Changes

The beginning of my second year teaching in Lesotho as a Peace Corps volunteer didn’t start off well. Using my one year of experience and a renewed sense of motivation after the summer break, I had hoped to launch into the school year with great fervor and determination. The projects that couldn’t get off the ground the year before would be success stories. I would empower the struggling students. I would find grace and capability in my position.

But, the students carried a host of grievances, many of them justified. The school was losing money and students daily and there was an accumulating fear that the students would strike or the school would close.

Often, I went into class thinking we were going to discuss verb-subject agreement only to spend the entire hour calming students about the fact that it was four weeks into the year and they did not yet have a math and science teacher.

By that point in my two-year service, after a great deal of heartache, I had learned to let things be. I had finally released the idea that I was in control or that I should avoid disappointment and failure. I knew there was something greater than me and my little Peace Corps mission at work, and so I gave into it. I let events and situations play out, participating from the sides and not as a leading or objective voice.

I thought of those days this afternoon as I walked through the tree-lined streets of my quiet neighborhood. After a day and half of computer issues, I was finally on track to getting my compute and printer set up to perform the daily tasks of my job when my internet cut out for 45 minutes. Practically in tears, I chose to step outside and let the gentle hot wind calm my nerves.

There have been several changes in my life in the last three months. Not necessarily bad change, but also not unnoticeable change.

The best of the changes is that Ethan and I moved in together. While it’s a slight adjustment to live with another person again (I lived alone last year after having a roommate my first year in Chicago), it’s been great. Making this two-bedroom apartment our home has brought us closer and he makes me giggle more than anyone else. Recently, he yelled “Heather!” from the bathroom and then came out with a bowl and said, “I guess living with Heather means finding bowls of popcorn in random places.”

In that, though, we are learning about each other in our more plainest and purest forms, which comes with some minor turbulence at times.

The biggest of these adjustments is that my new home has also become my new office. I am still employed and with the same employer, but because of expired leases and the timeline of preparing a new place, our entire office is working from temporary spaces. I opted to work from home for the five months rather than a rented space downtown (part of the reason Ethan and I opted for a two-bedroom instead of a cheaper one-bedroom unit). At first, I did not think working from home would suit me, given that I am quite chatty and maintain friendly relationships with my co-workers. I softened to the idea when I started to think about the commute time I would gain back in my day, not having to travel from far north to the Loop.

We are not an entire week into it and the rough waters feel quite stormy (back to the aforementioned tech issues). And I can tell sitting at my desk and trying to interpret what others mean through instant messages and emails is not good for my social paranoia. What did he really mean in that email?

As soon as Ethan walks in the door, I speak at him for 10 minutes straight. It sort of reminds me of what mothers of small children talk about when they say they miss adult interaction.

There’ve been other changes as well, personally and professionally. Another big one is not being able to run and the undoing of my summer plans to marathon train. Some of my social circles have also shifted, mostly due life progressing, but it’s still never an easy adjustment for me to accept.

With so much change, I put a great deal of pressure on myself to deliver, to be the gold standard. With change often comes room for error, but not for me. I walk on thinner eggshells in hopes of not disappointing others.

But, I feel like I am failing, and greatly. At the end of the day, some days, I am so exhausted trying to please others that I’ve forgotten how to take care of myself, and frankly I don’t have the motivation to do so. I want to be everything and all things to everyone around me and it really upsets me when I can’t. I’ve always put such pressures on myself, but in the times of great change those expectations feel like bricks on the throat.

I do not know how to be. I have forgotten since those long lost days in rural Lesotho. Instead, I scatter around to fix and make better, and when I cannot, I blame, punish, and make excuses.

How do I return to a state of being instead of doing? Is that even possible for me again? I guess I do not know, but I know that I need to try or at least give myself some kind of relief. My poor nails can’t take my anxious state anymore.

