Be

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking and talking about my future.

Actually, that statement simply put makes it seem like the process is graceful and poetic, as if I was sitting near a windowsill with a hot cup of tea and staring out into a kind world. Rather, it’s more that I am panicked on the inside, constantly hashing out possibilities, frantically seeking one that seems to fit, even if snuggly and disproportionally.

We all think about our futures and wonder what is next; it’s a common process of growing and evolving through life. We all want to chart a path that seems strapped to our destiny, but also feels within our capabilities. For me, the digging to find that roadway has become an obsession.

It started about six months ago at a staff retreat for work when we were asked to consider our goals, not only for our roles at the agency but for life. My goals didn’t readily pop onto the paper, and shame tugged at me as all I could think was, “I don’t know.” I wanted to know though, and so I let the ideas simmer for a few months while I had conversations with colleagues and friends. I had hoped that one day the magical goal – the one I know that deep down I should be fulfilling – would appear and then I would have all the courage and knowledge to chase it.

In the last few months, I’ve ramped up the search for my calling. While I am not on any grand timeline, my job comes with an expiration date (an agency-wide term limit that is applicable to all employees). Even though I am still far from the predicted end date, I still have this nervous feat that I should figure out my life sooner rather than later. It’s come to a point that on days I think about it too much, I make myself sick with nausea and headaches.

But as I ask people their goals and ambitions, no matter where they are in life, I’ve come to understand two things.

No one can predict the future. Even the most successful people couldn’t have anticipated where all their hard work and drive would have led them. Most people have ideas and ambitions, but very few can pick out specific paths they want their lives to go and then follow them exactly. Instead, our lives move in waves and sometimes we find ourselves on shores that we could have never anticipated. Those unexpected ventures are sometimes moments and sometimes they are part of a redirection. And only long after the tide has gone in can we see how it all made sense.

Most people I know do not have it figured it out. We are not alone in our confusion, and even in the stress about confusion. Most of the people I talked to made decisions not full heartedly but with just the right amount of fire in their heart and faith in themselves to leap at something that feels a bit different than the other options.

The second thing I’ve realized is wasn’t really something someone told me rather a reflection in my life, a simple matter of history. I will be OK. I have always been OK. When I didn’t know what to do and I couldn’t see the future and the ambiguity shook my entire core with fear, I struggled a bit but then my world solidified and calmed down. Because everything eventually worked out, I have no reason now, or in the future, not believe otherwise. Faith in yourself and that idea of being OK is really the only answer to fear. Even if I fail and take a leap that seems shattering, I get to learn and then try again knowing more than I did before.

Those two realizations all added up to an audacious thought: let it be. Let the ambiguity and uncertainty be. Do what I can right now, but appreciate each insight for what it is and then take another step tomorrow. Let all the moments add up to the thing inside of you that is just waiting for it’s grand reveal in the most spectacular of timing.

It will come and when it does, looking back, it will make sense. It may take time and missteps, but if I keep searching for the OK it will eventually appear. For now, though, my heart doesn’t need the stains of anxiety and fear because only when I plant in love I will grow in it. That means allowing myself to be right now and trust that when it comes time to make the move and say the word I will know exactly what to do. Till then, I keep listening and growing.

 

 

 

Be there for the world

Leaves

It’s a beautiful mid-November day, almost so lovely that you can’t believe in a few months harsh winds and heaps of snow will make all interactions with outside nearly intolerable. As I walk home from the train, I listen to an episode of Lena Dunham’s staggeringly good podcast, Women of the Hour. This episode is about bodies and woman after woman explains her own journey to accepting her body. One woman, the filmmaker Rachel Fleit, talks about having alopecia, a disorder where her body rejects hair. She describes having to accept her condition as how she was meant to live and using that to “be there for the world” as she is.

Be there for the world.

That phrase echoes in my mind and I think about what that means. Sometimes it’s being who we are and believing that is enough. Sometimes it’s being kind and gracious to at least one human.

It’s not always easy to be there for a world that is an ugly, unsafe and destructive place. We feel scared, unwanted, too small to make a difference. We are all hurting a bit after some unspeakable acts occurred in multiple cities across the world in the last few days. It’s not only painful, but now we have a deeper fear that wasn’t present a week ago.

