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.

the thing about family….

today has been a weird day.

i am alone in a quiet house, no other living soul but the cat as he bounds from room to room, chasing imaginary foes.  or friends.  it’s always impossible to know.

i started the day with yoga and coffee and lots of items on my to-do list.  spent the afternoon learning to make wine.  dinner with the honey.  said good-bye to him until Saturday.  read a bit, watched a bit of tv.  got an email from a family member that bothered me.  chatted with my sis about said email.  text dad about said email.

and something happened.
in a strange, round about, unexpected way, i got the response i wanted, that i’ve been hoping to receive for a very long time.

i got acknowledgment and understanding and apology.  just when i was least expecting it.

my cousin recently shared on facebook about a quirk she has that is reminiscent of her dad.  this led to us going back and forth about little things we do that not only remind us of our parents, but also our parents’ parents, etc.  i shared with her how i will say, “i just want a little taste” anytime i ask for a bite of someone else’s food, and make a smacking motion with my mouth.  this is a move my mom and grandma have made many times in life.  and i shared how i sound more and more like my mom when i sing, of the sweet memories this always brings up of singing hymns in our country church.  i always beamed with pride at how beautiful my mom’s voice is.

i carry these quirks and feel connected in such a deep way anytime i realize i’m doing them.

that’s the thing about family.

no matter the road you’ve been on, the pain, the frustration, the misunderstanding.  no matter the time in between conversations…a simple text can make things better.  a quirk can connect you back to those you love, those you want to never forget.  you can forgive in an instant because your love and desire for approval can overshadow even the greatest offenses.

you can speak your truth and hope that someday healing will come.  you can hold the candle high that someday your children will be sharing the quirks they have in common with you.  they will smile knowing you are never far away.

looking for a sign

i have to start this post with 2 disclosures.
1. i haven’t prayed in a loonngg time.  and 2. i’m not really a person for “signs.”

that being said, i experienced both yesterday and it pivotal.

let’s back up a bit.

i’ve been thinking for awhile time, but even moreso in the last 6 months, that i’ve wanted to pursue some further education in the natural health field.  i did an intense batch of research back in February/March timeframe and settled on the school and program i wanted to pursue.  what i didn’t settle on was the financial solution.  so i put everything on hold until i could remedy my finances a bit and carve out the money needed to begin.  i set my goal for August and moved on, carrying the packet of information on this program with me regularly, pulling it out every now and then to remind me of my real focus.  my true north.

then August came.  and went.  and the money wasn’t really there like i expected.

but September was different.  September saw a bonus that would comfortable cover the initial down payment.  September saw me really have to wrestle with, literally, putting my money where my mouth had been for so many months.  i would get incredibly close to enrolling in the program, only to find myself shirking back in fear.  i wrestled with my hesitation, and what i would tell someone else in my position.  coaching myself to take a risk and follow my heart and all that cliche’d nonsense that is actually really good advice.  i told anyone who would listen about my struggle but internally i would feel an overwhelming chorus of “YES” anytime i considered the program or read the course descriptions.

and then i decided to try something different.  i decided to try prayer.

ever since leaving the church earlier last year, i’ve avoided any of the old practices i used to observe, needing a deep separation from anything that reminded me of that world.  it’s not that i’ve felt prayer to be bad; i’ve just not felt overwhelmingly convinced of who or what i was praying to, of what exactly was out there to receive my prayers, and even to the extent of what would want to even interact with us enough to want to answer our prayers.

i wouldn’t have even considered the option had i not been to visit with a spiritual guide of sorts, who’s first piece of advice was the practice of meditation.  his suggestion was simple: use meditation to pray, be specific and come with questions you want answered, and, if necessary, ask for a sign.  he mentioned feathers and butterflies or anything else that might serve as validation.

so yesterday morning i sat down, crossed my legs and closed my eyes.  i began to slow my breathing and focus my thoughts.

“ok,” i said with some skepticism.  “ok, whoever you are out there, tell me…should i start this program?  that’s what i want to know.  and send me a sign…a sign of….” my brain immediately thought “turtle,” my rational self thought that was silly.  still, “turtle” kept coming back to mind, over and over.  “ok,” i said, “show me a turtle.  if you think i should do this program.  show me a turtle.”

it was all i could do to remember to find a turtle.  i was on a business trip and busy with different activities and had to keep reminding myself to find a turtle in a place that was not really known to have turtle inhabitants.

towards the afternoon, on a walk across the island we were on, a sign caught my eye.  it looked exactly like one we had seen in the Florida Keys so i walked over to it, only to find this:

tortugas

that’s right, the bar was called “Tortugas,” the spanish word for “Turtles.”  it was not altogether obvious, lost in so many other messages.  but it was there nonetheless.

it was my sign.

but truth be told, it was really just an affirmation of what i already knew to be true.  that’s the thing about signs.  they really just help you to have the courage to choose the path you’re already on, to give you the confidence you need to put your foot out and take that risk.  it minimizes the hives and hyperventilation you feel when thinking about jumping off that cliff.

i registered for that program this evening, and will be starting a Doctor of Naturopathy as soon as they accept my application. happy to finally replace the debilitation of fear with the exhilaration of excitement; thankful for whoever or whatever is out there that sent “tortugas” to nudge me forward.

on the up & up.

“i have everything i need within me to be healed.”

the thought arose like a gentle whisper the other morning.  i sat cross-legged on my yoga mat, eyes closed as my breath began to deepen.  my thoughts were on the doctor’s appointment ahead of me and my health concerns.