For now, I take walks instead of cry. I let the sun soak up the buzzing worry. And, I think back to a time when I was strong and present. If I could be that then, I could can be it now.

A dream life

In Lesotho, on a curved section of the round hut in which I lived for two years, I cultivated a collage of photos torn from magazines my mother sent me. A woman in a white tank top with a blue print skirt and chunky brown jewelry. A black and white image of a young girl sitting on the edge of a dock. A pristine white kitchen with plants and white china. Ann Patchett in perched on ladder in the Nashville bookstore that she owns. A friend of friend visiting from the U.S. described it as a touchable version of Pinterest.

There was a theme to the wall, and occasionally I found photos that I liked but didn’t necessarily fit the theme, like a portrait of Adele or a motivational running saying. I kept those, too, but they were taped to a different piece of the hut. The images in my collage were quite specific, a representation of the life I wanted.

On quiet mornings, I would stare at that collage while I boiled hot water and then, sitting on the stoop outside my hut, staring off into the big blue sky as herd boys and their sheep drifted past me, I envisioned all the little pieces of that dream life. Organic grocery stores. Coffee shops. Yoga classes. Sunrises on the beach. Nights under city lights. Dinner parties with friends.

At the epicenter of this fantasy was my living space, filled with plants, books, candles, music, and warmth. In a city but with touches of nature. My utopia was quite simple, but many nights the thought of it put me to sleep, next to the mooing sheep and Basotho women.

Truthfully, the dream wasn’t developed in Lesotho out of cravings for American comforts, rather its one that I’ve harbored for years. A young woman in an urban setting, living happily because the entire world was at her finger tips. Sitting in high school math class and wondering, why of all the places I could grow up, it had to be Pierre, South Dakota, I began to piece together the possibilities. In college, the dream was more fluid but cemented itself into me the closer I grew to graduation. It stole my attention in the big and small moments of my day, and I often saw glimpses of it in Brookings alleyways and Sioux Falls coffee shops.

I chased this dream, or rather I lived life with this image of what I wanted always in the back of my mind. I made a series of choices that maybe didn’t lead me immediately to my destination, but ones that I thought had the power to at some point.

It’s Sunday morning. I am sipping coffee, and instead of the bells and bleats of sheep, I hear a city beginning its day after the night rain. Before this moment, I did yoga while my love sleeps, waiting for him to wake up so we can make pancakes next to soft music. As of yesterday, our apartment is officially settled into and the freshly hung photos are comforting.

This is it. That life I had pined over for many restless nights and dull days. It’s arrived and is my actual life.

Now of course, it’s neither perfect nor conclusive, and my life isn’t magically 1000 percent better now that I am living out some of those fantasy images, but that dream did mostly come true. I have a little city apartment, my favorite coffee shop is two blocks away, and my nights are full taking advantage of what this city has to offer.

There is more to life than where you live and the little things that fill up your days, but I’ve set the framework for where I want to be. I had a vision and I set out to make it come true, or as true as I could, and here I am. My life is far from a dream and sometimes I feel like I am churning my wheels in mud on the way to a place I do not know, but at times I need to step back and realize how great it all is, how far I’ve come on the path I set for myself.

I write about this as a reminder to myself. A reminder that dreams take time and maybe you take a few missteps (or a couple of plane rides to Africa) but they can manifest in such glorious ways. A reminder that I am capable of what I want, even if it feels far off and not in accordance with my timeline. A reminder that at once I didn’t think I could have this dream life but now I do.

There are other things I want out of life, too. Many of them may never happen, but maybe some will. And they’ll come in expected ways and unplanned paths, but that will be the exciting part.

 

I can’t run

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I can’t run.

I don’t mean that in that sense that my legs have stopped working and I physically can no longer do it or in a way that indicates that it’s more laziness than ability. Rather, I can’t run because a medical professional has highly suggested that I don’t.

