Happy Earth Day
Concrete Jungle ~ San Francisco, CA 10/15/19
I love this, because although it would be pretty difficult for us to never think anything negative again, it is so very true that our thoughts are everything when it comes to the life we live and the life we want for ourselves moving forward. They control our actions, our energy, our overall mental well being. And the more positive our thoughts, the more we are able to help those around us (especially if we have children). Moving into the last couple months of the year, I hope to put this into practice a little more every day, every week.
Happy Thursday all, make it a good one!
It’s another blurry winter morning in January. As I begin my climb up that all-too-familiar hill, I watch as a low layer of fog rolls through; steadily blanketing the atmosphere in between the mountains that encompass the heavily congested highways leading in and out of the Central Valley. Most days, the sun takes the place of the dreariness here, intensifying the colors of the rolling green slopes, freckled with yellow wildflowers. But as much as I love that view, the fog brings with it a curious calmness, as does the stillness of the wind turbines whose rotations never failed to hold my gaze as a child. Occasionally, when traffic is especially unbearable, I sneak through the back of the hills and catch a closer glimpse of the massive, well-known structures.
That time of year has come yet again, where most people have a very clear and concise idea of how they want to spend the next 12 months and what they want to have accomplished by the end of it. Not me. Just as I have come to love the fog as much as the sunshine in a physical sense, so I have come to embrace the periods of fogginess in my life. Realizing that although the lack of clarity may hinder my view of what’s ahead, the unknown is more magical than it is scary. Having more trust in the universe and my place in it then ever before.
With a new year ahead, I know that just as the texture and color on those hills and the air surrounding will continue to change with the season, so will I. Each phase being beautiful in it’s own way and somehow necessary to the next.
“Don’t stress so much about settling on a path for 2017. The division of time into years is a human invention, and fact is every moment of every day is another opportunity for resolution and growth. So when the fireworks fly, relax and enjoy the moment. The rest will come to you.” ~ Beau Taplin
“It’s the oldest story in the world. One day, you’re 17 and you’re planning for someday. And then quietly, without you ever really noticing, someday is today. And then someday is yesterday. And this is your life.” – Anonymous
I’m not sure those words could reflect more accurately how I’ve been feeling as I approach my 30th birthday. Time has evaded me. Almost three decades on this intricate planet of ours and I still have an overwhelming amount of self-awareness to achieve. I would file the past three years in particular under “lessons learned” and “harsh realities”. Life changing for both the good and the bad. In that time, I have managed to experience some of the most exhilarating moments of my life; hit rock bottom (or what I certainly hope is my rock bottom), both emotionally and financially; seen some of the ugliest sides of life, as well as people (myself included); rebuilt some relationships and abandoned others completely; and struggled with a mountain of guilt, regret, and loss (not all in that order).
There have been times I didn’t think I could possibly feel more alone…imprisoned in my own whirling thoughts. Times I didn’t think I could feel more alive and enlightened. And times I truly didn’t know how or what to feel, so I sort of just stopped feeling. But that, I’ve come to understand and embrace, is life. The only thing predictable about it is it’s unwavering ability to be unpredictable.
This period of transition I find myself on the brink of is pivotal to my evolution. No, the earth won’t stop turning the day I turn 30; nor will life suddenly change in some sort of drastic or abrupt way. However, the opportunity presents itself to exhale the negative from the past decade of my life (a decade full of self doubt and self scrutiny, more rash decisions than I’d like to recall, and more hard losses than I was able to cope with) and to instead breathe in a new decade. One of potential, one where I focus on self love, personal growth, and strengthening my ability to be more patient and understanding of others, and most importantly, MYSELF.
It’s Saturday morning in early September. A pretty perfect Saturday morning I might add. As I sit alone on the front porch, hair unbrushed, not a stitch of makeup on my face; I embrace the pureness of being me. Taking in my surroundings, I watch as the neighbors scurry about, busy with their weekend chores. I wince at the sun as it pokes through the overgrown trees in my yard and I feel the breeze against my bare arms. The foam from my second latte tingles against my top lip. I’d say I’m somewhat addicted to these things… one cup always leads to a second. The flavor is subtle, yet satisfying and the warmth brings a sort of indescribable comfort. I’m reminded of the first time I drank one of these particular lattes. Christmas day two years ago. Sitting on my mothers couch in a big warm polkadot robe. That was such a good day. Just the two of us, nowhere to be….pj’s, lattes, and movies.
