Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Other Side of Letting Go

I'm about to tell you something that's going to sound completely contradictory. Ready?

Sometimes letting go means holding on.

I know you're thinking WTF...? But give me a second. (Maybe) I can explain myself. Over the last few years I finally started realizing there are certain events in my life I've never dealt with because I was so focused on the letting go part. I thought letting go meant I needed to not be attached, to not have any emotion. Being sad, angry, hurt, etc meant I hadn't let go which equated to failure in my head. So instead of allowing myself to own my story, I meandered through life pushing away any negatively perceived emotions. I spoke about my life in an almost a third person sort of detachment. At some point I finally recognized I was doing it. I was talking about my life like it was someone else's.

I realized doing that was causing me to not let go. I was trying so hard to let go I bound myself to everything I was trying to let go of- I became obsessed with it in a similar way to how people who try to diet end up obsessing over food. Once I accepted that the story I had been telling was indeed MY story- MY life, I felt more at peace. I didn't feel as though it was a constant struggle to push away everything because I remembered it's ok to be human- to think, to feel, to be completely irrational for a few moments, and then to go through the process of pulling it back together. I tried to pull it together before I ever let it go. It's like a finger trap- the more you struggle, the more restrictive it becomes. You have to let go of the tension before it will release your fingers.

Now, I'm learning to let go by owning what's mine and being ok with it. My life is mine; albeit not always a very pretty story, but it's mine for the making.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Lie in "Just Do It"

Twelve years ago (oh my gosh. TWELVE years??) I worked as a barista in a little local coffee shop. I always hated when people ordered "just" coffee because in spite of how it seemed, it took a lot of orchestration to keep those pots of brewed coffee out there full and ready for dispensing in the midst of a morning rush for toasted bagels slathered in cream cheese and espresso concoctions.

Just. I hate the word "just" in the context in which it makes something sound as though it should be simple and easy: Just be happy. Just change your perspective. Just live your dream. Just get out of bed. Just be. Just, just, just. And what happens when you feel like you can't "just" do it? It feels like failure, doesn't it?  It's like when attempting to meditate and someone says "just still your mind" and then you sit there with your life's To-Do list running through your head while thinking, "why the bloody fucking hell can't I JUST still my effing mind?!"

Why is it so hard? 

Because it is. 

The word "just" is a bit of a lie. No one tells you in the midst of their fiery exuberance that life is going to be hard. Changing/shifting your perspective is going to take repeated efforts. Sometimes those efforts will fall short, and you'll have to remind yourself to try your best again next time. And living your dream? It's going to take an incomprehensible amount of work, failure, and maybe (probably) even tears. 

BUT- it will be worth it. "Just" know going in there's no "just" about it. 

Sure, there may come a point in time when you do just still your mind or be happy or live your dream. You know when that happens? AFTER a lot of hard work and intentional effort and screaming about the word "just." Like I'm doing now. 

Clearly, I'm not at any of those points where I'm "just" doing anything. I'm not even working towards being able to "just" because I'm not sure it will ever feel that way, and in the end, I don't know that it needs to. What I do know is that I want my life to line up with my values- the ideals I hold sacred and make life worth living. In those moments of quiet clarity, I know exactly what it is I believe in and what I want for my life. Does that necessarily make the process after making my decisions easier? Not always. I make a decision, but then my fears and doubts creep in causing me to second guess myself. But like I said, when I silence the noise, there is no question- I have to gather my courage and walk boldly forward. 

I understand why the "just"- in a way, it's a suggestion to stop thinking so much and just go for it. But don't let that word invalidate the bigness of your goals- whatever they may be. 

Don't "just" do it. DO IT. DO that big thing that seems so overwhelmingly terrifying. 

You will not regret it.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

We Bonded Over Fried Potatoes (amongst other things)

I took my very.first.train.ride.EVER this weekend. I'd like to say it was all I had expected, but I really had no expectations going in. I can say, to me, it was some of the best qualities of driving and flying all in one. The return home felt surreal- kind of like being in a movie watching the fields and cities flying by tinged with the colors of the setting sun.

But that's not the point of this blog. The point of this blog is what I learned this weekend in NY:
  1. Meaningful connections can happen from a distance and be further solidified in person. My new friend is  wonderful, and she and I share an unbridled love of popcorn and fried potatoes. (and by "fried potatoes" I literally mean potatoes sliced in any shape/thickness and then fried.) But more importantly, we share a love of life and the passion to pursue our hearts' deepest desires no matter what obstacles come our way. We are able to question each others' motives and hold each other accountable to words through action.
  2. Going into a situation with no expectations leaves you open to fully and objectively be present in the experience without inflicting said expectations of what "should" be. I attended the workshop she was part of leading, and found myself so lucky to be among the people there who found strength, resolve, and peace through the community there. People realized they weren't alone in their struggles, and that is key in making it through life.
  3. Community is SO important. We are not meant to live life alone. We are pack animals and require each other's interaction, relationship, and love to survive. Yes, literally to survive on a physical level as well as on an emotional one. As I've said before, if you're not growing, you're dying.
  4. Sometimes, no matter how much a person, place, or thing meant to us, we have to let it go in order to continue to grow. Not everything we encounter was meant to be a permanent part of our lives- at least, not physically. We carry bits and pieces of all we've experienced with us in some form or another because those experiences have helped shaped who we are today. So, those things aren't all lost. We honor what we love by how we live. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Mecca, Terms of Endearment, and Why it Will Be Hard to Leave

I meant to only stay for the day. Instead, I stayed through the night in the woods in the middle of winter in west of nowhere bumfuck. Yep, I did it willingly and on purpose: winter camping. This was not the warm cozy cabin one might initially imagine when thinking of camping in the winter. Instead, it was a small 3-walled lean-to (which 10 of us slept in on the straw covered floor) with a fireplace a few feet away from the opening. 