For most people, a doctor’s note to not run is like being congratulated for doing nothing. It’s the perfect excuse for not going to the party that you had no intention of attending. For me, though, not running makes me want to cause physical harm to someone else. The other day, while at the physical therapist, another patient mentioned that she had a long 10-miler planned for the weekend and I wanted to pull her purple Nike sweater over her head, like I was the bully in a 90s family sitcom. Of course I didn’t but I most definitely delighted in the thought of doing it.

The pain began when I was training for the Chicago Marathon last summer. I noticed an achy-ness in my left knee that wasn’t sharp but unpleasant. I took some time off, rubbed out my IT band, iced it, and lubed it up with IcyHot. The pain eased, returning occasionally for a few days, but it was mostly bearable and I ran the marathon without any knee pain (oh, but there were lots of other pains).

Going into this year, my plan was to spend the winter months lifting and doing speed workouts on the treadmill to build my base. Then, come the warmer temperatures and soft songs of birds of the spring, I would launch into training for the Twin Cities Marathon in October. I feel like I sort of phoned in my workouts for Chicago, but I was determined to reverse that in this cycle. I would focus on being stronger and faster, adding more miles, speed work, and cross training. I would train so that I would have the strength in mile 22 that I didn’t have during the Chicago Marathon.

I chose Twin Cities for some very specific reasons. While I loved running Chicago, I wanted to try a different race in a different city, plus my brother recently bought a house in St. Paul. I also liked that it was a day before my 32nd birthday, meaning I would have run two marathons at 31.

The biggest reason, though, was redemption. In 2009, I signed up to run the Twin Cities but life happened – I started The Post and moved to Sioux Falls – and I developed a knee injury. To others, I blamed the injury but really I was angry at myself for not taking it seriously. Seven years later, I planned to match my ultra marathon training and go into that race in great shape in an effort to win back some of my dignity.

After taking a few months off, I started just as intended. I lifted two to three days a week and started running with my coworkers during lunch. My excitement for training and running towards a goal built and I often fanaticized about long runs along Chicago Lake Shore Path on early summer mornings. Training, to me, is quite fun. It involves lots of schedules, numbers, mini goals. I like the drive to overcome some obstacle, whether it be a time or distance, and the elation of knowing that I could have done anything that morning but instead I ran. I was so eager to have all that again this summer.

Then, one day, I felt the knee pain again. I didn’t give it much validity and ran through it. It started to be more consistent, so I took some time off. I iced. I took the foam roller to the IT Band. I did all the things that I had done previously, but the pain didn’t go away.

At first, I was in denial about what this meant and that there was a chance it could be something bigger. I pretended that I could fix it myself, but the pain didn’t let up. Finally, I set up an appointment with my primary physician, who took an x-ray and referred me to a sport’s medicine doctor. Bu

Part of me wanted it to be a tear, a clear answer to this ailment; I also knew my body and my history with this injury. I knew that it wasn’t the case. It was something harder to define, in the gray.

The sport’s physician said that I stumped him, which is far from comforting. “If there was a tear,” he said, “there is no way that you would have been able to run that marathon.” He gave me two options: get an MRI to make sure there is nothing wrong or go to physical therapy. We both agreed that it was likely something mechanical and that I should see a physical therapist.

At the very first appointment with my physical therapist she said agreed that it is a mechanical issue. “You are weak,” she said. “Your hips are weak.” So, I see her to get less weak. I do a series of exercises that make me feel both like an elementary student in gym class and a professional football player. She rubs my knee and then ices it before I leave.

Yet, it’s not getting better.

When I first saw my PT, she told me that running a marathon this fall was very possible. That was about four weeks ago and she still won’t let me do a trial run on the treadmill so she can see my running form. She tells me that I can bike or use the elliptical (gross), but not run. I could set back my progress, she says.

Not running sucks. Every day, when I see people out on the trail bopping along, I want to stab something. I miss starting my day with a run. I miss trying to talk myself out of not running but then being so thankful that I did. I miss the sense of peace and stability that running brings me.