Realistically, there are 100 different things I could or should be doing this morning… mopping floors, making beds, scrubbing toilets, sifting through that nagging pile of mail. But in this moment, I’ve chosen my mental well being over the to do list. In fact, the older I get the more I realize the value in allowing myself to be alone and uninterrupted in my thoughts. A concept that at one time seemed downright scary to me.
Truth is, I was anxious to crack open the book that arrived in a box on my doorstep yesterday. It’s a book that was recommended to me by a fellow blogger, one whose writing has become beyond inspirational to me. The book focuses on our ability to cope with life when things don’t go the way we planned and was written by an American Buddhist woman. Buddhist teachings are something that have increasingly gained my intrigue over the past few years. Sure enough, I finish the very first chapter (all of four and a half pages) and I realize it is exactly what I needed. Funny thing is, this happens to me more and more often lately. I read or hear something at the exact moment in time when I need to be inspired or put things into perspective. Maybe it’s because I’ve become more observant; maybe it’s because I’m searching harder with ears and eyes open wider than ever in my life. Either way, it’s a constant reminder to me of the value and power of words and the realization that we have so much to gain from others’ knowledge.
What I’m reading is about fear. How it’s inevitable in life and even the universe’s tiniest creatures experience it. How fear means that we are moving closer to the truth and when we run away from it we are doing ourselves a disservice by missing out on the present moment. She talks about our natural inclination to run from it, to escape. Her words resonate with me because I’ve been there so many times in the past few years, running without even realizing it. Coincidently, I was sitting at a party recently and as I looked around I noticed everyone was drinking and smoking heavily and my first thought was “what are they trying to escape from?” And in that moment it became clear to me yet again that not only did I not need an escape, I didn’t want one. Whether it’s fear, sadness, loss, joyfulness, peace, or any of the transient emotions we experience on a regular basis, they are all beautiful in their own right and worthy of being felt completely because they are an indication that we are not only alive, but that we are living.
Recently I learned a new term: Monachopsis. It means “The subtle but persistent feeling of being out of place.” That pretty accurately describes what I’ve felt in the past year. I believe it’s because of the aforementioned epiphany, the revelation that so many people around us are fearful of life and feeling and look for any means possible to escape. And that’s not a life that’s meant for me. I’m here to feel, and to feel deeply. To bask in the present moment whether it’s good or bad or just can’t be measured one way or another. Because the truth (albeit scary) is that I will never get that moment back and that moment, in the long run, will somehow shape me into the person I was meant to be all along.
So as I sit here, enjoying the simplicity and yet the profoundness of this moment of clarity in my mind, I feel at peace. Confident in the notion that whatever the rest of this year brings my way, I can face it head on and I will continue to evolve. Continue to grow and inspire and be inspired. Continue to feel, whatever that feeling may be, and to embrace it rather than escape from it. And maybe, just maybe, turn it into something beautiful.
Her very essence is one of chaos
Her mind, her heart, even her hair…all untamable
She’s a tumbleweed; bound together by her brokenness
She’s fearful of planting roots; for to her that means giving up what could be
Always carrying in her back pocket, a flight plan
Living life with the freedom that accompanies the giving up of expectations and the holding of ones’ breath
Realizing nothing is stable, nothing is constant ~ This is a blessing and a curse
Knowing now that an ending is merely the beginning of new possibility
She makes as little promises as the ones she holds onto
She figures life out long enough to remember she doesn’t want to ~ There’s beauty behind the madness
“The best thing you could do is master the chaos in you. You are not thrown into the fire, YOU ARE THE FIRE.” ~ Mama Indigo
Walking into that quiet waiting room, I suddenly have the urge to turn around and run. I tell myself I don’t belong here. But I made the appointment and the doctor has set aside this hour to see me. Being the person I am, with an irrational fear of being considered a flake, I take a seat. Staring down at the daunting amount of personal questions I have to put a check mark next to, that “White Coat Syndrome” I developed after my father’s hospital stint sets in full force.
