awaken my soul

i walked into a coffee shop in Grand Rapids, MI, content to know no one.  to sip a delectable latte and study for a couple hours.  in town for work, i had nowhere to be and no one to demand my time until 3p.

within just a few minutes of finding a spot to settle in, i heard my name from a voice behind me.  i turned, not sure who could know me in this city, only to find an old friend from college days.  he was actually a friend i knew through an ex-boyfriend, and he had transferred to another school after our freshman year.  we saw each other off and on over the next few years, as our paths crossed in various ways, but that would have to have been nearly 8 years ago.

of course, the natural questions came forth and i quickly learned that he doesn’t live here either, but is fundraising to move his family to Spain for mission work.  i always find in these situations that i have so many questions and an eager desire to know what the other person is up to, that i don’t share much about myself.  even when asked.  so i briefly mentioned that i was in the city for work, but at the coffee shop to study.  then i went back to asking about him.

but he persisted, and i found my pulse quickening and my eyes brightening as i explained my desire to study naturopathy and natural healing options, as well as go through yoga teacher training, and my hope to combine the two.

and then i said something i wish i could recapture and put in a bottle, to carry around with me at all times.

i said, “it’s one of those things that just makes me feel alive and excited every time i think about it.  i think we need to pay attention to that, because that’s how we know what we’re supposed to offer to world.”  he nodded emphatically, and smiled, and got excited with me.

as a young person, i thought passion about life was a given, and i watched older people with quick judgment about the dutiful lives they seemed to live, committed and busy, but without much true passion.  i took that passion for granted, as i went to school and bought  cars and bounced from one idea to another.

but somewhere along the way, slowly but surely, my overabundance of passion began to dim.  and now here i sit, feeling slightly jaded about life, wondering if anything could ever feel “new” again, could make my blood race with excitement and passion.  dramatic perhaps, but these have been the honest workings of my mind lately.

then an old friend pops up in a coffee shop in a strange city, and asks what i’m up to.

the thing about “distance learning” is that i could legitimately go through my entire study without talking about it.  i could slink about with my textbook and highlighter, and do my thing in the corner where no one could see.  where no one could ask what it is i’m studying, or why.  they could never hear my heart for the subject, and worse, neither could i.

so, a friend walks into my world, and asks that simple question, and without thought i spew off a stream of thoughts about what i’d really like to be doing, how i’d really like my life to look, and feel that passion bubbling up under the surface just as in days of old.  and i feel a ray of sunshine peep through gray snow-filled clouds, as if to say that Spring is on it’s way, and keep going because all this is a sign that you’re on the right path.

afterall, we are all created to offer something beautiful to the world, to awaken others to live their lives wholly and fully.  but we can only know that by finding that thing that makes us feel awake and alive, and chasing it with all we have.

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3 days to 30

well, technically, 2 days, 9 hours and some change.

that’s right.  on June 1st, 1983 at 8:16am, i entered this world.  presumably kicking and screaming and flailing and half scared to be out, and half exhilarated to finally be free.  that’s how my life has played out anyway, so i have no reason to doubt it started right at the beginning.

30 is an interesting milestone to be approaching.  about 6 months ago, i mentioned it to a co-worker and he suggested celebrating with “30 days of 30.”  it was a simple concept with a beautiful theme: find a way, every for the 30 days leading up to my 30th, to celebrate/reflect/enjoy life.  essentially make every day a party.  and my birthday would be the 30th day, the biggest celebration of all.

well, the first of May rolled around, which was to be the eve of this great celebration.  suddenly i was panicking.  i had not planned out my 30 days and somehow they snuck up on me.  i scrambled, decided to play it cool, scrambled again, battled with myself on the whole matter, decided to quit the idea and then committed again.  this went on for awhile.

then the 2nd came.  and the 3rd.  and life continued to roll along.  and as i shared dinner parties and bonfires, spring cleaning and weekends away for work, i came to realize something very valuable: i lead a rich and beautiful, albeit challenging and stressful at times, kind of life.  i didn’t need a gimmicky birthday tactic to be reminded of that.

