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!

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good-bye too soon.

i remember that day.  my first “real” job in awhile.  i walked into the training room and a sea of new faces, smiling nervously as i sat down.  we played a “get-t0-know-ya” game, where we shared a few facts about ourselves, and i shared some easy to digest vittles, such as “i started an art gallery” and “i live downtown.”

but she, well, i’ll never forget what Tiffany shared.  she was the number 3 dart-thrower in the state and had “cadaver dogs,” dogs that were used by the police to find dead bodies.  in a room full of typical answers–i just graduated college and i’ve worked at this call-center or that customer-service job, Tiffany immediately stood out to me.

for 4 1/2 long weeks, we reported back to that training room each day, learning the ins and outs of timeshare ownership and vacation-booking.  Tiffany was a natural, and i envied her ability to pick things up so quickly.  but her personality was never one that fostered envy.  in fact, she was always ready with a smile, and a “hello,” and a “how are you?”

how ironic that just 6 mos later, the handful of us still left with the company would return to that training room to process the loss of one of our own.  earlier in the morning, work had come to a grinding halt as our management stood in the midst of us to deliver the horrible news: Tiffany had been killed in a car accident.

i felt like a board had hit me across the face, and i felt tears come to my eyes involuntarily.  i have to get out of here, i thought, and made my way to the door.  i bummed a smoke from a friend, and sat in the chilly sunshine of the morning, trying to wrap my mind around what i’d just heard.  our trainer made contact with me later, and asked if i would be interested in visiting with the grief counselor with the rest of my class.  i said yeah, if other people wanted to, i would join.

we walked into the training room, a strange feeling of formality choking out the desire i felt to let my grief hang out.  in the corner, near the front, sat a lady surrounded a haphazard group of chairs.  we took our seats, just as silent as that first day.  just as awkward in how to proceed.

but proceed we finally did.  we spent nearly an hour processing our responses, wondering how a person could go so quickly from existing to not existing, realizing how destroyed we would be if our sister/mother/father/boyfriend were the one who had died, talking about Tiffany and the kind of person she was.  we shared stories about conversations we’d just had with her, about how she was looking forward to the holidays and vacation with family, how she had recently just assumed guardianship of her niece.  we even talked through what little we knew about the accident, all of us hungry to know the details, hoping, i think, to figure out just what went wrong.  we lamented that we, and all those that knew and loved her, were having to say good-bye too soon.

most importantly, we agreed that Tiffany was a beautiful soul, who brought so much to those around her.  so here’s to you, Tiffany Carol Shull; this world is certainly a better place because you were in it; and a lonelier place because you’re gone.  may you rest in peace.

so far this week i’ve:

eaten my weight in fast food.
driven to Lebanon and back twice.
spent more time in a hospital room than at work.
cried my weight in tears.
exclaimed, “and today’s only Monday!” at least twice.

my dad, who spent the weekend dealing with what we thought was dehydration and the effects of over-heating, was admitted to the hospital yesterday.  i won’t give too many details, mostly because there aren’t really any explanations, but he’s not doing well.  and they don’t know why.  his labs have confusing results and no one is quite sure where to begin.  so they order more labs while we wait for results.

after being there late last night, then hearing that he didn’t sleep well and had other issues pop up in testing this morning, i couldn’t help the tears from flowing between calls.  finally, i cried “uncle” and my sis and i left early to head for the hospital.

there slept my rock, this man who, just 3 mos ago was the only face i wanted to see as paramedics loaded me into the back of a ambulance.  the only person i could fully admit how scared i was after being hit by a bicycle.  his were the arms who held me when i cried while first seeing my bent and broken bike, who told me “you’re the only one who knows how you’re feeling, so cry if you need to.”

i sat there all afternoon with my sis and step-mom, the roles quite reversed.  it was me that was needed, me who could offer the loving touch, the kiss on the cheek, the cool wash cloth on a burning forehead.

still, that was the most i could do, and it was quite powerless.  i couldn’t make an answer come sooner or take away the excruciating headache.

i can’t make him better.

it felt so strange, almost foreign, to leave the barrenness of such a scene for the tranquil landscape of farmland beneath the foggy twilight of a hot summer evening.  the days just keep going on, life keeps elvolving, moving forward.