A door opens slowly and an older woman with a kind smile calls me back. We make our introductions, I find a seat, and then she asks the dreaded question: why am I here? This is what I’d been practicing for, all the things I thought I wanted to talk about, all of the emotions I’d been experiencing, culminating into this moment. And suddenly I’m speechless, holding back a flood of tears. This is not what I wanted. I wanted to come in strong and put everything out onto the table in a calculated manner and get some direct answer sprinkled with some constructive criticism, maybe a suggested book to read, and then be on my way.
Once I’ve gathered myself, I began with what I considered to be the most catastrophic, emotionally debilitating event thus far; the death of my father. How abrupt and traumatic the events leading up to his death were; how I felt there was no closure, no way of knowing if he heard what I was saying to him or how I felt about him; dealing with the aftermath of his passing; grieving alongside my child who was old enough to understand the gravity of the situation and close enough to my father to feel a significant void. We talk about grief, what a complex process it is, one that can’t be rushed. I tell her I feel that was “the straw that broke the camel’s back”, the event that led to an emotional and mental landslide and a handful of rash decisions.
Naturally, the conversation gravitated toward the next big event, the one I did have control over; the divorce. The guilt pours in. I tell her how difficult it was to have so many people that were once family, turn against me, not knowing both sides of the story that was my marriage. How tough of a pill it was to swallow to be the bad guy, to be cut off completely by people I was invested in for over a decade of my young life. I explain the 180 degree turn my life had taken since then, the overwhelmingly lonely moments of solitude I was faced with when I wasn’t out surrounding myself with strangers in an effort to avoid reality. I tell her why I ran. That relationship wasn’t me. As many times as we’ve heard it said before, I didn’t know who I was. This quote explains it better than I can: “And then she realized she had devoted a whole book to someone who treated her like a footnote. So she put down the pen and stop writing.” ~ Mandy Hale. I stopped writing because I had stopped caring years before. I was slowly worn down with the responsibility, with feeling unappreciated, unexcited, the sting still there deep down from hateful words I had absorbed as a young woman, as well as the embarrassment that came from hiding repeated physical abuse.
In that hour, we covered many of the contributing factors to my current state of anxiety and what some would consider self-destruction. We talked about the unhealthy relationship I was in at the time, the history of dysfunction in the family, my rigorous religious upbringing alongside my immediate family dynamic, and my fears for my children’s future in a split family. We set up another appointment and parted ways.
I realized after that meeting that what we all want: a black-and-white answer, a quick fix, doesn’t usually exist. There is no magical pill that can force us to let go of regret, to teach us how to redirect our thoughts or how to talk to ourselves in a healthy manner, or to be patient in our relationships with others. That part is completely up to us and determines our commitment to cultivating a life worth living. I was reminded of the value in being heard, and sorting through what’s been accumulating in our minds with the intent of understanding it ourselves and being understood. And just as there is no magical pill or magical word to cure the past and what’s hindering us in the present, there also exists no perfect set of circumstances, no ideal environment in which to be raised. We have all seen imperfection at its finest and endured things that have set us back. We though, are solely responsible for our own happiness and we should never feel guilty or apologetic for taking whatever measures necessary to accomplish this.
“I’ve changed. Irrevocably. Permanently. My soul is richer and my heart is fuller in brokenness than it ever was without. I’ve learned true despair, and it’s made me learn to appreciate true joy.” ~ Annonymous
As I tip toe on the still hot pavement at the end of another scorching California day, I look to my left to see a familiar sight. The old woman that lives across the street is sitting comfortably on her porch, preparing to watch the sunset…just as she does every single night. I’ve grown so accustomed to seeing her at this time that I never actually stop to wonder how long she’s kept up this routine of hers; what she thinks about while she sits there; or how long it’s been since someone sat there and enjoyed it with her.
