentimental and grounded with dreams and a mile-long To-Do-Go-See-and-Accomplish list. Permission to try something new. Permission to succeed and permission to fail. Permission to not settle. Permission to seek like-minded people going through the same things I am. Permission to celebrate all of the above and recount the many stumbling blocks and lessons along the way.

Permission to spend all the time in the world thinking about how to be a better, happier me. Permission to over-analyze just about anything except what people think about me. Permission to be whole-heartedly myself on the way to becoming the person I want to be.

And, finally, permission to ramble on about the elusive sweet spot between the roots and the wings, regardless of if the metaphor strikes anyone as much as it resonates with me.

Friday, May 24, 2013

An Ocean

On my last trip home, I made a special diversion between dates with my people to visit my Lake. For 20 minutes, I just sat and listened and watched. I miss my friends and family, and I'm lucky to have Lake Michigan in Chicago, but I have to say that I really, really miss Lake Superior.

Pretty much the second I got my driver's license, the Lake became a magnet to me, a place that I go when I need to set the world straight, the great equalizer of my soul. I was surprised to realize that it had been nearly 9 months since I sat at the shoreline and lost myself in my thoughts and the waves.

One of the hallmarks of my late twenties has been working on self-acceptance--working to understand which parts of myself I should continue to work on, and which parts are just me. I have come to accept--and come to believe that the people whom I surround myself with should accept--that I am a person who strives to find meaning in things. Sometimes I think that means I actively struggle more than others, what some would deem needless struggle, and I have spent a fair time brainstorming ways to make this go away.

"You think too much." "Don't overanalyze this!" "Why is this such a big deal?" "Don't worry about it!" I've heard this from all angles throughout my entire life. It's taken me 29 years to appreciate this about myself: I have a hard time operating like everything is black and white, because I see each and every shade of gray. It is in my nature to consider each of the shades, and that makes it really hard to tune them out. That's just who I am, and I'll struggle for it, but I'll also remain tuned into the subtleties and the possibilities of the world.

Carl Jung said that lonliness doesn't result from being alone, but from being unable communicate the things that seem important. I feel this sense of lonliness until I don't, until I am finally able to communicate what I have been ruminating about all along. That brand of lonliness feels like an entire ocean (or the largest freshwater lake in the world), and it's really easy to get lost in the ocean. But, as suddenly as its onset, the relief comes--the ability to communicate the feelings comes--like a wave, not there until it is, crashing toward the shore with a sometimes alarming intensity. 

I guess what I want to say is that I'm thankful for Lake Superior, who is always waiting to listen to and swallow up my fears. And I'm thankful, too, for the people who make their very best effort to love me in the same way, the people who accept all of the above when they oftentimes deserve more, many of whom reside in or hail from the little lakeside town I call home.

"Give up to grace.
The ocean takes care of each wave
'til it gets to shore.
You need more help than you know."

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Quoteworthy: To Love and Be Loved

A few weeks ago, during a visit to Michigan, my cousin's wife, Amy, and I made good on a plan my aunt had cooked up before she passed away. Our Auntie Vicki bravely fought breast cancer and endured both radiation and chemo, all the while never losing the sparkle in her eye and never ceasing to care for those around her with relentless and bounding love. She'd declared, with a classic mischievous glow on her face, that we'd get tattoos when she finished treatment. She wanted the word "hope" on her foot--a nod to breast cancer research.

She finished treatment alright, beat the cancer and rocked her post-Chemo hairdo...but died suddenly of other causes. It was a blow to our family that we are all still processing, still healing from. Losing two family members so suddenly is terrible enough; losing the two family members that most actively loved our family fiercely and generously was another.

Selfishly, not long after I got to Chicago, I realized that I felt like I lost two of my biggest cheerleaders right before I took what might be considered the biggest leap of my life. I felt a little lost and a little weaker for the wear.
It took me a few weeks to realize that nearly 29 years of love like that is a really lucky thing. When I looked at it like that, I felt buoyed and brave.
Then I got a Facebook message from Amy: "Tattoos when you're home?" It was time to make good.
Amy sweetly got the tattoo my aunt wanted, on her foot, with a beautiful pink ribbon worked into the script of the word 'hope'.
I chose a small heart on my wrist, to remind myself that love never really goes away. It's a reminder that I am always armed (punny!) with love, no matter where I am or what I am doing. It might also be a little reminder to myself that there is love of the romantic variety out there, and I should find it, and I should risk it, and invite it in, and let it in, and nuture it, and honor the sheer miracle that it even exists.
Is anyone surprised that even my tattoo has roots and wings?