“everything i need to be healed is within me,” went through my mind and a gentle peace began to settle.  i felt empowered and strong, ready to handle whatever may come my way, confident i would and could be taken care of.

the call came early in the week, confirming an abscess caused by MRSA.  given that my brain was lingering on the “C” word, MRSA sounded like a cake-walk.  until they switched my meds to a horribly intense antibiotic that caused heartburn for 48 solid hours.  still, it wasn’t worse and i was already visibly getting better.  the aforementioned doctor appointment went smoothly and quickly, with confirmation that i was getting better and, while i still would need to be checked in the future, i had no need to worry.

empowerment is an interesting thing.  while i may not always be able to heal myself without outside assistance, reaffirming the idea that i have it within me to confront and deal and be healed without fear was incredibly strengthening.  the empowerment it brought helped me to hold my head eye, instead of yielding to the fear.  just those few moments on the mat were all i needed to be reminded that i am a strong, formidable creature.

on a different note, thank you to so many of you who “liked” my original post and left notes of encouragement.  may we all be vessels of support and empowerment to one another, and thus work to change this world we live in.

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!

the sanctity of marriage

“we finally got it figured out that
we had truly missed the boat.”
– modest mouse

i met a couple the other night at a birthday party who are not married but living together.  this is not uncommon amongst people my age, but still the voices of the more conservative/religious folks in my life came into my head.  voices that scold, and tsk tsk, and complain about how young people these days just aren’t honoring the sanctity of marriage.

as B and i prepare to move in together (or rather, as i prepare to move into his place) i have had to wrestle with those same voices.  voices from my family, some friends, my past, and even from myself.

voices that somehow nearly always miss the boat.

arguments are constantly flying around about the “sanctity of marriage,” which nearly always refers to marriage solely between a man and a woman, and stresses that couples wait until marriage to “consumate,” if you will, the relationship.  i grew up in the Christian church and this pressure was everywhere.  in our language, our teachings, our mode of operation.  we were taught to pray for our spouses as teenagers, to make lists of qualities we want in a spouse, to hope and wait (and wait and wait and wait).

now, don’t get me wrong, i’m not against marriage by any stretch.  in fact, that was one of the conditions of B and i moving in together, that the option of marriage would at least be within sight.  we are very open about discussing it, and it is a constant topic of conversation, even if only in jest, around our house.

i just think we’re missing the boat.

with all of our concern with who’s marrying who, and when they get married, or if they get married, etc. etc…we forget to be concerned with the health of the actual relationship.  we forget that marriage is actually supposed to be an expression of that relationship, a next step in the journey.  not a destination.

it’s supposed to be a manifestation of the deep love and committment a couple share and a bound that can remind them to stay together over time.  not just a rubber band that holds them together, pressing them together even when they don’t want to be.

every relationship has a different journey, just as the people in that relationship have unique paths to walk.  for B and i, living together is another way of discerning if marriage is the right route for our relationship.  we’ve both been in serious relationships, have had our hearts broken, have come from dysfunctional/broken families.  we need a bit of extra time and space to figure out if this relationship is important enough to us both to merit such a strong committment.  when i broke the news to my dad, he questioned my decision and i answered simply that this is the next step for us.

without the pressure to be married before doing other “stuff,” i/we can more fully focus on growing in love with one another.  we are learning to communicate, to encourage, to serve one another through trying and hard times.  i fed him after his surgery and he’s made me dinner after exhausting days.  he’s practicing being a vegetarian with me and even packed my lunch to ensure i don’t starve at work.  i’m learning to hold him tenderly even when i feel scared about things from my past.  we are learning to love in both practice and emotion.

“sanctity” simply refers to the sacredness of a thing and i can think of nothing more sacred than two people who love each other in this way.

commitment phobe.

although the thought of commitment sends me into anxiety spasms, i’ve never been actually afraid of it.  on the contrary, i’ve dived head-first into many pools of commitment, time after time.  the trouble has not been that i’ve had a hard time committing, but that i’ve committed whole-heartedly, body and soul, to the wrong things and people.

i should back that up…not always the wrong people or things, as in there wasn’t anything inherently wrong with them as people or projects, but moreso wrong that i gave so fully of who i was to them.  wrong that i found my identity, my life’s purpose in them.

afterall, our lives are shifting sands.  no one person, place or thing can be fully what we are about.

B. and I are moving steadily forward as I prepare to move in with him in January.  our conversations have  begun to center around household finances and buying furniture and other futurey-type subject matter, i’ve begun to realize that “things are getting real,” as B. likes to say.

not that things weren’t real before.  they’ve been real for me since day 1 (of dating anyway; i think they’ve been “real” for B. for much longer).  i’ve known this is the man for me since we made it official.  he fits me well and is everything i’ve tried to force every previous situation to be.

but still, shopping for a dresser together can get really real.  all of a sudden.

as i shared some of my anxieties with a friend last night, she had a curious perspective.  like me, she grew up in a very conservative environment, youth group and the like, with fairly narrow views on how a relationship should look.  we both struggle with reconciling our present selves with those old harsh voices.

“these relationships are a tangible reminder of just how different we are from how we were then,” she observed.  that struck me and i quickly realized how true it is.  i have changed so much in the last 10 plus years since, grown in many areas.  for the most part, i feel very comfortable with those choices.  except in the area of relationships, where i battle time and time again with what the old me would think and do, often finding that i don’t know what’s absolutely “right” anymore; i can only know what’s right for.

so it seems that some of my anxiety is not only because of how i’ve been hurt and/or disappointed in the past.  but also because choosing this relationship, and all that it entails, is a confirmation that my life is not at all what i thought it would be.

and yet, overwhelmingly, so much more. perhaps, one day, the joy of it all will not threaten to suffocate me under its weight.