Running keeps me sane. It’s my glass of wine at the end of the day, my long pull when I need a second to think. It’s the one thing that I do for myself because I believe that I deserve it. And, now I can’t have it.

I am going a bit bonkers because of it. There are A LOT of changes happening in my life right now, so my emotions are extra high, as evident by the length of my short, stubby nails. I need running. I need to go out and tell it how I am feeling. I need it comfort me. I need it to tell me that I am going to be OK.

Running is the one thing in my life that I don’t feel pressure to be good at or that I measure with grand expectations. I don’t need to win races or be better than people I know. I just want to simply run.

When you lose something you love, sometimes there really isn’t anything you can do but mourn that it’s gone. You can’t replace it with something else or forget what it meant to you. You just have to say that it’s sucks and hope that once day you’ll find that thing again.

Missing running is worse on days like today, a cool spring Saturday. Instead, I am inside thinking about all problems. Social media is full of photos of people running races today and I felt like I saw every single person in the city was out running when I was getting coffee this morning. I think about saying, “Screw it,” and going out anyway. Maybe it would be OK, maybe it would not.

I don’t, though, because of that twinge in my knee when I walk down the stairs or the spark of pain that awakes me in the middle of the night. Running is a gift I give myself, but I have to abstain so that I can heal. Rest is my gift now.

 

Part of living

The number of near panic attacks that I’ve had this week out pace the number of digits I have on one hand.

In fact, I am writing this  post, on my poor neglected blog,  because I am about to explode and need an outlet to diffuse the emotion. Even just my Spotify forcing a restart is enough to make me shout profanity into the air like there was someone out there that control little blunders like this from happening.

Why can’t the world work the way I want it to?

So what’s going on with me? Nothing out of the ordinary and nothing that deserves sympathy.

Creative projects are draining me. I took a chance on a friend that I trusted and that person took advantage of me. What I do for work and where I work are both drastically changing. Medical bills for a bum knee keep appearing in my mail box. I am trying to find a new apartment in an industry that only cares about numbers. I can’t run because of that bum knee, which often keeps me up at night. I am trying to be there for other people, but not for myself.

All of these things are part of the price to live in this world and whining about them makes me seem ungrateful and annoying.  I am not going through a big break up. I am not wading my way through an illness. I am not jobless. Hell, I am not even worried about anyone but myself. Yet, many times this week I’ve been pushed so hard that I look for outs, big ones.

When your sadness in life is stemmed from big changes at work or unanswered text messages, you think it doesn’t matter. You think your emotions are irrelevant next to the father who is spending nights in NICU or the child whose mother hasn’t worked in months. You feel ridiculous being caught up in the minute when countries are being wiped away by AIDS or, that just a few miles from where you cry at night, someone’s child is being gunned down.

So why do I want to cry or drink or hide away?

I used to think that I was special. I understood that my emotions were grand and overpowering and I thought that separated me from everyone else. I assumed that I thought differently from others, that my swell of emotions defined me.

What I have learned, though, through my current therapist is that I am not special. These emotions, insecurities, and anxieties are not mine alone, but part of the deal when we are born into this world. Yes, we all have different struggles, but we all want to be loved, to be enough, to feel good about the life we are leading. My worries feel so specific to me that I think I must defeat them alone. But I am not, because all humans feel similar struggles, which doesn’t make me feel that much better.

Yet, that doesn’t mean that I can’t acknowledge them and care for those worries. This past week I saw my therapist for the first time in several weeks. I started telling her about a situation in my life and immediately wanted to move from it because I thought I was making a big deal over nothing and it wasn’t my situation to be emotional about. I thought that I couldn’t feel pain or sadness or anything about it because I wasn’t the protagonist and the one who was had bigger worries than me. Instead, though, she made me unpack what I was feeling. She made me accept the pain I had felt and acknowledge its existence.

“You are grieving,” she said.