Thanks, Amy, for your friendship and for making this happen. Especially for calling the tattoo shop, allowing me to go first, and not thinking (or at least saying) I was crazy for being incredibly anxious about something that didn't really hurt and took two minutes. You impressed the hell out of me because yours was a lot bigger! :)

"To love and be loved--this on earth is the highest bliss." --Unknown

"My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to. Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small. You never need to carry more than you can hold. And while you're out there getting where you're getting to, I hope you know somebody loves you. And wants the same things, too." --Rascal Flatts

"What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family."
--Mother Teresa

“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.”  --Frederick Buechner

"Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength; Loving someone deeply gives you courage." --Lao Tzo

"Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself that you tasted as many as you could." --Louise Erdrich

Love (n): unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another; deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and solicitude toward a person

Surround (n): to be all around; to encircle; to be a member of an entourage

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Epiphanies, Volume I

  • No one looks cool at the top of an escalator.

  • Escalators in and of themselves are kind of crazy to think about. (Side note: There is only one escalator in the entire U.P. I take four on my way to work each day.)

  • I chose a career that is deadline-centric. I also have raging anxiety about being late to anything. What the hell was I thinking?

  • Sometimes being single is incredibly daunting. Like, for instance, when you head to the hardware store to seek out items that will ensure that a rat will not enter your apartment through the spot that it has been furiously chewing at under your cupboards for the past three nights, and that, if it does chew through, it will die without the mechanism of its death killing your beloved dog. Like, that, for instance. But a peptalk from Dad and a conversation with a teenage Menards clerk later, you'll feel really, really empowered. Especially after you spray the hell out of the spot with foam insulation and find a no-see, no-touch, no-kill-the-dog rat trap. Take that, Melvin. (That's me and Henley's nickname for the rat.)

  • One peptalk from Dad, and I could probably handle anything.

  • No matter how stressful life gets, it always give you reasons to smile. I've been playing a game on my way to work called 20 Reasons to Smile, where, you probably guessed it, I actively find things that make me happy. On my way to work today, I saw a woman wearing duck slippers, a boy flirting with a girl twice his age, and a fifty-something guy with Justin Beiber blaring from his earbuds. Life is really, really funny.

  • Saying it > Saying it with a shaky voice > Saying it in tears > Not saying it

  • Sometimes pasta with spaghetti sauce is the perfect dinner five nights in a row. (Trader Joes, maker of the best brown rice pasta I've ever tasted, is the best store ever on earth. Ever.)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Spring is here.

It's made the city come alive. All of a sudden, the trees have impossibly beautiful blooms, the sidewalks are covered in chalk drawings, and people are everywhere. 

Spring speaks to me.

I'm a spring baby, I love the mild but sunny weather, I'm a sucker for the prospect of something new.

I've arrived at a spring in my life, too. After a long period of turning inward and enduring the "cold", the sun is shining and everything looks so bright.

Sometimes spring takes a really long time. But it is always, always worth the wait.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Things I Suck At, Part 2

While my first Things I Suck At post was born of a crappy week, this one is a result of moving to a new city and overanalyzing myself to a cellular level.

Only kidding, sort of. These are things I've observed about myself, but have somewhat managed to brush off with a laugh. I'm evolving, people.

  • I can't for the life of me master the hummus-to-vehicle ratio so that all my bites get equal hummus love. Either I'm left trying to jam 2oz of hummus onto my last two rice crackers, or I'm eating 7 naked baby carrots.  I prefer my baby carrots modestly clothed in a savory blend of tahini and chick pea puree.

  • Still can't manage to make a phone call while people are listening, at least not without a heart rate of 150. I've managed to become quasi-comfortable using my professional voice for work-related calls, but I still have to excuse myself to make personal calls. Apartment hunting in a cubicle environment next month ought to lose me at least 5 pounds with the amount of times I'll be shuffling out into the hall.

  • I really suck at taking compliments without turning into a giggling fool. "Thanks, he he he he." Shut UP, girl. Shut up. "Thanks." And if you are feeling in the affirming mood, "That's nice of you to say." Period. You are not five.

  • It really sucks to have to switch bank accounts, but after three months, I still can't remember which bills I've put on auto pay and which ones I left to manually pay. Trust me, it only takes one time double-paying your student loan to make you stand up and pay attention...and make a freaking spreadsheet. (I did this once with my mortgage, too. Ouchity ouch ouch.) I hope to have this part of being an adult down by, like, age 36. I will kick you in the shins if you remind me that that's in 7 years. Mind your own business.

  • Sometimes I focus so much on remembering to ask people "getting-to-know-you" questions, that I forget to listen to their answers. I need to Google tricks to remembering names/details. Though, I think the trick is DON'T BE SO SELF-CONSCIOUS, no one is thinking about your hair/last answer/facial expressions, GET OUT OF YOUR OWN HEAD. I think.

  • Painting my nails. Oh my god. I need to find my old copies of YM and reteach myself. If they offered Girl 101 courses, I'd totally enroll. What was I doing during my formative years? I mean, besides cutting out pictures of JTT and Andrew Keegan while watching Camp Nowhere on repeat?
Except both kind of look like the right.
Topcoat, schmopcoat.