Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Face Value: What's in the Cards?

Do you ever have a day where you feel totally insecure? But not, you know, about yourself? About the world? And your place in it?

I had that feeling yesterday and couldn't shake it. For the record, the one person I posed the above questions to didn't make me feel like a crazy face, so you're officially the best, Cody Blue. Thanks for letting my feelings pass like a cloud so they didn't become a rainstorm. Because those are a super fun and no one makes an umbrella strong enough.

Ahem. Anyways, I was seeking comfort, and so I pulled in the troops. A super long shower, tea, honey, freshly washed bedding, Henley Boo, a notebook, and my tarot cards.

Now before you brush this off as super hippie dippie, I have to explain that in college, my friends and I would read tarot cards and use them as a jumping off point to discuss the happenings in our lives. Could that card mean we are overreacting? (Probably.) Could this spread mean that we should be open to new love? (Totally, we totally should.) We never took them verbatim or changed our behaviors because of how the cards fell, but we did use them to open our minds a little and start new conversations.

Every once and a while, a card would come along that hinted at something you'd long hoped for but maybe didn't believe was possible. That was my favorite, when one of my friends or I would embrace hope again, just because we found it in a stack of cards.

Thus, their capacity for bringing me comfort.

I know you can find meaning in all of them no matter where they lie--kind of like a horoscope always applies to your life, this minute, omg. But as someone who seeks out meaning in my everyday--because for me, meaning precedes articulation, precedes vulnerability--sometimes it feels really good to know where to look, and who to call, when you need it but haven't found it yet.

Friday, April 18, 2014

"More Lilacs and Love Letters"

I recently stumbled upon a blog called "My Beautiful Words", which...just...I love. Homegirl quotes Rumi like twice a week. This was one of her recent posts:

Can you imagine a world with more lilacs and love letters? To paraphrase Ariel, I want to be part of that world. (Not this blog's first Disney link, people, and it won't be the last.)

I can't do much about lilacs--that's up to Mother Nature, and well, she's on the couch right now with a heating pad and a bottle of Midol. So I'm going to do what I can do, which is to put more love letters out into the world.

I'm not sure how that will take shape--maybe a mix of handwritten snail mail and some public profession here on the blog? But for now I'd like to recognize, ala the sentiment behind my tattoo, that there already is a lot of love in the world, and sometimes all you need to do is recognize it, and, in some small way, it becomes yours.

So, here, my loves, is a link to a stunning essay. Follow the links at the end, trust me. Go all the way down that rabbit hole, Alice.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

On Turning Thirty

So, there was a point in time when I was pretty sure I'd spend my 30th birthday in a pile on my bed, clutching Henley's fur with one hand, and a bag of Doritos with the other. I actually envisioned, long ago, my phone ringing, and then going to voicemail, and then ringing, and then going to voicemail throughout the day. I thought I'd push everyone away and just be...sad.

I know that's dramatic. But the feeling of all-around uncertainty that comes with being single and on the verge of thirty is gripping, people. It can overwhelm a girl for a hot second. So #judgywudgywasabear. That's just how I was feelin'.

So, I started to prepare. On my 27th birthday, because that is how I roll. It was going to take some serious strategy to survive this thing unscathed.

Obviously, what this list was really about was #30: learning to embrace...just about everything. It became less about being single (because who knew I still would be three years later? And, because? It turns out, its seventeen kinds of awesome) and more about getting right with my attitude about life, in general. It became about losing the idea that I had to hit certain milestones by a certain time. It became about losing the list--and getting out there and living.

Let me give away the ending: I am stronger, happier, healthier, saner, wiser, more connected and more in love with life on this day than I have ever been. No Doritos in sight. I whole-heartedly embrace being single because it means I still get to fall in love. That is still ahead of me. That is so beautiful.

I embrace my untetheredness in general because it means I still get to choose. I embrace thirty because holy shit, the possibilities in general. I'm employed, experienced, valued, and contributing to a good cause. I'm surrounded and safe and loved. I'm healthy, active and able. And I can go anywhere from here.