30 is still a monumental type of birthday, tho.  and i don’t approach it lightly.  in fact, i’ve been thinking about it for the last couple of years, what it means to be approaching the end of my 2o’s.

truth be told, my 20’s have been rough.

i graduated college with an english degree and still no greater idea of who i was than when i started.  i worked various odd (i mean really strange) jobs, including but not limited to: debt collections officer, dental assistant, admissions counselor, pizza-making specialist, barista extraordinaire, executive assistant, public relations officer, and so on.  more recently, i’m specializing in the world of wine.

i’ve dated and dumped, dated and been dumped.  i followed one such love affair to Arizona.  i gave away all my possessions to move (except for a trunk full of beloved books) and had nothing when i moved back.  i gave my heart away and had it returned in pieces.  and then i fell for the love of my life.

i found friends that became family, and began to understand what it meant to love someone for who they are; not who i wanted them to be.

i made mistake upon costly mistake.  quit jobs possibly before i should and took jobs i definitely shouldn’t have.  i settled.  and i rose above.

and most of all, i discovered something invaluable: myself.

i came face to face with my faults, admitting i struggle with rejection from others and, more importantly, myself.  i can easily hurt people with my opinions and ideas if i’m not careful.  i am opinionated and willful and stubborn.

i realized just what i have to offer: an articulate voice, a creative prospective, a helping hand, a passion for natural health.  a loving touch, an understanding ear.  a passion and drive that fuels success.

i found yoga and a desire, not just to lose weight, but to love myself well.  to care for and accept my body as it is (ok, i’m still struggling with this one…but the journey continues).

as i washed the dishes this afternoon, i realized that one of my greatest fears when practicing yoga was that i was never really improving.  yogis call it a “practice” for a reason: you accept where you are with grace, but continually push forward to improve.  change is so slow, almost imperceptible, but still present.

i see how this fear has played out into the bigger picture of my life.  change has been so slow at times it was almost imperceptive.  as i turn 30, though, it is evident how this journey of my life has seen great growth and healing and a movement toward wholeness.  reflecting over my 20’s, and comparing where i was this time last year or the year before or 6 years before that, i see a different person staring back at me in the mirror.

for this, i am grateful.

live is a beautiful (and hopefully long!) journey.  as i wave a farewell to my 20’s, and toast in my 30’s, i will remember that truth.

and let it guide me forward.

the eve of the eve.

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“to a better year.”

this was me a year ago, at a New Year’s Eve party my friend and i hosted.  in front of the lens of the photobooth, we danced, and wrote posters and celebrated the end.  and the beginning.

my biggest desire: a better year.

so here i sit on the eve of the eve of the end of this year i hoped would be “better,” and have to admit that it was in so many ways.  hard but good.  stinking of death but robust with life.  i entered this year a broken (and broke!) wreck, and am walking out of it at peace with my ever-healing mess.

this year saw a few different guys who laid claim to my heart, a devastating separation from a good friend, a bike accident, the long-anticipated Superbowl come and gone, goodbye to an old dream and hello to a new job, a sickness that made me afraid i might ultimately lose my father, yoga and 12-step groups, dating and falling in love, reconciliation and renewed friendship.

whew.  that’s a mouthful.

still, with all this (and so much more), i sit in a state of slight disbelief that this year is nearly over. as remarkable as this year has been, it’s end is approaching with very little fanfare.  i will rise tomorrow, and go to work, and check emails and eat lunch.  and apart from spending the evening party hopping from one hopping party to another, it will look just like any other day.

i think this is why it’s been hard for me to reflect on the year.  i’ve been trying, though without much effort, to think of what my new year should focus on, what is the burning desire i want to see fulfilled?  what is my “to a better year” for 2013?

i still do not have a clear answer, but the word “contentment” floats lazily and peacefully to the surface.  i cannot yet tell if this is my desire or where i find myself or if its something i should try to center on.  but still, it sits on the edge of my mind and lingers, like the smell of lotion after a bath.