We all want to do something, but feel powerless. We changed our status, we call to question decisions made by our leaders, we point out other situations that also need our attention and prayers. We want to be there for the world but this is all we’ve got, or so we think.

When things like the attacks that happen this weekend occur, I often try not to read too much about it. I like to get the basics, but I do not allow myself to read up on each detail and click through the horrific images. .

Instead, I try to be just a bit better in my daily life. I smile harder at the cashier, I call my mother, I compliment someone. These are all very small things but it’s how I process and grieve the injustices.

The world really needs us to be there for it right now. No, a woman sitting at her computer in Illinois probably can’t stop terrorism or eliminate poverty or even shame her Facebook friends into caring about the same thing she does, but she does have the power to be a good person right in the moment. She can be herself and be kind doing it. That’s all the world has ever asked of her.

Maybe we can’t change the world as individuals, but we can all be better humans. Let’s hold doors open. Let’s not post shitty things on the internet about people we disagree with. Let’s smile more at strangers. Let’s forgive. Let’s seek out understanding. Let’s remind the people we love them that we do.

Better people means a better world.

3 1/2 Minutes

I have a knowledge gap of events and news that happened between 2011-2013. It’s mostly songs, movies or light news that came out between those years, but there is two year’s worth of things that I missed because I was living in a hut in rural Africa. Big news, such as the Boston Marathon bombings or the 2012 presidential election, made it to me but much didn’t and, two years later, I’m still catching up.

It’s because of this knowledge gap that I didn’t know who Jordan Davis is, nor his story. It’s possible that I did hear the story and forgot, but I wasn’t exposed to the constant news cycles about Jordan Davis the way I was with stories about Michael Brown or Freddie Gray.

Last evening I attended a screening of the documentary “3 1/2 Minutes 10 Bullets” about the death of Jordan Davis and the trial of Michael Dunn. The story, as it intertwined from the evening Jordan was murder to the final guilty verdict of first degree murder, was all unfamiliar information to me.

After the movie, Jordan Davis’ mother and father, along with the film’s producer, took questions from a moderator and audience. His parents have bravely used their situation to be on the front lines of igniting change when it comes to gun laws and racial tension.

I wanted to ask his mother, Lucy, a question. For several minutes, I thought about getting up to the mic and waiting until it was my turn. With a shaky voice, I would start by thanking her for courageously sharing her story and then I would ask her the one question that burned through me as I watched the film: What can I do? I didn’t and just listen to the other questions.

While I was in Lesotho, I once got a ride from a couple from South Africa. The man was Afrikaans and the woman, as she told me, was Indian but her family had been living in Durban for years. As we talked, the woman started to make very racist comments about “those blacks.” It led to a discussion about an apartheid and I started in about Civil Rights and the changes in the U.S. since then. Part of me knew I was talking without good information, but I truly believed, in my own little world, that the U.S.’s racial issues had improved since the 1960s.

“You Americans, you think you are so much better than us,” she turned around from the passenger seat to look at me in the back. “You are not. You have just as many issues as we do and racism is still a major issue in your country.”

I wanted to refute that, but I knew there was truth to it. I wanted to argue that Civil Rights was several decades prior while apartheid was only two, but I couldn’t because I truly didn’t know the racial climate in my own country. Or, if I did, I chose to ignore it as a major problem.

The discussions on racial tension and gun violence in our country have opened wide up since I returned. Every time a Michael Brown or Sand Hook is dragged into the news and everyone’s fingers point in opposite directions, I go numb. I notice it until hurts, almost like touching a burner to see if it is hot, and then I turn away. I don’t post much about it on social media and I’ll mostly just listen as people bring it up in social conversations.

For most of my life, I’ve kept my opinions to myself out of fear of how I will be perceived. It’s so much easier to be a mute than be the one everyone rolls their eyes out. But as I stared at a woman and father who unjustly lost their son I realized I can’t do that anymore. My heart is so broken from the way we treat human lives in this nation that I can no longer pretend it is not happening.

I don’t know what I am going to do forward, except look for opportunities. Where I can led my voice I will. Where I can be involved in the conversation I will. Where I can be involved in the solution I will.

What can I do? I can stop ignoring.

A resurrection

i said, “Let us walk in the field.”
He said, “Nay walk in the town.”
I said, “There are no flowers there.”
He said, “No flowers bot a crown.”