(not) just another birthday.

last week, i celebrated what i have been joking is the first of many “29th birthdays”.  i now sit at less than 357 days until i wave good-bye to by 20’s.

despite the joke, though, i’m strangely ok with growing old.  my 20’s have been an incredible growing, stretching, healing, learning time for me…which has mostly been birthed out of the painful consequences of mistakes and missteps.  looking forward to my 30’s, a clean decade with nothing but potential, feels very promising to me.

i usually write a blog around my birthday that recaps my year, month to month.  this year i think i will just share the many ways that the newly 29-year-old Christie is much different from the newly 28-year-old Christie.

i like to be alone.
somewhere along the journey this past year, i came face to face with the fact that i had overextended myself in the area of relationships and am completely exhausted.  when i moved in April, i relished in the quiet space my new house afforded, and have since kept my schedule relatively clear so i can spend more time by myself, weeding the garden, going for runs, listening to tunes, reading Harry Potter.  it has been and continues to be an important space for me.

i (am learning to) love myself.
loving myself has been something i’ve always struggled with.  ask anyone who’s every seen me reach for a pack of cigarettes instead of food when i felt unloved, or gotten completely wasted and danced barefoot in the street when i felt rejected.  someone recently encouraged me to learn to love myself and my life, and i’m taking his words of wisdom seriously.  i’m giving myself space to recognize when i’m overextended, to rest, to cry, to be alone.  space to hear my voice and give it respect.  the opportunity to demand respect from others i might have previously let treat me like crap.  i’m learning what it looks like to value myself, to hold myself tenderly, to acknowledge hurts and wounds and work on nursing myself back to health.  i look forward to sitting here a year from now and saying i’ve made great strides in this area.

i feel complete without a relationship status.
the me i remember last summer was not satisfied with checking the “single” box…in fact, she was desperate, needy.  unable to separate the need for love from real love.  unable to just be friends with a guy without imagining one day he might come to my rescue.  through a lot of heartbreak, i’ve learned that i can be whole outside of relationship.  my perspective is quite flipped, in fact.  i’ve come to the conclusion that i want a strong, sensitive partner who can love me well.  and if i can’t have that, i don’t want to mess with it at all.  i’m content with being single.  even if it’s forever.  this is surprisingly freeing.

i want money.
this is trite and a silly way to put it, but i’ve spent the majority of my 20’s scorning money and “real jobs” and all those things that seem so typical of the American dream.  but the truth is, i want money.  i want to be able to pay my bills, to travel to my favorite places in the world, to support causes i believe in or share with my friends.  i want to buy an iPhone and pay off my car.  i want to provide myself, and begin the process of saving for a house or future babies.  all this realization led me to find a new job, and i have been so richly blessed to have one that enables me to do those things as well as giving me dignity and respect and room to grow.

i like NPR.
i know…this one surprised me too.  after living for a year and a half with NPR-fanatics and hating every time they chose talk radio over “real” radio, i have come to enjoy it.  this all started when i realized that i needed someone to “talk to me” on my commutes and calling people twice a day to fill space just isn’t cool.  so i switched to the public radio, and quickly found myself engrossed in world news and interviews with inspiring people and incredibly stories of people living rich lives.  i was hooked.

i’ve said this before, but will reiterate it again…i’ve never felt more myself than i do at this stage in the journey.  i feel a deep well of confidence i’ve never known.  i trust myself (for the most part) and appreciate my voice.  i love so many things about myself i once thought were “broken”, “burdensome”, “ugly.”  i walk with a greater perspective on my life…a perspective that allows me see beyond the temporal confusions and frustrations of the daily.  we are, afterall, “spiritual beings having a human experience,” and i intend to live mine to the fullest.

update.

“Sometimes the only way to return is to go where the winds will take you….

In both good and bad ways, I find myself sitting in a place I never would have anticipated or expected even just a few months ago.  I no longer live in Fountain Square (my first “home” in years), but on the Near East side (which I surprisingly love).  I’ve stepped out of the formality of my intentional community (so no more family dinners).   I’m getting ready to leave the non-profit world for corporate America/desk job.  I live with a cat.

Oh, and I’m single.  Once again.