here are some other words that i’d like to focus on during this coming year:

cook.
whole and wholesome meals.  for fun and for serious.  even when i don’t want to.  especially when i don’t want to.

practice.
patience.  hospitality.  yoga.  learning to let go.  grace for myself.  sitting still. observance of the gifts of the seasons (rest and reflection in the winter, preparation and planting in the spring, growth and giant living in the summer, harvest and ending in the fall).

find.
that place where my strengths and passions intersect.  endurance.  healing.

tend.
myself.  my home.  a garden.  the yard.  a peaceful space. those pesky finances.

celebrate.
victories, big and small.  my 30th birthday!

love.
myself.  my sweet B.  those around me.  wildly.  fully.  in risky ways.  all those quiet and subtle places only i am privy to.  even when it’s hard.

so, here’s to 2013, and all the unknown wonders and experiences it has to offer!

breathing room.

hello, my name is Christie, and i’m a facebook addict.

my addiction began somewhere in the area of 2002, back when facebook was only for college students.  it finally made it’s way to Anderson and i’m proud to say i was reluctant to jump on the train.  but jump on the train i did, and i’ve been riding faithfully every since.

that’s 10 years that i’ve been “liking,” “status updating,” posting rediculous self-portraits taken in my car or sharing pics of my running accomplishments, “tagging” my friends and family, scrolling through the lives of others, flipping idly through the photo albums of people i haven’t talked to in years.

it’s been 10 years of debates over politics or religion, or both.  10 years of believing that the number of friends i had directly correlated with my value.  10 years of believing that the number of birthday wishes i got reflected how loved i was.  10 years of joking that “real” friendship begins with a facebook request.

don’t get me wrong, facebook has it’s upsides.  it has kept me connected with family i rarely see, allowing me to feel like we really know each other.  but that’s thing…we all feel like we really know each other, but we don’t.  like moths to the flame we think about how beautiful and bright that light is, how warm it will be when we get closer, only to be consumed.  and destroyed.

i’ve recently had two close friends share how they’ve escaped the facebook web.  i teased them.  i gave them a hard time.  a friend and i even nicknamed one “untaggable so-and-so”.   

but i’m a social networker, i said to myself.  this is part of my work, i could never give this up.

then came the most recent break-up (or whatever it was) and break-ups + facebook always equal disaster.  so i did it.  i deactivated my account (to truly delete it you have to submit a letter and do all this work and, well, i’m really just after instant gratification).  i left facebook.

i immediately text my friend Mindy to inform her of her good influence over me.  she quit facebook two years ago and hasn’t looked back.  her text back:

“i’m so proud of you!  now, kind of like with sugar, you will go through a withdrawal period, but i promise in a few months you’ll be much happier sans facebook.”

the funny thing is, i only experience that “withdrawal” when i’m sitting at the coffee shop, chilling, with nothing else to take up my time.  we don’t have internet at home yet, so there’s no temptation there, and my “smart” phone is too stupid to run the facebook app.  the time away has even allowed for some reflection and an even greater conviction to not go back.

the first thing i’ve recognized is that i need breathing room.  i told someone a few months back that i’ve felt suffocated lately, like people were on all sides, pressing in on me and my business.  i can see, now, that facebook had a great deal to do with that.  at one point i wrestled with the idea of defriending everyone but close friends and family but then there’s the sticky issue of who’s feelings you’ll hurt, and who do you really keep and who do you cut loose.  leaving altogether is just easier.

the second i’ve realized is a part of my nature that grasps for attention/communication from people, which really betrays a deeper brokenness: i need to be validated by and find my identity in others.

