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spirituality

a friend recently asked me to share on his podcast. the theme was “ADVENTURE.” i was pretty stoked to be asked and have never considered doing something like that. as i sat down at my computer at midnight one night, i realized it was impossible for me to just talk about adventure, but i needed to sit down and write out my thoughts. it’s been awhile since i’ve written with a specific topic in mind. my thoughts are usually a jumbled mess, but i was proud of what it came to be. it was a good reminder of what has happen the past 4 years. often i feel STUCK, but thinking through this theme reminded me that i have made really bold decisions and have essentially changed the course of my life these past years. so, sit down, relax and have a listen! (click on ADVENTURE below.)

ADVENTURE

i try to begin each day with morning pages – three pages of free form thought. i don’t pay attention to the penmanship, grammar or spelling. i don’t edit and i never go back and read. it’s torture for a perfectionist. the past week i’ve struggled though. i feel as if i am writing the same thing over and over and over again. but isn’t that life? the same scenarios, the same stories live their own lives within us. and i want to conquer those stories that are on repeat in my head – because they’re not always pretty stories. they are filled with lies. they are stories of others’ expectations, misunderstandings and hurt. the problem with the stories in my head (in our heads) is that they are not easily contained. they slip out mid-sentence or we base decisions on this reel of film that is ever-playing. yes, we should fill our minds with things that are lovely and true. but the world doesn’t play by those rules and life can be callous and hurtful and it never becomes any easier. and when those stories are planted there at a young age.. whew. it’s a tough one.

but i love morning pages because i become aware of those stories. and when i am aware, i can make strides toward changing my story. i am trying so hard to be brave and not sabotage the life i am meant to live. i want to live to the fullest – create and love and learn. i want to live out bravery. i make mistakes and i’m fearful that the next mistake is going to be The One – whatever it might be. but that cannot be a reason to stop living and moving. fear has no place in the life fully lived.

“Fear of the unexplainable has not only impoverished our inner lives, but also diminished relations between people; these have been dragged, so to speak, from the river of infinite possibilities and stuck on the dry bank where nothing happens. For it is not only sluggishness that makes human relations so unspeakably monotonous, it is the aversion to any new, unforeseen experience we are not sure we can handle.”  

– rilke

it’s been a crazy week and i find myself looking for solace – in whatever form. today i let myself sleep in, which isn’t hard considering i live in a bedroom with no windows. i painted the walls white to give the illusion of light, but waking up is always difficult. i came upstairs, made a pour over, and sat down to eat bacon, yogurt and muesli. there is a window in our living room that gives off the best light. a small white desk sits underneath, cradling books, a lamp and several potted plants. i like to sit and read or write there in the mornings. people are always walking by, holding hands or walking their dogs. it is idyllic.

i sat down to enjoy breakfast and read. reading is a luxury these days because i’m often in my car, on the go. i’m finishing “small victories” by anne lamott. she’s my hands-down all time favorite author, perhaps because she’s seen hardship, death and addiction but she’s full of life, honesty and God.

i saw her speak at the end of last year and i’ve decided, now over a month into the new year, that i want to focus on living out what she spoke. she read a few excerpts from her books, answered questions and talked about life. she’s 60, has dreads and i don’t have a lot in common with her. someone stopped my friend and i after the lecture, asking why we came. she was a little surprised we were there and as we looked around the room, we saw why. most of the people there were at least a good two decades older than us – we were by far the youngest. the truth is, i think we were there because we wanted to hear truth – that life is shi**y, but it is good.

as for what she said:
* refuse to stop crying because God loves real
* when all is said and done, all we have is stories and compassion (barry lopez)
* practice militant self-care
* allow no scary people in your life
* listen to the questions and answers i have. they often hold valuable keys in how to live a good life

these are lessons that learned over and over again, throughout a life. but here’s to starting now.

i am very much aware of myself. self-aware, narcissistic, call it what you may, but i know myself. i know what motivates, what makes me angry, what hurts, what makes me come alive. but for a long time i did not recognize myself. i honestly don’t know if i can pinpoint when it all began, but i suspect it started young, hiding when life was downright unfair, not having the coping mechanisms i needed at such a young age. but we can only hide so long. our true selves are not patient people and they will show themselves. and often, we are unrecognizable to ourselves and those around us when it happens.

i think my true self finally had the courage to emerge after a series of several traumatic events – a natural disaster, a friend’s death, a bombing and transitioning from not only a country, but a career. over the next few months i lost a crazy amount weight, didn’t brush my hair because it scared me how much hair was in the brush, lost my appetite, cried multiple times every day, couldn’t sleep and i thought about death – a lot. look up the definition of depression and my name was there.