I said, “But the air is thick,
And the fogs are veiling the sun.”
He answered, “Yet souls are sick
And souls in the dark undone.”

I cast one look at the field,
Then he set my face to the town.
He said: “My child, do you yield?
Will ye leave the flowers for the crown?”

Then into his hand went mine
And into my heart came He,
And I walk in a light divine
The path I had feared to see.

– George Macdonald

Lent is the preparation for death, the opportunity to look at what is not serving us and give it permission to die.

Easter is our rebirth into grace and light and love.

Let us begin anew with faith and so so much love.

You matter

4cec0a1fbe9ad1bc4e1b5cabaae1ae0a

Do not let you someone treat you like you do not matter. People can tell us that we are wrong and that we are undeserving but they are not allowed to to conclude that our existences is irrelevant.

The thing is, though, that there will always be people who do not care if we are in their lives or not and the love and grace we have to share is only an option. Unfortunately, that’s just how it goes in life and we can’t control our roles in other people’s lives. Yet, we can control how we internalize and react to those who just simple do not care that we exist.

One day I stopped at the beach during a run to take in the warming waves of Lake Michigan. My thoughts were tangled up around a situation where I felt like I was treated that I didn’t matter. The person imposing such feelings had done this more than once, but I continue to show up for this person for reasons that I can’t explain other than that I am human and sometimes I don’t put my higher good at the center of my choices.

As the waves roared with spring anticipation, I thought about carry this feeling throughout my day. Not only did my existence feel minimal, I also was angry that I put myself in this position yet again. It then occurred to me that I did not have to bear the weight of such heavy emotions and that I didn’t have to react or fight for attention from this person. I could simply choose to not let this person or the situation determine my self worth. I could never convince this person to see me differently, but I could not put so much value on it. If it did bother me, it was because I chose to let it bother me and I didn’t have to stop caring for this person – because that is much harder – but I could stop victimizing the person’s treatment of me.

As I was thinking about this person, I started to see the faces of other people. The people who do make time for me, the people who put up with my crazy and love me for it. It hurts to feel like you are just an option, but there are so many people in this world who see me, and you, as imperative in their lives. I get kind of crazy when people can easily expel me from their lives because it challenges me as person and why I matter, but often in these times a whole round of people come to remind me that they want to be in my corner and want me in their corner. I want to be grateful for those people and cherish them, because when I can do that then the others who do not care really do not matter.

Life is heartbreaking in that we can’t be we want to be for all people, but we can be so much more for the people who count. It’s always been difficult for me to remember that, but I’ve come to see that loving myself means loving the people who don’t just want me in their lives but actively chose me. And loving myself also means letting the rest go.

Choose you

We can learn that love is worth a risk and that to hide our love means to hide our true selves.*

Life is not fair. In fact, it’s all shades and levels of unfair. We never get all the things we desire. The people we love die. We fail. The ugly parts of ourselves come out. We work hard, we try to be kind, we do the best we can and sometimes we just don’t make it all the way.

It’s easy to suffer. Suffering is validation. We want to go to that dark hole and live there in our injustices because it’s a comfortable place. Yet, if we keep going there all the time, we never truly come out. We never see that life has much more beauty than we ever knew.

Many of us bet against ourselves. We believe we will fail before we even start. We claim defeat before the fight bell has rung.

Yet, we have the power to believe otherwise. We have the power to choose.

You can choose you.

When you’ve hit that wall for the umpteenth time, choose you.

When your heart is calling you somewhere different than where you “should’ be, choose you.

When loneliness and doubt trick you into a downward spiral, choose you.

When the embers of your passion flicker, choose you.

When the crutch of insecurity flirts, choose you.

Choose you and I will choose me and in doing so we will be the best versions of ourselves. We will find empathy and compassion. Let us not run from the truths of our heart for the stories of our minds. Let us choose to remain with what it is, accepting it is if we specifically chose it for destiny. Let us choose ourselves because the greatest love we possess is deep within.

Choose you.

*Normally I think it would be weird to quote myself but I shared this with my mentee tonight – the same one who often tells me, “Don’t pay attention to them if they make you cry” – and she said it made her cry. I thought others might like it. And it’s my blog so I will do whatever I want 

Be

0ba09e676581d1e7719fcc67ae28378b

Sometimes you wait.