The weather was beautiful. Really. I know it sounds ridiculous in the middle of winter, but well, just look- I can't possibly begin to explain.

This was the first time I've been camping in years. It was absolutely sublime- not only because of the weather and great company, but because it was a brief reprieve from the chaos of daily life. My phone died, I had no access to a computer, all of the stuff I had to do couldn't possibly be done from there, and I was completely content. I could breathe. There was the world without all of our modern conveniences (including a bathroom) laid out before me in a grand display of complete and utter simplicity.

A crisp crystal clear night brought out an array of stars so often forgotten in the pollution of our artificial light I couldn't help but sit in silence happy to just be alive. So alive. A friend likened this event to a trip Mecca- I now see why. What sounds like wild inconvenient torture to many is sacred ground to others.

Here I was warmed by a blazing fire, all of my needs provided for (which was astounding considering I brought virtually nothing to stay and camp), and surrounded by wonderful people.

Speaking of wonderful people- I had just met some of these people for the first time, but was apparently well-received. Allow me to reveal to you how I found out.

SPAM. No, not the kind that rudely shows up in your inbox threatening some vague doom on your life-  the kind that comes in a can. I thought I had learned the intricate roles this product played during my time in Hawaii. I also thought that was the end of the meaty road for disagreeable sounding brick o' animal product. But, my friends, I was enlightened on a few levels this weekend during the winter camping trip.

1. SPAM is NOT the end of the road. In fact, it actually sounds appealing after what I found in my backpack. What did I find? Ready for this? A tiny round can of.... potted meat product. Yes, please, observe the "delicacy" I found tucked away in the bottom of my bag:

2. Contrary to one's potential initial reaction of disgust in finding that this little gourmet gem has been graciously "gifted" (concealed) in one's belongings- it is actually a term of endearment. I suppose it is the friendship equivalent of a boy throwing dirt at a girl he likes. Now we hide cans of mechanically separated meats in each other's bags.

I had actually managed to slip this gift into a friend's bag before departing the next day; however, as you can see from the picture- the can is indeed sitting on top of my kitchen counter. No, this little can was not carefully slipped in as I left. Instead, it made the long journey back from camp to find it's way into my purse at dinner this evening. I found it upon my arrival back home.

I know- it seems silly and ridiculous, but it's little things like this that cause me to stop and be grateful for my life and the people in it. These funny little moments, while seemingly insignificant on their own, combine to weave the story of our lives. They give our lives meaning and significance in a way that often goes unnoticed and unappreciated.

While I often sound as though I'm ready to bolt out of here like a bat out of hell, there is a part of me that feels a deep sadness in the decision to leave. I have fantastic friends, and have made several new ones the last few months. Over the years, I've learned just how important our relationships are with each other. I would give everything I have to the people I love, and there are so many here who have my heart. It makes it hard to go. But, I know I will be a better person to and for the people I love if I go out and show myself what it is to live fearlessly and completely. When my wars with myself are over, I will have so much more to give.

Friday, February 3, 2012

A Sorta Love Story

Heartbreak is possibly one of the worst forms of sad. It leaves you feeling like you got knocked under a huge wave and each subsequent wave keeps you from knowing which way is up. My last heartbreak was unexpected and surprisingly intense. I couldn't imagine what the point of it was, and the cliche "everything happens for a reason" was beyond irritating. I argued that perhaps, just perhaps, sometimes shit happens and there is no reason. Sometimes people are reckless with other people's hearts and that's it. Sucks because there's no rationalizing it when there's no explanation or greater good to derive from the situation. 

And then, as life would have it, I was forced to eat my words. 

I have never experienced such a clear and distinct series of events that brought purpose to that sadness as I did in this instance. If I wouldn't have been heart broken, I wouldn't have posted a pathetic Facebook status update. If I wouldn't have posted that update, my dear friend wouldn't have suggested a visit to Colorado. If I wouldn't have made the trip to Colorado, I wouldn't have had the experiences I did or met such an inspiring group of people. If those things wouldn't have happened, I wouldn't have realized that it is time for me to follow my heart and stop listening to what others think I "should" be doing. I have the power and choice to change my life. Believing anything else is a lie. 

So, things didn't turn out the way I thought they would when they started, but they certainly turned out better than I could have possibly imagined. I don't have a relationship to show; instead I have a life that has been set on fire, a renewed spirit, a stronger sense of Self, courage to face what's to come, and hope for brighter days ahead. 

I am in love with my life. Honestly.