“…to let go of all you cannot hold onto…”

I’ve mentioned in previous posts my discovery and study of Ayurveda, an ancient methodology out of India that focuses on holistic emotional/mental/physical health.  Well, I found a guy in the city who’s actually studied to be a practitioner.  I got so excited I just scheduled an appointment on a whim, unaware of cost.  Fortunately, he allowed me to have a very short session for a portion of the price.

The timing of the appointment couldn’t have been more perfect, as I was wrestling through the emotional wreck of this last relationship.  In just 15 minutes he hit the nail on the head:

“If he’s gone, then let him go darling.”

I began to cry and he offered me kleenex and the opportunity to lay on the floor and cry if I wanted.  I chose to stay in my chair as he gently and tenderly encouraged me to stop finding my identity in my relationships and focus on becoming whole.

“You need to learn to love yourself.”

I asked him if he could see right through me.

Learning to love myself has been the journey I’ve been on for the last year and a half.  I can (kind of) grasp God’s love for me, and fairly practiced at loving others and, occasionally, allowing them to love me.  But loving myself has been a foreign concept.  I left him knowing my first step would be to end a relationship where I felt abandoned, disrespected and unloved.  I spent the afternoon thinking about how I could learn to love myself, what that practice would look like.  Here’s a rough draft:

1. Mainstream activities–Do one job.  Pick just 1-2 hobbies.  Don’t overcommit to meetings or other engagements.

2. Don’t engage in situations or relationships where I might feel pressured to give more than I can.  A good friend of the family always said, “He who puts the most into a relationship gets the least out.”  This has been true in my experience, especially recently, and I’m exhausted by it.

3. Acknowledge that there are certain foods that will promote my health and others that will seek to destroy it.  This is so much more than a “diet,” it’s about realizing that my body needs certain conditions to thrive.

4. Move–run, do yoga, take walks in nature.  Treat my body with respect.

5. Respect my sexuality–remember that my body is a gift I can choose to give, a precious commodity that someone must earn my respect in order to deserve.  It is not a substitute for real intimacy.

6. Take care of my finances–being financially sound is just as much an aspect of being healthy as anything else.

7. Hold myself with gentleness and tenderness–i have always driven myself to do/be more, but it is important, even crucial, for me to acknowledge that I am spread way too thin.  In the last 2 months, I’ve experienced being hit by a car, fighting with a good friend, moving, changing jobs, going through a break-up…several, if not all, of which are factors for depression.  I need to rest.  I need grace and mercy to be applied like salve to my wounded spirit.  Who can I expect to give this to me, if not me?

Yesterday, the training school presented which brought back a flood of emotions and thoughts.  Training school was and will always be a pivotal point in my life, so it was weird to be sitting there thinking about how it was me on that stage a year ago.  And it was two years ago that I was wrestling with the decision to even do training school.  And then all the things that have happened in those two years, the ways I’ve grown and changed.  Like a kid marking my height on the closet wall, I was surprised to see how I’ve grown.

And how much more growing there is to do.

That was probably the most surprising realization…as amazing and intense as TS was for me, the growing/changing/wondering continue beyond.

On a different note, I ran my 5th 1/2 marathon this past Saturday.  Or rather, ran/walked.  It was my 5th on the 5th of May.  Classic.  Couldn’t have planned that better if I’d tried.  This was also my fourth Mini-Marathon in a row and the one thing I’ve always wanted was a pic of me kissing the bricks on the Speedway; finally got my pic.  The second is of my and my one-time running partner, Megan, after crossing the finish line together.

“…for the hope beyond the blue.”
-lyrics by Josh Garrels 

As I shared with my dear brother, Teddy, last week, I try to remind myself that these times of upheaval and change are when we do the most growing.  That if we desire to closer to the people we were created to be, we should celebrate these times of change.

That does not mean I always do, but living is a process, after all….

 

upheaval and the never-ending search for home.

(longest title for a blog i’ve ever written.)

Friday was rough.
it started out really strong, as i excitedly packed my entire room and moved most of it to the new house.  as time went on, though, something deep down broke, like a busted pipe, and out poured a fountain of tears and grief.

it was as if, for the first time, i really allowed myself to feel what i’d been suppressing for 7 mos, to feel the end of something that was supposed to have so much promise and potential, to grieve the loss of a friend.

at one point, while i was at the gallery alone, i just walked out to the parking pad outside our door and cried.  the sky, it seemed, was on my side, gray and cloudy.  we mourned together.

later that night, after the day was done, i tried to go “home,” but that has never really been my home.  with all the tension and anger and frustration that’s happened within its walls, i could not find any comfort.  the idea of driving out to Lebanon, to go past my childhood home hatched and i set off.

i cried all the way there.  the man called to ask what was going on, and my only real response:  “i’m so tired of feeling so fucking homeless.”

