Wednesday, September 24, 2014

"Joy and Sorrow are Inseparable"

I never thought that would happen. 

It's not even that I just didn't think it would happen for me, I just didn't think of it at all. 

But here I sit with a gorgeous rock on my left ring finger thinking about what day would be best for our wedding. 

That's a long way to come for someone who, at one point, didn't expect to make it to 30. 

But here I am at 30, and I'm so happy it feels unreal, like if I blink one too many times, it'll all disappear. 

I have a beyond wonderful fiancĂ©, a cozy little home that becomes more ours each day, a job that doesn't feel like work, an adorable tiny wiener dog, and amazing friends whose devotions blazed more brightly than ever this year.

It's certainly no fairytale story; we've struggled a lot in the last year and a half. But, we've made it through an immense amount too. 

We've suffered all that comes with the loss of friends we thought we'd never lose, the sorrow that comes with any big life transition- even the happy ones- and the heart wrenching grief that comes with the loss of a mother. 

All of these things have brought us closer than we would have ever anticipated.

The 16th anniversary of losing my own mother is rapidly approaching, and every year around this time, I feel the same sort of antsy anxiety as though my body is subconsciously prepping itself for the morning of October second. You'd think after over a decade and a half that sensation would subside, but I have yet to discover otherwise.

I am incredibly grateful for my life now, and so very sad that absolutely none of it contains the presence of my mom. Even her memory is barely a whisper contained only in the few people left in my life who ever knew her.

It's a strange realization to know I have, by necessity, built the last 16 years without a piece that seems so vital. And it's beautiful. And I'm happy. And I'm sad.

As my fiancé and I make plans for our wedding, our joys highlight our sorrows, but our sorrows graciously serve to highlight our joys.

It is a good life.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Show Up

Over the last several months, I've been developing a deeper appreciation for those in my life who show up. The ones who say they'll be there, and are there. The ones who say nothing and show up just because they know life is hard and want to be supportive even though they can't fix anything. The ones who, even if far away, send messages to check in and offer their love and encouragement.

Those are the people you know you can count on because they understand the importance of relationships and what it means to be invested. 

We all get caught up in the "I was so busy, I couldn't bother to send a 30 second text…" excuse, but if and when life tears that person away, we then fall into, "I wish I would've made more time…"

There's another kind of showing up I've been learning about too. 

How many of us have had this conversation with a co-worker, a family member, a child, or a significant other?

"Yeah, I hear you."

"Right, but are you LISTENING to me?"

I'm a self-proclaimed multi-tasker extraordinaire. The problem? Sometimes when someone talks to me, I hear something, but I wasn't actually listening; which means I heard sounds, but I didn't pay attention enough to figure out what the meaning of those sounds were. 

That's an issue because if I'm not listening, I'm not learning- I'm not learning what it is that needs to be taken care of, I'm not learning how to understand, I'm not learning how to respond, I'm not learning how to navigate what's between the sounds.

But what's more important is that if I'm not listening, I'm not present, and if I'm not present with someone I say I care about, I'm showing them that I don't care enough to understand what they're trying to communicate with me.

We all do it.

Think: "Hey, how was your day?" "Eh, I've had better..." "So, what's going on for dinner?"

In that brief transaction, the expected response was, "good", and if the questioner wasn't listening, they didn't realize the expected response wasn't given, and then missed an opportunity to show up. That "things've been better" could be as small as "I clumsily spilled coffee all over my clothes this morning" to a bigger, "I just found out my friend just died." Of course, the tone of voice would give further indication, but if you're not listening, you're probably not noticing tone of voice either.

And no, I'm not exaggerating. I've seen these things happen. It's no wonder people feel lonely and disconnected.

Imagine how different the person answering would have felt if the questioner would have been listening and just simply asked, "what's going on?"

Whether it was coffee or a friend passing that caused the answer, the questioner emotionally showed up and totally changed the dynamic and course of the interaction.

Sometimes it's not as bad as someone dying. So many days people simply have hard challenging days that wear them out, and all they need is for someone that cares to emotionally show up and ask questions to which they're listening for the answer.

With our vast array of technological gadgets and apps meant to network and stay in touch, we've somehow gotten worse at actually creating and maintaining meaningful connections.

I'm not saying we shouldn't show ourselves some grace. There are definitely days where we're barely keeping our own heads above water, but when days roll in to weeks into months into years, it becomes a larger issue of where our priorities really lie.

"When you love someone, the best thing you can offer is your presence. How can you love if you are not there?"

Being present isn't just about being physically there. I have friends who show me they are with me no matter how many miles are between us.

What matters is that we show up, in person and/or in our attention- how we listen and learn from what we listen to. It's not about always knowing what to do or say; it's about genuinely wanting to understand the people you love.

Each seemingly insignificant encounter adds up to whether we draw someone closer or push them away. When we show up, we build trust in our relationships in priceless and profound little ways.

Friday, January 31, 2014

On Turning 30 (and other things)

Well, it's been a(long)while since my last entry.

Sometimes a hiatus is necessary, even from the things you love. 

So, what have I been up to the last few months?

November and December were quite full of the usual holiday chaos running alongside the difficult loss of my boyfriend's mother. Needless to say, life was less about trying new things and more about spending time in the inner circles of our close friends and family.

The circumstances surrounding that situation were heartbreaking in and of themselves, but having lost my own mother added another layer of sorrow.

It broke my heart to watch him and his family day after day, understanding as best as I could, how hard that time was. Our situations were so different. The one thing I understood was losing mom. As Yann Martel wrote in Life of Pi, "To lose your mother, well, that is like losing the sun above you…"

Here I was in the most vulnerable, intimate and private part of their lives in the midst of just beginning to get to know them. I had only moved back a few months before. Generally, people take a lot of time to get to know their significant other's family, but time wasn't on our side.

Sometimes I felt like an intruder, but they, in spite of their own situation, were incredibly gracious and open to me. I gained a profound respect for them.

Through it all, it focused us on how incredibly precious time is; there was no time for bullshit or putting things off.

We learned an intensely vivid lesson on what and more significantly, who, is important in life.

Since I moved back in mid-August 2013, there's been a rough series of events in transitioning from the mountains and the constant activity of living where I worked to being back in the place I thought I'd never return to for a million different reasons.

It has taken me nearly 6 months to finally start to calm down and even begin to feel somewhat settled. The stress of everything happening all at once left me feeling particularly doubtful, sad, and vulnerable; which made me feel like an incredible jackass. I wanted to be strong and supportive for my boyfriend, but so often it was him being strong for me.

Thankfully, he is unfailingly optimistic, and in spite of it all, we still managed to find quite a bit of happiness and joy through the months. He has been my rock through everything.

Speaking of happiness, odd as it sounds, turning 30 on January 22 was quite festive and fun- I still feel exactly the same as I did when I was 29. ;)

I am looking forward to my new decade and the new adventures it has to bring.

And speaking of new, one of my new endeavors is another blog called The Little Things, which is a place where you can find, you guessed it, little things that make my days happy. Since I love cooking and finally have a lovely kitchen equipped with nearly everything I could ever need, it is currently a lot of food and recipes.

I recoiled into preservation mode the last several months, but now as I've begun to find my center again, I'm starting to open up and am ready to continue pursuing what I set out to find when I originally started this blog; the things I love. The things that make me happy. The things that make life rich and meaningful for me.

Or maybe more accurately, I should say "more of" those things because the reality is, I already have all of those things in abundance.

Here's to the next 30 years.