doing too much

the summer between my sophomore and junior years of college, i dedicated my summer to working in West Oakland, CA in a neighborhood called “Lower Bottom” (birthplace of the Black Panthers). it was there that i had one of the first profound prophecies over my life.

not from a shaman, yogi, guru, pastor or priest.

no, these words were simple and to the point and came from the mouths of the middle school girls i was charged with mentoring.

i can’t even remember who was the first to say it, but i’m confident i heard it multiple times from multiple girls. they would look at me after I said and/or did something, raise one eyebrow (which was always a sure sign they disapproved), cock their head, smoosh up their little mouths and say:

“Christie…you’re doing too much.”

of course, it would take me the greater part of a decade to understand what they were trying to say. initially, i was defensive and denied their claims. i wasn’t doing too much, i just cared, liked to help, wanted to be active, yada yada yada.

but as the years have worn on and my body has worn out, i’ve come to understand the wisdom in such simple words.

hello, I’m Christie, and i do too much.

this past week, i decided to embark on a detox. this is nothing new to my life. multiple experts in the natural health and healing circuit recommend a regular detox. detoxes relieve the digestive system of the burden of digesting food and can better focus on removing the build-up of harmful toxins from the system. there are many detoxes out there, but i chose a hybrid of raw & Ayurvedic practices. my detox started with only consuming light, raw fruits and vegetables on Tuesday to ease my body in, moved into a soup/sauteed greens option from Ayurveda on Wed-Fri, and will finish tomorrow with more raw foods to ease my body out.

along with the nutritional detox, most experts stress a mental/emotional detox as well. mine must have been ready for it because i woke from a bad dream Tuesday night, crying into the dark, tears of release. i wanted to let the days of the detox be more intentional, focused on reading the signs of my body, honoring the need to rest and nap.

Wednesday had other plans.

i knew i would need to work at the studio for about 5 hours, then head to a friend’s to clean for 2. then i planned to go see a movie by myself. except a project was overdue and sent me running around town to the printer, then miscommunication between staff meant covering the evening shift at the studio, then the POS software was giving me fits and warranted 2 calls to the help line. i got home at 9:15p and collapsed into bed.

i do too much.

this reality has been a hard one to accept. i moved from denial to anger (why CAN’T I do whatever i want?!) to bargaining (ok, if i just nap here and here, i can still do ALL THIS STUFF!) to depression and acceptance, which i find myself toeing the line as i wrestle with feeling sad at the thought of missing out and then relieved when i just allow myself to rest.

no matter the stage, though, the truth was undeniable. i began to notice a pattern of really exerting myself–accepting every offer to hang out/do coffee/grab a drink, attending every event i thought would be interesting or was invited to, etc–then crashing. it was as if i went back to the well and found it completely dry but my body/mind/spirit completely parched. and i panicked. i retreated. sometimes involuntarily.

one such event happened several years ago. a friend who lived in Chicago agreed to let me borrow her apartment when she was out of town. i packed my backpack, hopped on the MegaBus and, several city buses later, arrived in her place. a wave of exhaustion rushed over me and i laid down for a nap, that turned into bedtime, that rolled into the next day and afternoon and night. i ventured out only once for dinner. i felt sick but something told me i just needed the rest. all my grandiose plans to explore the city and journal and have adventures went out the window. my reserves were depleted and, finally being away from the voices and temptations in my own city, i could hear my body/mind/spirit crying out for a break.

this detox period has heightened those senses. today, after working/running errands all morning, i considered squeezing in a movie with Indy Film Fest (they’ll be gone tomorrow and i haven’t watched NEARLY enough, i argued with myself), before heading back to the studio to work all evening. i kept going back and forth, should I? shouldn’t I? when i sat down to eat my lunch of soup and a banana, i realized how sleepy i was. then i recalled how i woke in the middle of night and evaluated the fact that i am not consuming as many calories, and realized i would probably need a rest more than i need to battle traffic to hurry to the movie, then battle traffic to hurry back to the studio.

so i took a rest.

i would love to say it made all the difference, but i’m not sure. it did, however, leave me refreshed for my evening shift, not depending on caffeine to keep me going. for that i am grateful.

but still, what does it mean to say no? to live in balance?

this, i am still learning. living for so long suppressing the cues of my body has left me a bit out of touch. yoga helps. detoxing helps. but mostly think i will just need time and practice. practice listening. practice weighing options and disciplining myself to choose just one. practice appreciating the details of my daily life-the sun shine in thru the doorway, the way my cat contorts his body during a nap on the couch, the smile of my honey when i come home. all those things that get lost in my “fear of missing out.”

hello, my name is Christie and i am in process.

 

what’s in a name…

there are plenty of labels to go around in my hood.

white trash. ghetto. hipster. hipster-wannabe. dirty hippies. damn kids. lazy couch surfer. drunk. deadbeat dad. smoker. bum. homeless guy. beggar. anarchist college kids. lesbians. preppies. crazy religious. not to mention the racist ones i refuse to repeat.

and the list goes on and on.

i mean, i get it. i’m guilty of it. just before writing this, as i pulled out of the taco shop parking lot, i saw a haggard looking family, children running about, an older looking grandpa like figure smoking a cigarette as he rode his bike around and in front of my car as i attempted to leave.

several labels immediately came to mind.

then, another thought:
what if i looked at them with compassion?

and my perspective started to shift.

in light of today’s ruling striking down Indiana’s ban on gay marriage, i’m reminded of a lot of labels that have been pretty prominent in my life for this past year.

gay. homo. fag. abomination. god-damned.

when the only labels i ever recognized were friend. family. people i love.

as i sat listening to hours of testimony in January, through two different hearings and hours of hurtful, hateful labels, my heart ached for these critics to see more. to see the human behind the label. to see their tears, hear their cries, understand their fearful hearts.

see, that’s the thing about labels. they distance us from the human beneath the label. they protect us and insulate us from wrestling with the paradigm shift that people who are different from us create. they keep us from responding with compassion. in fact, they justify us not responding at all. after all, if i can find a label that proves that person deserves what they’re getting, then i have no responsibility to them.

and if they keep us from all those things, they perpetuate hate, and anger, and war. essentially, every evil in this world starts with our simple judgment on one another.

it won’t happen overnight. it may not even happen in our lifetime. but everyday should begin to serve as an opportunity to practice dropping the label.

or better yet, converting it.

how about:
neighbor
precious
beautiful
human
brother
sister

friend.

 

 

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.

IMG_3897

“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!

Christmas past.

whenever i get gloomy about the state of the world,
I pull out this:

big table 10

i think of this day.
this day, just over 2 years ago.
this day, when i slid on a patch of ice on the interstate and travelled across three lanes into the guard rail.
this day, when i came home shaken and scared and was promptly offered a shot of whiskey and warm spot at the table.
this day when, after Christmas shopping with Kel, we had the brilliant idea to buy everyone “Christmas pajamas” and have our “family photos” taken.

this day, and so many like it, when i felt i had a home with these dear friends.

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.

if i could…

today, i’m feeling quite powerless.  sometimes it helps me in these times to dream a little.  here is my list of things i would do, if i could:

…i would settle down in a place long enough to plant a small vegetable garden.  then i would lay flat, my cheek to the ground, and watch as the little green leaves popped up through the brown dirt.

…i would wrap my arms around a friend who’s struggling, and the doing so would infuse them with all the love that is out there for them.  the love would heal and transform their wounds into beautiful scars.

…i would sit in this coffee shop for the remainder of the afternoon, alternately reading and writing, while drinking so much chai my belly ached with goodness.