That word – grieving – hit me so hard in the moment that moment as I understood grief to mean more than death. We grieve when we lose someone, something, some idea. Grief is one of the hardest emotions because we often feel like we are not allowed to feel it and we try to suppress and control it. We push it down because we aren’t entitled to it. But, when I let that grief come up, when I saw that I was experiencing it in this particular situation, I realized I was feeling it in so many others.

Grief for ideas I had for my life.

Grief for the situations that I thought I understood.

Grief for people I thought others should be.

Grief for who I thought I should be.

Now I see loss everywhere and it’s not necessarily helping the situation, like last night when I was nearly in tears because I couldn’t find my keys after I had been home for a few hours. It’s in my life and I don’t really like it, mostly because I still can’t control it.

So, what can I do? As I said before, I can’t run right now and that takes away one of major coping mechanisms (I hope to write about that later because I am dying on the inside). I think about drinking, a lot, but I know that I can’t. Writing is giving me the most anxiety these days. I can’t rely on anyone else to make it better, mostly because I put expectations on people that they will literally solve my problems.

I don’t know. I think all I can do is move forward. I can put my stress into perspective but also know that my emotions matter and they are present. I can count my blessings and make more time for me. And, I can see that this is part of living and admission is worth the price.

I feel a little less South Dakotan today

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I’ve been in a mood all day.

One of those moods when my coworkers can hear me complaining down the hall. When I set the treadmill a little higher on my mid-day run because I am currently not drinking and need to relieve the stress some way. When you just want to hit the fast forward button and get the day over.

I didn’t sleep well last night. I tried to write but all the things I wanted to say but they needed more courage than what I was willing to give. I refreshed Twitter and read comments on Facebook posts and news articles. I fed my emotions with dark ramblings on the Internet because I couldn’t think of anything else to do.

Yesterday, the legislature in my home state of South Dakota passed a controversial bill that would regulate transgender children to use the bathroom of the gender identified at their birth. It’s a crummy bill and I am not interested in debating the merits of this bill. I know why some support it and, while I disagree, I am also no longer a South Dakota resident or voter so mine is just another voice of someone who left the state.

No state is perfect and, even the one I currently live in hasn’t had a state budget in eight months, but South Dakota is a magical place to me. It’s my up bringing, my childhood. When things happen there, I feel them deeply.

Ever since I left South Dakota I have tried to be its greatest ambassador, partly because I love my home state and partly because I’ve always felt a little guilty for leaving. How could I love a place so much but choose to build a life somewhere else? In all honesty, politics have little to do with it. I do miss my friends and family there, and sometimes I have dreams of South Dakota so vivid that I wake up longing for it. For me, I wanted to experience our big world. I wanted to find homes in other, unfamiliar places. That doesn’t mean that I love South Dakota less, rather that I wanted to take all that it’s given me and spread it around to the places I go.

My friends know that I love South Dakota. They often tease me about it. I get such a rush for declaring my statehood when people ask me where I am from and I use that small talk to inform them about South Dakota. I tell people that Crazy Horse is a better monument than Mount Rushmore, that the Black Hills are America’s best kept secret, that prairie sunsets are more beautiful than ones over oceans and mountains. All of that should take them to South Dakota, but what will make them stay is the people, I say. Honest, good hardworking people who know their neighbors and rally to support each other in time of need. The people there, I say, are some of the best you’ll ever meet.

I woke up this morning feeling a little less South Dakotan. I was afraid my coworkers would bring it up and I didn’t really want to talk about it, although I was the one who brought up the subject several times because I needed to give the lump in my chest some space. It’s not the first time residents from other states have poked fun at my allegiance to my home state or I’ve had to respond to stereotypes and misconceptions. I stick by South Dakota in those times, admitting there are small things that I do not like about it, but in general it’s a good place. But something feels different today. I can no longer be a fierce defender of my home state and its people. When they choose to govern in a way that treats others as if they are not human, especially youth, I cannot be a cheerleader for South Dakota anymore. It’s like the most authentic part of my identity has been challenged.