It took a long time... (cough) three get here mentally. Things aren't perfect. Change is only a matter of time. I still have goals that I'm gunning down. Meltdowns abound. I'm still saving the right side of my bed for someone other than Henley.

But I've worked relentlessly to feel the way I do today: that everything is as it should be this moment, and that that is enough. So that's what I celebrated on Sunday, the okay-ness, the enough-ness, the sufficiency that I have found. It was hard fought, but my cup is filled to the brim.

I've chronicled enough of it here on this blog, so I'll summarize for once in my life: The biggest lesson I've learned is that, girl, you gotta get after it. Get after happiness. Get after the job. Get after the skills. Get after health. Get after fitness. Get after love. Get after life. No one is going to do it for you. And very few people will give you permission, so don't wait for that, either.

So, I'm going to spend the next thirty and beyond getting after it, whatever the it of the moment is. That will never change. But I've also learned that to be happy in the moment is a constant work in progress. I'm down with that. I think I'm finally getting the hang of this roots and wings thing.

P.S. I did actually free myself of any rush to complete my list, but for those interested in how it shook out, click here.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Thirty-before-30: The Final Tally

Here's how I fared... 80%. Solid B effort.

(This varies from my original list a bit, but I had to pinch hit with some stand-in goals for things that just weren't possible, given geography, etc.)

1. Work for someone with vision. (If this turns out to be myself, then so be it.) Yup.
2. Re-learn French. // Je regret non. Maybe some day...
3. Get microdermabrasion.
4. Take guitar lessons // Still itching to do this.
5. Learn to sew. // This too.
6. Buy a great sofa.
7. Hang old family photos and create a space for new memories in my stairwell. // Donzo.
8. Teach at the college level. // I presented at two conferences, so I'm calling this one good.
9. Pay off my debt to my parents (and therefore become debt-free, other than mortgage and student loans). // Mmm nope, but I'm pretty close to ditching that mortgage...
10. Get a tattoo. // <3
11. Teach Henley a new trick.
// Shake, baby, shake.
12. Watch the sun rise and set consecutively with someone special. // Ahem, somebodies.
13. Plant something in my yard.

14. "Study" photography, get a half-decent camera and learn Photoshop.
15. Go on a backpacking trip. //
I feel many of these are in my future and will be worth the wait...
16. Join a rowing club.
// Done.
17. Donate my hair to Locks of Love // Yep.
18. Sell a piece of refinished furniture // It wasn't how I imagined the scenario to be, but I did sell the pink desk and green chair to a friend!
19. Thank my English Teachers. // Check out all 9 lessons learned.
20. Take a graphic design class.
21. Go vegan for 4 months. Bonus points for completely organic.
// I permanently cleaned up my diet.
22. Run a 5k and not die. // I ran several and am alive to tell the tale.
23. Plan an awesome 30th birthday celebration trip. // You know. Things work out in a funny, funny way. I'm counting my trip home to close on my house next month as a pretty sweet way to celebrate. It's not Hawaii, but it will do for now.
24. Visit my 6th country outside the U.S. // Anyone up for a Canadian road trip? ;)
25. Have 50 lunch dates. That's one every 21 or so days //
This was no doubt the easiest goal to meet, and it was also the most enjoyable. Thanks everyone for the friendship and mid-day distraction.
26. Shoot a gun. // And no one died!
27. Twenty yoga classes in thirty days // My arms are killing me, people, but my heart is so happy.
28. Put off dying my hair. Embrace the grey before I start to cover it.
29. Go to the movies alone. // This was so liberating!
30. Be completely at peace with turning 30, well before it actually happens. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Marichi's Pose

"Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know." --Pema Chodron

This notion has been blowing my mind since December.

