Thursday, December 29, 2011

On The Process of Letting Go

Hi, my name is Laura and I am NOT a pack rat. No, really- I'm in a perpetual state of purging my belongings; getting rid of anything with no dynamic use or purpose. (I have way less clothes and shoes than the average female. True story.) I thought paring down would be a breeze. I mean, I basically lived out of a suitcase for 2 years while I was in Hawaii. Granted, I was 18 then, but I still had my own apartment, albeit, much less stuff furnishing it. 

But here I am with a 6 year accumulation tattle-tailing that I've nested into my cozy townhouse. Now what do I do? I've formed relationships with some of these items. We have histories, and they hold secrets of moments not a single living soul knows about. And what do I do with sentimental little items such as my mother's rings that I used to sit on her bed, dump out and pore over each one over and over again that I will never wear, the small box of trinkets and letters from friends over the years, the items people have brought me from their adventures overseas, the cedar chest my pappap made that was in my mom's room and was always filled with blankets my grandma made and smelled of mothballs , etc etc etc...??

Going in, I thought I'd be all dramatic and get rid of virtually everything that didn't fit into my car. Upon further consideration, there are some things that cannot be replaced. They have value aside from their status as "stuff" (like the rather large cedar chest that my sister has graciously said could be stored in her attic). Other items need to be released... such as the enormous and tattered college t-shirt that belonged to my sweet friend I lost several years ago. In the moment I picked up the shirt, I had an entire conversation with him in my head. I knew he'd give me a look and say something along the lines of, "Really, Laura? Do you need to take that? I'm not the shirt- why carry it with you?"

It's difficult to keep my tears at bay as I write this because I know he would be my most emphatically enthusiastic supporter in this decision. His last words: "You only live once."

I've only got one chance at this life. I am going to make the best of it.

And so, what do I do with all of my "stuff"? I'm selling and donating things that I have no attachment to, giving things to friends and family that have meaning beyond just being an item, and the things that remind me of how I've made it to this point- the things that remind me of where I want to go and who I want to be? Well... as far as that t-shirt goes, a newly acquired friend suggested I cut out the logo and remake it into something useful. I think I'm going to sew it into the liner of my suitcase as a reminder that I only live once- safety is an illusion. He taught me that years ago. I'm just now beginning to learn the meaning of it. 

What will I do with the rest of the things to which I have some sort of attachment that I don't -really- need? I'll say my goodbyes to most items in phases. And now that I'm thinking in terms of remaking things into being useful, I think there will be several post-Christmas gifts of items that are dear to me given to people who are dear to me. What better way to honor the memory of something than by giving it new meaning and life? 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Brain Retrain

Good Morning! I've barely made it through a third of my first cup of coffee, so please bear with me as I attempt to assemble the thoughts that were passing through my head as I was straightening the hair on it this morning...

A large portion of my life has been spent adjusting to loss- the initial loss of my biological family/culture (Which, contrary to popular belief does in fact affect me in spite of having been a baby when the transaction occurred. I mean, imagine the looks I get when I tell people my adopted last name: Baumgardner.), losing my grandmother, the one who cared for us when mom was too sick and dad was working overtime to try to support his family, when I was 5, losing family members every few years or so, losing my mother just as I entered high school after watching her suffer most of my life, losing my mind my senior year, losing my best friend just as I was about to start my sophomore year in college (which is why, after I finished that year, I returned home from Hawaii and took a year off), losing a good friend just as I started my first "real" job (the one I will be gleefully leaving), icing the figurative cake with the plain vanilla of assorted breakups and sprinkled with the things I just never had because life couldn't afford to teach me to walk through the fire while giving a happy childhood.

I learned to survive. I learned how to put my head down and get through. I learned how to be alone, and even went so far as to teach myself to believe that it had to be that way. I had to shoulder the weight of my life without any help, and to wish it were otherwise was a weakness that I harshly berrated myself for in those moments when I was so tired I just wished it was all over. There have been many nights in my life I cried myself to sleep hoping that was the last night I'd have to make it through, and then cried again when I woke up. But now, here in this moment, I am alive with the knowledge that every.single.second. is a choice. It is a choice to live or die. It is not just a matter of our physical bodies, no, it goes much deeper into the very core of our existence. It is the difference between someone who is ALIVE and someone who is just a shell of a human.