If you honestly think about it, how long has it been since you stopped and watched the sunset? Not just snapped a picture of it to post on social media…but actually took in the process of the sun dipping slowly, the colors of the sky changing and intensifying, the air beginning to cool, and the city magically quieting down? For me, it’s been months; since my last vacation. (Funny how it takes a change of location to help us appreciate the things that are already in front of us).
I’ll be the first to admit that my life is quite a bit busier than I’d like. This is due to both circumstance and habit. I’ve worked and taken care of people from such a young age that I struggle with the ability to relax. The majority of my time spent “relaxing” is me sleeping. I do believe, however, that there is something so powerfully therapeutic about that in between phase of our days and our lives; where we are no longer on the go, and yet not entirely shut down either. When we allow our minds to wander and pressures to subside.
As small children, we appreciate the simple things. Bright colors, new noises, familiar faces, a box to play in or keys to jingle. But as life progresses, we slowly lose sight of simplicity and contentment. In this society, we are constantly being enticed and pushed toward bigger/better. Not that I’m insinuating in any way that moving forward in life and having goals is wrong. Self fulfillment and healthy aspirations are vital aspects of life. However, it’s become very evident that for me personally and this generation as a whole, we need to train ourselves to come up for air more often. To become one with the world around us, outside of a screen. To redefine our idea of beauty and to appreciate the things around us that are not man made and can’t be bought.
In a way, I feel like that old woman is richer than most. She spends more quality time with the universe and her own quiet thoughts in a week than the majority of us do in months. At what point in time, in our lives, do we once again embrace the uncomplicated, transparent, “free” treasures in life? I suppose that is up to us.
“Sunsets are proof that no matter what happens, ever day can end beautifully” ~ Kristen Butler
“Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing” ~ Camille Pissarro
The house is dark and still, and the boys are fast asleep. In true Mom fashion, I sneak into each of their rooms and plant the softest kiss on their heads and adjust their blankets. Motherhood is the most natural process that exists, and yet it stirs up the most complicated emotions imaginable. Never does a woman know worry, self-doubt, sacrifice, and pure love like she does when she becomes a Mother. I don’t believe there exists a perfect age or set of circumstances that can fully prepare one for the challenges and changes that come along with Motherhood.
I think about my own Mother. At a fairly young age (having enough knowledge about the struggles related to her upbringing), I realized the tremendous emotional obstacles she had to have overcome to become a nurturing, loving Mother. The mold she had to break from her own childhood experiences. I’m not sure how she did it, but for her strength, I am grateful. My sister and I were her world; her priority in life, from the time we took our first breath through most of our formative years. We were always well fed and well dressed. She took in our friends as if they were her own; taught us how to cook; to love music and to dance our little hearts out. She helped us succeed in school, and tried hard to keep us entertained and out of trouble (sorry Mom). Her and I are a lot alike in some ways. We love people……too much. We give to others even beyond our means at times and are willing to sacrifice a great deal (even our own inner happiness) for those we love. I admire her ability to love past great faults. She is all of the soft aspects of my soul.
I look at my boys sleeping peacefully; with their soft faces and their perfect button noses. It’s amazing really…to give life to these little people that reflect you, and yet they show you the world in their own unique way. My hope as their Mother is that they grow up knowing they are loved, valued, and irreplaceable. That they thirst for knowledge and adventure. I want them to truly embrace the world. Not to be complacent or ever allow the world to make them angry or cold. To love even those who act unlovable and to open their hearts, even at the risk of having them broken. I hope they view the world as their oyster and never be confined by how or where they were brought up. Even though I was still practically raising myself when I first became a Mother, I tried to create a carefree life for them. Sometimes I succeeded, other times I failed miserably. At the end of the day however, I want them to know that my heart beats for them. They will always be my greatest accomplishment; my reason to smile. I can fall asleep with a full heart.
“When my children remember their childhood, I want only for them to remember that their Mother gave it her all. She worried too much, she failed at times and she did not always get it right…but she tried her hardest to teach them about kindness, love, compassion, and honesty. Even if she had to learn it from her own mistakes, she loved them enough to keep going, even when things seemed hopeless, even when life knocked her down. I want them to remember me as the Woman who always got back up.” ~ Annonymous