I hope that this is a temporary feeling, because I still believe in South Dakota and its people. I know many good, wonderful people who live there and want to make the state an accepting, warm place to live and visit. My friends and family are still there. It is still, no matter what happens, my home.

But, today I am sad. I am not going to try fix my sadness with political debates or shaming. I am not even going to declare that I will not go back. I am just going to be sad and hope that the love and compassion I know to exist in South Dakota will shine through.

A letter to myself on Valentine’s Day 2015

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My love is coming to me. My love is coming to me.

He will be here by the end of the year. …

Clean up your heart to be ready for your love.

Rest assured, he is coming.

No need to seek. Just live. …

Oh sweet, Heather, I wish you wouldn’t torture yourself. You are an incredible light.

These are the words you scribble into a journal on February 14, 2015. Right now, you are sitting at a coffee shop, writing this post. Valentine’s Day has never really been one to make you cry, but on this day in this year, you cry multiples times. You shake hard from crying, under a blanket. Tears drip down your red hot cheeks as you talk to a friend on the phone. You cry so much in this day that you break a blood vessel on your cheek.

You feel dark and unworthy on the inside but when you try to express your feelings they come out selfish and foolish. Nothing about your life is truly catastrophic, but yet you feel so sad.

You’ve been sad for some time, haven’t you sweetheart? You’ve been holding out hope for something, wishing it around each corner. You excite at a new stranger. You imagine it in every experience. Still, that deep love hasn’t come. Maybe it hasn’t really been that long, your waiting, but I know how endless it feels, especially matched up next to other’s sweet little love stories. Grand love is the thing you’ve always wanted in the world and every goal outside of it was doused with potential of leading you there. I know how bad you want this, honey. I know that your desire for this big magical love is something you’ve kept hidden, but now it’s starting to boil and break your seams. Your disappointment can’t be contained in your own little heart any more. That’s OK, sweetie.

Today is not going to be a good day. You will cry more. You’ll be forced to sit at a bar and order cheese bread because your roommate failed to tell you that she and her boyfriend were planning to make a romantic dinner at your shared apartment. Sitting at a bar stool, you’ll sip wine and try to predict the stories of the other unaccompanied people in the small room.

The evening brings friends and a break from your inner demons. You’ll have a drink with a friend in a gay bar in Boys Town and you’ll share stories of unrequited love. Then, you’ll take an Uber together to your friend’s circus performance show. You’ll drink more and more. You will be in awe of the human body. After the show, you’ll go to an all-night diner. You’ll order fries. You won’t get home until 3:30 a.m.

Your lonely tears will not stop here. There will be more.

But your strength will meet the challenge. The courage you needed to say goodbye to people and pieces of yourself that are holding you back will be found. It is not gained or borrowed but rather you had it all along and you were waiting for the right moment to use it. That momentum will propel you forward, staying on the course to what your heart desires. When false promises and self-destruction try to lure you off, you’ll have the wisdom to continue on.

And, like you wrote in your journal with only the smallest of hopes, your love will come. He will not come with a big flashy story, yet soft;y and unannounced. He will practically sneak into your life, as if you looked away for a second.

He will not chase away your insecurities. He will not remedy your fears. He will not fix you.

He will, though, be what you most need. He’ll get up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday to drive you to your team run meeting spot. He’ll hold your hand when you learn that someone you love is sick. He’ll be patient when you realize you forgot your keys.

His presence will remind you of your family.

No matter what the future holds for you two, you will be a better person because of him.

I am writing to you not to tell you to stop crying or let the pain go. The pain will be crucial in recognizing your love when you meet him. You absolutely can not welcome him into your life until have undergone that pain.