I make that choice every time I wake up. I make that choice throughout the course of the day, and so do you- whether you realize it or not. What I am learning is that, in those moments when I am so tired I feel as though I can't carry my own weight any longer, I don't have to. Over the course of the last several years, I've found people who have taught me that allowing people to love and support me is not a weakness. Not even just allowing, but wanting them to- and being able to love in return without fear it will all fall away. The fact of the matter is, everything will fall away at some point, in some way, on some level. Us included. I'm learning to focus not on loss, but on abundance- abundance in the moment I reside in because it's the only one I know for sure. I realized when I left Colorado why I have so much trouble with "goodbyes" (aside from the obvious). I wasn't focusing on the moment I was in, but on the moments after. I had everything I needed on so many levels, and instead of simply being grateful I had it at all, I was worried about what would happen after. Would I find it again? Would it last? I'm so used to loss I focus on it even when I haven't lost; I've gained.

I'm retraining my brain to recognize abundance instead of loss- to know my treasure when I've found it. Each moment is infinite in and of itself. If I have something in one moment, it becomes a part of who I am and I carry it with me through the rest of the moments I pass through. I carry with me the love and strength of all those I've lost. I carry the awareness of knowing had I not lost them, I may still be taking that love and strength for granted which then makes me ask, have I really lost?

As I am preparing for my upcoming move, I realized part of why I was able to make this decision is because I am finally able to see opportunity and possibility instead of a big black hole of unknown. Every time I faced this choice before, I shrank away in fear. What if I moved and couldn't make it? What if I came back broke and destitute? What if my friends here forgot I existed and there would be nothing left if I did come back? What if, what if, what if. What if all of that does happen? It wouldn't change that I took the chance- a chance many never will. And as the saying goes, "it's about the journey, not the destination." The growth that will come from the lessons I will learn by giving myself the opportunity to be wide open to the possibility of a life richer and more full of meaning than I could ever plan will be more than adequate compensation for what I think I could lose. The irony there is by opening up to the chance to lose, I've already gained.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Choice is Yours... or in this case, mine.

Welcome. This is the first of (hopefully) many posts. I decided I'm not making any new year's resolutions because new year's resolutions are notoriously broken. I want my words to be more than empty intentions- I want them to hold power and meaning. So, the creation of this blog is not part of a resolution, but instead it is a step towards cultivating an outlet that has been, at some points, referred to as a talent.

That said- I made a decision last week. One that I have only flirted with over the last few years with no real intention of commitment... until now.

I have... ::drum roll please:: officially decided to move to Boulder, CO this summer. After returning to Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania nearly 7 years ago, the time has come for me to move on again. The decision was not an easy one as I have all of the stereotypical comforts that can so easily bind one to where they are. I have a stable well paying job, a wonderful apartment, several close friends, my family, and the hardest of them all to leave: familiarity. For better or for worse, I know what to expect here. It's terrifying to uproot and leave all I know behind- all that is so predictable. But what's more terrifying than leaving is staying. I know what I have to look forward to when I wake up in the morning; a job that I loathe that so graciously pays my bills. A tender care that was slowly leeching the very life out of my spirit in such a way that I could have slipped into decades of hating my job and believing it was supposed to be that way. We've all heard it, I'm sure many of us have even bought into the belief "It's work. It's supposed to suck." But mid-December I was surrounded by some of the most passionate motivated people I have ever encountered... people I am lucky enough to call friends. They reminded me that "work is your love made visible." We spend too large of a fraction of our lives working to be apathetic about what we're doing, or worse- hating it.

I have spent too much time trying to convince myself that I just needed to change my perception- settle down and deal with the fact that this was my life. Sometimes, yes, we do need to change our perception and make the best of whatever we are doing. Other times, that nagging sense that something isn't right is there for a reason. Sometimes it's our Self telling us we can do better. Too often we perfect silencing that voice instead of listening to it because there are times, such as now, when it's telling us to do something that throws us way out of our comfort zones, and challenges everything we've ever known or believed.

I have no plan. I have no job set up. I have no place to live. I am going to sell off the majority of my possessions, pack up my car, and make a 29ish hour drive with the hope the "net will appear when I jump." On the flip side of that- I do have an unbelievable network of friends and support. One that I would have never expected or imagined when I made the decision. A big lesson I'm learning is that of trust- learning to trust the universe to provide what I need, trusting my friends to be there, and trusting myself to make the best decisions I can for my life. I spent a lot of years building necessary but isolating walls to get through. Now, those walls are no longer needed, and I'm learning that it is not weakness to not be alone. I used to think I had to shoulder everything that came my way on my own, and of course, there are certain things that are my responsibility alone; however, there is no weakness in allowing people to love you- to be there to encourage and support when it is needed.

Over the course of the next 6-7 months, this will be where you can read about my plans, fears, apprehensions, hopes, excitement, and the general transformation of a girl (me) who is about to leave everything she's ever known behind in order to give herself the chance to find out what she's good at, what makes her happy, and to grow into her Self.

Here's to the journey. Cheers.