Sometimes you let the situation be what it is without judgment or storytelling.

You do not try to control it or add to it, but simply notice the feelings and let them wash away like waves on a white sandy beach.

This is not a perspective that I’ve be able to harbor in most situations in my life, but as I start to understand my own life and the things that cause me pain and joy I’ve been able to notice some of my self-sabotaging behaviors. Controlling, accelerating, analyzing situations is quite the nasty habit.

This time though, I feel the top emotions and the deeper ones. I notice them all  and decided not to do more than that. It is what is, a statement I never thought I would be able to use as justification, seems applicable here.

“Be careful,” my friends say. “You’ve been here before and the outcome likely won’t be different.”

I do not know how it will work out. I do not know all the details. And I can’t guarantee that I won’t jerk in reaction tomorrow, but right now I feel stillness.

Hours later, I am full of emotions. “I am shaking,” I tell him as we walk out and find our normal route to the train. Our meditation group tonight talked about being with our anxiety and, although I’ve tried that all day, it’s hitting me not like a wave but like a freaking tsunami. “I am so full of emotions.” He laughs. I want to cry. But then I breathe. I stare at the wintery sky. It’s supposed to be a burden after such beautiful springish days, but now I find it reassuring.

This moment, full of so much energy and emotion, here I am meant to be. I am meant to use it up and let it propel me forward, because all I need is right here. The rest is details and stories I simply don’t need. It will all unravel but as long as I hold on to the present then I will not only stay above water but I will soar.

cheryl

The grass is greener

Myheart

Sunday mornings at coffee shops with bottomless roasts from Kenya and Guatemala and the temptation of croissants and cupcakes frosted in bright greens and pinks to match the anticipation of spring. I sip from a ceramic mug as I transport my emotions onto a word document.

Friday evenings that begin at a near by bar. We buy pints that seem inappropriately large but are excused with the notion that the weekend is now upon us. We take a cab to a far off neighborhood where we drink wine at a friend’s art show and match creative influences to our travel experiences. I forget to censor myself and I blurt out my dream as if I am clear that it is what I want.

Saturdays with runs long the beach and then grocery shopping. I pick out flowers and a few types of cheese. Friends come over later and we eat homemade dishes around candles and take turns picking out our favorite songs to share.

A play after work. A movie at the end of a long day. Yoga in white, clean studios. Clean sheets. Showers. City lights that never tire.

For two years, as I sipped herbal tea that I always felt guilty about buying because it was more expensive than the rooibos and therefore felt like a luxury, these images were my dreams.

My mind went to these thoughts when bleating sheep and screaming bo-ntate woke me up at 6 a.m. When my failure as a teacher was apparent to my students as well as myself. When I had to choose between rice and lentils for dinner for the umpteenth time. When I doubted my decisions to follow this path.

My time in Lesotho came with a very clear end date and I could anticipate the change because it was inevitable. It’s hard now, I thought to myself, but soon I will create the life of my dreams and I will be fine then.

Now, that I have most of what I dreamed of during those lonely nights in my rondaval, I stare off into space thinking of walking along the dusty road to my village. I dream of walking into my school grounds and seeing those faces again. I want to sip tea from my porch and watch the village from a distance. I crave the hustle and bustle of the taxi rank, the odd comfort of zoning out in a comvee and the satisfaction that comes from a huge plate of papa and mereho.

I’ve always wanted what I don’t have. It’s one of my greatest downfalls as a person, but I think it’s something we all do as humans. “The grass is always greener” is not just a nursery saying but a trap, an obstacle from our happiness.

To appreciate what we have when we have it is actually vey hard. Very difficult. It’s hard to be thankful for what we have when our minds tell us that we should have more. It takes a lot of courage, honesty and acceptance to look at your life and see everything you have as all that you need.

The idea that something better is out there is likely the pumping organ to my restlessness. I am constantly afraid of missing out and that I will be “better” if this happens or that comes into my life. I chase dreams and ideas but give up on them quickly because I am not convinced and want more.

But this is exhausting. Life is about achieving and accomplishing to find happiness rather about being content and resilient as life moves and shifts. One blog reader commented that I am so hard on myself and my determination to get the life I believe I should have that I forget all the blessings and miracles that already exist.

So how do you change your perspective? How do you stop looking for the fence and enjoy all that is in front of you? Gratitude.