It’s the last line you wrote on that February day that I am writing to you about. Heather, you’ve always been the hardest on yourself and even as I write this I am finding ways to judge and scold us. But this is one true time in which you do not need to belittle who you are. All the choices you have made, the good and the bad, led you to this moment writing in your journal in the cafe. Then, to this one where I am writing from the couch of my studio apartment. You don’t have to be more or less; you as you are is all that you need.

So, please cry. Call friends and laugh into the wee hours. Tomorrow will be better. But do not for one second doubt yourself and all the things you’ve been given. Show yourself empathy and stay on the course. Deep down, you know that you will find what you are looking for, so keep going. It’s there.

January – Inspiration

“Ideas of every kind are constantly galloping toward us, constantly pass through us, constantly trying to get our attention.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

My friend and colleague Jason and I decided to do a 12-month blog challenge. We will both write a blog post on a theme each month and post it on the final day of the year. First up, inspiration.

Inspiration is a temptress.

We see inspiration plastered on the street, in viral videos, in marketing and on social media. We know that it’s supposed to make us feel warm and fuzzy. It’s supposed to be colorful and full of light. It’s supposed to be the thing makes you take that step and rise up to a better version of yourself.

But inspiration can gnaw at you. You can make you feel lazy, unworthy and ungrateful. It can drown you if you don’t listen.

There have been times when I can answer inspiration’s beck and call. While serving in Peace Corps, I had more free time on my hands and could be there any time inspiration demanded. I got in the habit of taking out my journal or hopping on to my computer anytime an idea was there and needed to exist. Now, though, I have many more commitments and general life in America tends to suck up more attention. This weekend was my one set of two days that I didn’t have a lot scheduled and I had to work really hard to keep those days clear so I could finally sit down with inspiration.

But, inspiration doesn’t adhere to your schedule. It doesn’t care that you have other things to do. It doesn’t care that you are tired or hungry or occupied with someone else. When it comes, it wants to be heard.

I know this to be true, and so sometimes I avoid things that could inspire me. I don’t want to feel inspiration’s hot breath on me because I am afraid I will fail or let it down. Instead, I stay at home with mundane and stale activities.

Just a couple of weeks ago some friends invited Ethan and I to the Green Mill poetry slam and that day I didn’t want to go. For one, Chicago’s brutal winter was flirting with its arrival and because I knew that I would feel inspired and not want to do anything about it. We did go and I was inspired. And it was only partially awful.

I am scared of inspiration because I am fearful that I do not have the talents to follow through and give these ideas the beauty they deserve. Why do they come to, I yell. But then I’ll seem them living with another person’s byline and I am ashamed.

To avoid inspiration, though, is to avoid beautiful things. It’s to literally opt out of the world’s greatest pieces of writing, music, art, photography, etc. It means not to love, hurt, laugh, dance, suffer. It’s not a life, it’s going through the motions.

The thing about inspiration is that it never asks to be good. It never asks that you make millions off of it or win accolades. It just asks that you create it, that you give it life. That doesn’t seem too hard.

Lately, when I feel inspiration’s voice quivering through my body, I try to acknowledge it. I write a note or send myself an email. I jot down words and phrases. I let it know that I am open to whatever more it wants to pour into me, but for now I have to work or be with another person. I will get to you, I say. Sometimes I do and sometimes I do not, but I love that I am gathering a collection of ideas around me. Some day, they will all mean something. As much as inspiration visits me, I have to believe it.

Before I go, though, I want to touch on a few things that have long-lasting inspiration power, things I go back to when I need clarity and beauty.

This article by Jonathan Harris.

This book by Cheryl Strayed.

This opening by Ira Glass.

All of these quotes.

This commercial.

This talk by Elizabeth Gilbert.

This column.

This song. And this one. And this one.

Other things that inspire me: the sun, rainy days, coffee shops, finish lines, people who are unapologetically themselves, book stores, big bodies of water, airports, small acts of kindness, my friends (like this one) and my family.

YOUR TURN: Leave a comment and let me know what inspires you?