Life has presented a difficult situation lately--complex, without an obvious solution. Murky. Something that required a finesse I felt I didn't have, and a level of patience I feel I may never obtain. I was feeling inadequate, and so in light of my new motto of sufficiency, I dove in and starting looking for the lessons. Alright, Pema, what could these situations be trying to illuminate? What could I learn if I stopped resisting and started listening?

I found two trends: Flexibility, as in I needed to have more of it, and patience, as in...I needed to have more of it. Hmph, that sounded a lot like deficiency to me. No bueno.

So, I listened harder. I wouldn't say I shut down so much; it wasn't even really a child's pose.  I couldn't find reprieve; I was right in the middle of the action. I was being twisted and stretched farther than I'd like. But I just observed. (This isn't exactly true. I observed on the surface. I bitched and moaned and stewed like nobody's business behind the scenes.) I just...didn't act. Moreover, I didn't react.

And the situation started to resolve itself, as situations tend to do when left to themselves. The complexity--the pinch--started to work for me instead of against me. I noticed something else. Many of my initial concerns were correct. My gut told me what I needed to know from the beginning.    

Flexibility, patience, sure, I need to grow in those areas.

But trust in oneself...I've got this one covered. I just need to remember it when I'm in the middle of a chaos, when I'm feeling the squeeze.

And, of course, where else do these themes appear but yoga. Through flexibility, gaining trust in oneself. And through patience, realizing what you needed was there all along. Sufficiency.

"[Marichi's Pose or seated twist] is often referred to as the Sage Pose, one who cultivates wisdom from both age and experience... Working with any twisting pose...helps you cultivate the patience to squeeze out toxins and release negative thoughts as you grow in awareness and sensible wisdom." -

There are some days, in yoga and in life, that I don't feel any more flexible or patient than I was two weeks ago, six months ago, a year ago. But there are times, sweet fleeting times, where I gaze over my shoulder amidst chaos, and I'm able to tune out the pinch, and I realize just how far I've come.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

30 Things I've Learned in 30 Years

When I got home each afternoon in elementary school, my dad would ask me what I learned that day. At first, I'd say, "Nothing..." but he always had a rebuttal that, paired with his trademark grin, was oddly threatening: 
"Well then I guess you're not getting ANY smarter..." 
"I'm going to have to call those teachers of yours."
"I 'spose there's no need to go back tomorrow!" 
I loved the social aspect of school so that last one kind of terrified me. I started to pay attention each day to what we were learning, so that I'd have something to report:
"We learned how to write a cursive Z. It's pretty cool, actually."
"We learned that kids in England call Santa 'Father Christmas'." 
"Did you know that penguins are birds? They're not mammals."
I think I'd be ignoring a large part of my psyche if I said that this is the sole reason I'm so aware of/obsessed with the lessons I'm learning, but I also like to think it's part of it.

Here are 30 things I've learned in my 30 years on Earth. I'm smarter, sure, but I'm definitely going back for more tomorrow.

1. You're not going to enjoy it all. Some of it will suck the living soul right out of you and some of the time it will feel like everything you want is just out of your reach. The best coping mechanism is a good healthy dose of perspective. Add vodka as necessary.

2. Don't take the wind personally. There's the sucky thing, and then there's the way you feel about the sucky thing. You have the power to not make it any worse than it is.

3. Shining your own light is not being boastful. Using your talents honors the teachers and cheerleaders who have helped you along your way.

4. There are two ways to shine.  The verb 'shine' actually has two meanings: to give light and to reflect light. To be bright or to reflect someone's brightness back at them. Either way, there's more light in the world when you shine.

5. Pick good people. People who make your heart light up for reasons that you can't put your finger on. People who are kindred spirits after one conversation, or people who have enriched your life for over 20 years. Be choosy, and then be liberal with your love.

6. The first rule of work happy hour is Do Not Talk About What Happened At Work Happy Hour.

7. People that truly love you will let you change. In fact, it's only when you truly love yourself that you'll let yourself change.