“you’re not homeless,” he pleaded, “come to me.”  i decided to follow through with my plan, but assured him i would be there soon.

the roads were dark, but i could still see this land that was once so familiar to me.  the fields, the gravel roads that led to the homes of friends, now long gone–moved or dead.  the more i looked, the more i realized just how different everything is.  it was like driving through a ghost town.

finally i turned on 700 W, and the very sight of the sign sent me into deep tears.  i don’t know why, but when i’m feeling especially rootless, going back to this place helps me grieve.  i cry for the family we had, for the memories in pine trees and corn fields, for the time when my family was together and i had a place i could fall back on.

i went past the house twice, noting the change in landscape and neighbors’s houses.  then i pointed my car back toward Indy, toward the man waiting for me to come back off the edge.  as i got closer and closer to him, i felt something new spring up.  something a lot like hope.

that’s the thing about upheaval…it’s terribly traumatic, and no life can come with out a forging process.  but just as the ground is turned up and over, again and again, until it’s suitable for planting, often our lives needs the same kind of motion.  a turning up and over and crushing in of everything we knew, so that something new can spring up.

maybe home is only ever in the arms of someone who loves you.

waving good-bye.

it wasn’t love at first site.

i have to admit, when they announced they’d be drafting this punk kid from the redneck south, with that accent and that way his lips moved when he talked, i was quite disappointed.  i was only 14, after all.  what did i know about football?

over time, he changed my mind.  it was the confidence.  the swagger.  they way he could command a team on the field and exact such loyalty from his teammates.  and let’s not forget his “laser rocket arm.”

while it may seem quite silly in face of so many tragedies both home and abroad, i find myself heartbroken at today’s news.

Peyton is leaving.

and so i thought i might dedicate a blog to reflecting on and appreciating this man, quarterback, and forever Colt.

as a 14-year-old female, i was not yet into football. not as i would be later (anyone who watched those fateful playoff games against the Patriots can attest to the extremes of my loyalty).  you might say i was raised, in my football life anyway, in a Peyton-only atmosphere.  when he was pissed, so was i.  when he celebrated, i did so doubly.  when he threw a good pass or made the game winning call or just plain breathed, my heart grew just a little bit more.

in college, my friend Abby and i decided to paint a giant blue sheet for the play-offs.  we used wall paint to outline a horseshoe surrounded by the words “we believe.”  we nailed it to the front of the porch and let it fly with pride.  at the time, i had only a cheap knock-off version of a jersey, but it was only Peyton’s number that i would wear.

finally, i was gifted with an official jersey that i wore every Sunday.

while at family get-togethers…

while sewing….

while playing foosball.

with other Colts fans…

in Peyton’s locker….

and then came that fateful day.  my sis and i made the trek to Anderson to watch training camp, and i got to meet the man himself.

no, seriously.

i’ll never forget the moment.  the players had just gotten off the field and Peyton made his way to our fence.  all along the row, people were pushing and shoving, and little kids were getting knocked out of the way.  Peyton repeatedly stopped and told the crowd, in that deep, authoritative voice of his, that if they didn’t stop he would not do any more autographs.

then he came to me, and i froze.  he was right there and it was like slow motion.  i couldn’t think straight.  i vaguely hear a young kid beside me was waving his jersey and my sister yelling for me to get his autography.  but the moment was way more important to me, so i just soaked it in.  he continued to move down the line and away from me.

so, here’s to you, Peyton Manning, in the way that i will remember you best: in a Cobalt blue #18 jersey, buckling up your chin strap, all business as you take the field.

and if you never stop when you wave good-bye
you just might find
if you give it time
you will wave hello again.

you just might wave hello again.

and that’s the way this wheel keeps workin’….
-john mayer

that is the way this wheel works.  i understand business decisions and the necessity of good-byes.  i just hope that someday in the very soon future, we get to wave hello again to Peyton Manning.