Gratitude should feel incredible and humbling, but it’s scary. It’s terrifying to admit that what you have is enough because what if it isn’t? What if you are settling for less than you deserve? What if you are using gratitude not to chase as an excuse to stand still and not go after what you want?

The thing is, though, things will come and go from our lives. Sometimes we will be happy and sometimes we will be sad. We will have what we want and we will have what we don’t want. We can’t control what life brings us but we can control how we react. When we are present and thankful for all the current things in our life, we are living the moment just as we should.

I constantly feel like I am lurking backwards and stretching forward and in doing so I feel like I am reacting out of fear and habit instead of living from love and with intent. I don’t want to live like this anymore. I don’t want to keep searching and struggling for the thing that will fix everything, because nothing can. I want to be in the moment and grateful for all that it contains as if I chose it myself. I want to see my past as beautiful memories that have brought me to now and my future as hopeful but not a thing to agonize over.

I want to be thankful.

I want what I already have.

I want to be where I am.

 

 

Don’t Surrender

afb153a1fea4f9f0e281e9011f32641d

 

I used to only listen to country music.

I used to be a meat eater.

I used to be a full-fledge peaches hater.

I used to be a Republican.

I used to be a Democrat.

I used to be bulimic.

I used to be a reporter.

I used to be a Peace Corps volunteer.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about this quote from Cheryl Strayed and wondering what I am still hanging on to. I don’t just mean things from five years or ten years ago or even a year ago, but yesterday, a moment ago. Who am I convinced I should be and who am I really?

I used to be so many things, so many versions of myself that have simply faded with time and experience, some so far removed that I can’t recognize myself in the memory. Yet, all the people I used to be led me to the person I am today and they they need to be gone so that I can be her.

It’s a courageous and brave journey to discover your truth and it changes, but it’s the best thing we can give to ourselves and the world. Our joy, our life is awaiting on the other side of the true and we owe it to ourselves to go find it.

What are you holding on to that isn’t true about you? Come, let’s let go together. Let’s be us in all of our messy glory. I want to be me now because of all the hard work I’ve done to get to here, and I want you to be you now. Come, let’s go.

 

What does it mean to love yourself?

74f651ce0a3531a95d76b01cac9b2f6d

 

Before, I said loving myself will be the great love of my life. But what does that even me? This week, this is what it means to me:

It means leaving a concert on Friday night because it’s 9:30 and you and your friend are tired.

It means calling an old friend when you have had a shitty day.

It means staying out till 3 a.m. eating eggs and talking about futures.

It means saying the words pounding in your chest.

It means watching episodes of How I Met Your Mother while laying in bed on Sunday.

It means giving yourself a second to believe in Prince Charming.

It means letting go of the person that all the people close to you say is wrong for you.

It means surrounding yourself with people who you want to support and who support you back.

It means forgiving yourself each time you fail to let go.

It means allowing yourself to cry. And then cry again.

It means eating chocolate before dinner but then dinner is full of vegetables.

It means stretching your body through yoga poses, allowing the energy to wash over you.

It means putting on lipstick.

It means putting your all into your work, but then leaving you work at 5 pm.

It means listening to someone and letting his pain hit you because it’s actually a gift.

It means allowing yourself to need and be needed.

It means loving those that love you and disregarding the rest.

It means not refreshing your inbox.

It means sleeping in and waking up early.

It means letting the dishes sit an extra day.

It means choosing not to hit replay when you walk by his bus stop.

It means finding people that love you where you are and letting them love you.

It means recognizing silence as freedom.

It means being late and lost but putting your phone away to enjoy the falling snow in this great big city.

It means loving the fact that your life is full of crazy stories and people who love listening to those stories.

It means silently telling the stranger that you hope she is OK and you want her to know she is loved.

It means picking the book with the most beautiful writing to be your companion for the next few weeks.

It means leaving the house without a plan but knowing the universe will bring you what you need.

It means taking time to hear the laugh that is like a blanket on a cold day.

It means watering the plants.

It means letting them apologize.

It means allowing your mother to worry about you.

It means listening to “Giants of Illinois” on repeat.

It means realizing that you are too good for that person, and then treating yourself that way.

It means remembering what is part of your higher good and then choosing that time after time, even though right now it is excruciating.