the third, and the conviction that keeps me from going back, is the desire to live authentically.  facebook is this pseudo-world where i can really be anyone you want, and envy the lives of those i don’t really know.  i give people these false little glimpses of the life i hope i’m living, without ever really interacting with them.  suddenly, that girl i was never really friends with in high school knows i’m starting a new job, or my coworkers know i’ve had my heartbroken.  i’ve given them all that information in my status update, but it still feels invasive when they bring it up later.  i’ve decided that i want to live in such a way that if i have news or information i want to share badly enough (or you want to know badly enough), we’ll have coffee and hash it out.  if we don’t, we were probably never that close anyway so why pretend?

i know standing on this soapbox on my blog is contradictory with the very nature of a blog, but it’s my contradiction and i fully admit it.  for now, i will just say that i feel so relieved to not be dependent on facebook and hope that the extra space will allow for more fruitful relationships and interactions with others.

new traditions.

one of the things we do really well at the Big Table is birthdays.  we may suck at keeping up on the chore chart, getting the trash (or dead mice!) out in a timely manner, or email communication.  but we do a great job with birthdays.

one thing i started when we celebrated our first birthday in the fall of 2010, was the “questions.”  the questions are simple (what was your greatest challenge?  greatest joy? what are you looking forward to in the coming year), but a great place for the birthday boy/girl to reflect on the year and share what they’re most looking forward to.   i later added the opportunity to go around the room and give each person to share something about that person (a way they’ve grown or something they appreciate) and/or a blessing for the coming year.  it has become such an important part of our celebration that we’ve begun to record each other’s answers.

we have already started our second round of birthdays with each other, and it has been incredible special to compare this year’s answers to last’s, to see how we’ve grown and changed, to chart our lives in this way.

we’ve recently had a string of birthdays, with two in February and one in the beginning of March.

the first, Teddy’s:

Present from all of us: bacon of the month club.

Birthday desserts = strawberry cheesecake, complete with dinosaur and ballerina figurines.

Next: Sweet Baby Ray.  with each person, we try to have a meal and dessert that’s unique to their likes.  for Ray, we went to her fav Mexican hot-spot, La Parada, and came back for brownies and ice cream.

and then, our Kari.  for her, Kel made an incredible homemade lasagna and then we had brownies.  of course.

confirmation

i have all the symptoms.  sore throat. trouble (ok, it hurts like hell) swallowing.  my glands are swollen.  my ear drums ache from the pressure.  and a look into the back of my mouth with a flashlight revealed: strep throat.

still, i needed someone to confirm.  fortunately, i am blessed to have a good friend and brother, who happens to be a dr.  within seconds of taking a look, he suggested antibiotics and a regiment of aleve for the pain.

i breathed a sigh.  i’m not crazy.  i really am sick.  a doctor said so and he gave me medicine.

i think about how much we just need someone to tell us we’re not crazy.

i meet bi-weekly with a mentor, and tonight was the night.  he listened well to my rants and struggles with, what i am calling, my “quarter-life/faith crisis.”  he listened without judgement.  he listened with compassion.  he was well-armed with thoughtful questions.  and most importantly, he said i wasn’t crazy.

even better, he said i made sense.

too often i find that we perpetuate emotional and mental “disease” because we will not offer a simple confirmation to people that they’re ok.  we suppress identity and encourage a sheep/herd mentality.  we suppress expression and push conformity.  we tell people they are crazy if they don’t fit our mold or revolve in the patterns of our society.

the freedom to process and ask questions and challenge the norm has always been important to me, especially lately.  it is hard to articulate what is happening internally, but the image i get is of having these cages around me, pressing closer and closer against me.  and just like that, the doors have been opened, and my fragile wings are spread, taking flight.  new perspectives abound as i stumble and fly and stumble again.

no matter what, i have a choice in this.  i get to choose.  and i’m not crazy.  i am a human bird, freed from my cage.  ready to fly.

chamomile tea and apple computers.

tonight, after dinner, the ladies of the house settled into the living room, each on their Mac of choice–laptops and Ipads–researching hiking trips and “apocalyptic lightning storms,” writing articles, reading commentary and blogs.  then Ang made us chamomile tea and, coupled with the lighting, it became a very relaxing and peaceful environment.  not a bad way to spend the evening.