8. Change can be excruciating, but it is so damn necessary.

9. Balance is worth seeking. Happiness, in general, is worth relentless pursuit.

10. As Joseph Campbell said, "Follow your bliss, and don't be afraid, and doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be." There are so many doors out there.

11. Pick up the phone when it's hardest to pick up the phone. You won't regret it. Say what you need to say.

12. Anxiety: The only way out is through. Breathe, girlfriend. Hug your pup.

13. Friendships ebb and flow. And it's nothing to worry about. What's that saying? "True friends know that they can grow separately without growing apart."

14. Your flaws are where your connections to others begin.

15. Tears are a necessary part of life, the good and the bad. Tears are like ginger at a sushi restaurant...they cleanse your emotional palate.

16. You are in charge of your reputation. Conversely, if you're being genuine and authentic, who cares what your Facebook privacy settings are?

17. Hurt begets more hurt. Hurt people hurt people. Every bad behavior comes from an unmet need. (I spent juuust long enough with social workers to make up my mind that I could never do half the work they do.) When you're hurt, choose love, or quiet, or action. Don't choose more hurt. And it is absolutely a choice.

18. Esse quam videri. North Carolina's state motto means "to be, rather than to seem." Basically, be less concerned by how your decisions seem, and more concerned with who they help you be.

19. You know what is best for your body. Just because someone has 'MD' after their name does not mean they know what is best for your body. You do. 

20. Fiber, man. Fiber is key. 

21. Fight for optimum health. Even if you have to yell at or fire your doctor(s). Even if you have to book an appointment with a third physical therapist or track down the best specialist in the USA. Hold out hope and fight like bloody hell. 

22. People think about you a heck of a lot less often than you think they do. This is so liberating.

23. Sex and love are not the same thing. Lemme repeat that: Sex and love are not the same thing.

24. "Anything other than yes is no." Best relationship advice I ever got, straight outta the mouth of our favorite brooding crooner, John Mayer. "Anything other than stay is go."

25. It's being taken care of. Per Dave Matthews:
Tell me everything will be okay / if I just keep believing in something 
Tell me everything is all taken care of / by those qualified to take care of it all
And per the Desiderata:
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace...
We all know my feelings about the saying 'everything happens for a reason'; it makes me want to scream and demand that the person who says it please give me a good reason for child abuse, for hunger, for the mistreatment of animals, for cancer. But reminding myself that there are people out there taking care of other people, doing good, using their experience for the better is both comforting and inspirational. Makes me want to be one of those people who is qualified to take care of something. 

26. Use your telfon. I had a really hard time when I started my job as a grant writer for a social service agency. There are so many causes! So many people in need! Where to start?! It wears on you after a while. It brings you down, makes your personal boundaries start to shift. A colleague of mine gave me some great advice. As a person who worked one-on-one with clients in dire circumstances on a daily basis, she regularly envisioned herself in a bubble. Other people's problems cannot penetrate her bubble. She can be empathetic, help them get the help they need and wish them well, but it could never penetrate her bubble, her well-being. The bubble thing didn't work for me, but it instantly clicked: Teflon. I'm covered in Teflon and I can empathize with you, but your worries slide right off of me. This has helped me immensely in creating boundaries in my personal and professional lives. 

27. All things come out in the wash. And sometimes you lose a sock or two. Very sensible advice given to me by a complete stranger on a train in NYC. I think she was probably Buddhist. Basically, don't focus too much on what's going wrong or right right now. It'll all work out, and most times the ends are worth the means, even if you make a little sacrifice along the way.

28. The moment you start living your life on your terms is the moment you become an adult. No other milestone matters quite like that one. 

29. The detours are where the living happens. The more detours, the richer the life. And the more stories you'll have to tell your nursing home homies.

30. You are at the center of your life. Your body, your mind. You're the only you you've got. Fill your own cup and be mindful of how you spend and gain your energy. When you keep this in your thoughts, and your actions follow suit, life becomes really beautiful.