so i went to counseling. i went to an amazing woman who validated and listened to me, made me ask tough questions. she taught me to take up space in a room and love myself. she showed me that life is really shitty at times (there’s really no other word to describe it) but it is also beautiful and kind of magical. i learned that thankfulness is key and for the first time, my faith was NECESSARY. i didn’t have answers, but i realized that really isn’t the point.

cue the end of a relationship and all of that hard work was threatened. i was back in the same cycle. i remember telling the person i was dating that i didn’t think i was suppose to be on anti-depressants and that i felt like a lot of what i was dealing with was really important to notice and experience. but when the relationship ended, i was right back in the same place, only it felt really personal. i couldn’t see myself anymore. i did what i was suppose to do: counseling, eating right, vitamins, working out, surrounded myself with really great people – but nothing helped. i felt like i was giving in, but i went to the dr, found myself on a tried and true anti-depressant and within a week, felt like ME for the first time in 3 years. not the paranoid, emotionally unstable (let’s be honest here, i’m a crier and always will be), hopeless person who often took front stage, but the person who was creative, saw the potential of a really beautiful future and could truly appreciate what she had been given.

there are days and situations that are ridiculously messy and difficult. and even with the help of a happy pill, my life is not perfect. that pill tricks my brain into working the way it was intended, but it solves nothing. i have to consciously be aware of the lies in my head and invite truth to take precedence. i have to take care of my body and practice vulnerability. i can’t just sit back and let life happen. and even then sometimes it doesn’t seem like enough. tonight with the reminder that life is oh so short and precious, i choose life. again and again.

i went to the gym today, worked, saw a movie (audrey tatou can do no wrong) and came home, sat on my back porch, lit a cigarette and cried.

it’s been a week. tough news, crazy spouts of achy loneliness with no resolve, a world that is harsh and violent, busyness, yet the moments when i am alone and aware seem so very long. in the midst, there are these beautiful moments of peace – a kind word, gentle reminders of goodness, storms sweeping in over the mountains, new possibilities to dream, my little garden that provides herbs, tomatoes, peppers. and then the loneliness hits again out of nowhere. there are these little roots of distrust, insecurity and jealousy that threaten to kill relationships – good relationships with lovely and kind people. i have questions and doubts and i question not only myself, but God. and i know i am not alone in these thoughts.

and then i am reminded that i am human. i make mistakes, but i have also made brave, good decisions. i am not defined by my past and am being made new. i believe in truth, but also know that there is room for questions. the world is far too full of stagnant people, never daring to question what they see and hear. i want more. and that is uncomfortable. and lonely. i have questions and very few answers. but i am comforted, trying to living in paradox.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” (rilke)

“I want to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.”     – mary oliver

if you’ve been around me long enough, you know that my mantra for the past year has been “yes.” that mantra was born out of a long season of grief, depression (i don’t use that word lightly), loads of fear and the effects of all that nastiness. i discovered ruby woo (a red lipstick that has rocked my world), the power of leather pants (sometimes they work a little too well) and am learning how not to live so analytically and simply LIVE because of saying “yes.” it’s harder than it sounds.

i use to think i was a pessimist. now i’m not so sure. i think i’m actually an optimist that was given a few bad hands and instead of standing up for myself, i backed down and believed the little ugly voices in my head. those voices robbed me of life for several years. i’m finding my way back and last week i had a moment where i realized that saying “yes” has become a way of life. and perhaps the freedom to do so has even affected those around me for the better.

there are days (or weeks, if i’m honest) when life is really difficult. take last week for instance: two of my first and best friends here in denver both decided to move within the same week. i saw a couple traumatic things happen and my heart is trying its damnedest to remain open to possibilities when everything inside of me just wants to run. so what did i do in the midst of this? i wish i could say that i rose above and handled everything with grace and openness. instead i hid a little and cried a lot. i busied myself so i wouldn’t have to deal with all that was outside of my control – which if we’re honest, is everything outside of myself. i tried to control situations and i based present circumstances on past results. i work with teen girls, some of whom have experienced things i can only imagine. and we talk of mindfulness, taking people at face value, not reading into situations. i’m not always good at listening to my own advice.

all this to say… saying “yes” to life is a day by day choice. some days it’s a moment by moment choice. and as i write this, i am choosing yes, choosing life, choosing to be okay – whatever happens. what a gift.

Aren’t you, like me, hoping that some person, thing, or event will come along to give you that final feeling of inner well-being you desire? Don’t you often hope: ‘May this book, idea, course, trip, job, country or relationship fulfill my deepest desire.’ But as long as you are waiting for that mysterious moment you will go on running helter-skelter, always anxious and restless, always lustful and angry, never fully satisfied. You know that this is the compulsiveness that keeps us going and busy, but at the same time makes us wonder whether we are getting anywhere in the long run. This is the way to spiritual exhaustion and burn-out. This is the way to spiritual death.

| Henri J.M. Nouwen, Life of the Beloved |