breaking up is hard to do….

there’s no easy way to end a 2 1/2 year relationship.

still, i woke about a week ago, the morning after a hard fight, and somehow i knew. that’s where we were heading.

the fight was nothing special, nothing more than had been fought about many times before. but, as i came soon realize, it was a symptom of bigger problems.

i met B a year before we started dating. he was a regular at the coffee shop where I served as a barista, and had just returned from a trip to Spain. he travelled alone, partying on the beaches and running with the bulls. i could tell he liked me immediately. i invited him for tea on my porch and he wooed me with coffee and conversation at the gallery where i worked. he was a friend to me, but nothing more.

it was nearly a year before my heart started to change. my dad was very ill and in the hospital, and B reached out to me, offered to take me to dinner. i knew if i went to him, i could let my guard down and be held. but still, i held out for another couple months. finally, i knew i was in all the way and told him i would like to start dating.

we did immediately.

i moved in about 5 months later and we began to explore new territory. we were entertained by playing fetch with the cat and enjoyed playing Yahtzee. we had tickle wars and told each other stories about our days. he tolerated me moving (and re-moving and re-moving) the furniture until it felt just right. and i tolerated his incessant sharing of random trivia and any other kind of special knowledge he had.

and every morning i would be greeted with a sweet “good morning beautiful.”

we went through many seasons together. seasons as a couple, and seasons of ourselves. we began to explore different facets of ourselves–he started a business and bought a duplex to renovate and eventually rent, and i made a couple different job changes, eventually daring to start exploring yoga and natural health. everynight we shared stories about our day, and everyday we grew and changed. and not always in the same ways.

still, our love grew and deepened and i found myself making concessions about my future. perhaps this was simply how relationships were; you had choices in life and every choice meant something else you willingly gave up. and i would. because i deeply loved him. and he deeply loved me. we were in foreign territory.

still, that fight a week ago began to shake things up. i spent the weekend with a sense of impending doom, that we were in the throws of breaking up. nothing was “wrong”, really, at least not overtly. we had just traveled to a friend’s wedding the weekend before and we was an incredibly helpful and giving person, encouraging me and preparing food for us and my friends, driving and lending his car. we hiked and laughed and snuggled at night. i felt truly blessed to have him by my side. but something had shifted and, while i couldn’t name any reason why, i knew we were nearing the end.

finally, i broached the subject Sunday night and the only thing i could come up with to describe what was happening was this:

“i think we’re at the end of our road together.”

i expected anger, defensiveness, arguments. instead, he nodded and all my reserves broke. the tears that had been coming for a couple days came flooding forward. he was agreeing with me. we were acknowledging that the differences were too great, that there were pieces of the puzzle that just didn’t fit. and never would. we loved each other dearly, but we were breaking up.

i saw tears well up in his eyes and he moved forward to hold me. we wept and told jokes and laughed, and wept some more. it is the strangest thing, being able to share everything with a partner, even the grief of the end.

as the week began, i made a game plan for moving out. i would get a storage unit, secure a place to stay for a bit until i could find a suitable apartment, then i would live by myself for awhile. try to rest, recouperate, begin again.

by Tuesday, my plan had me in fits and i began to wonder if we’d made the right decision, was it too late to change our minds, was i forcing something because i was scared of moving forward, and so on. i was staying at the house until i could finish moving, and when i got home he was there. he was gentle and soft, and i found myself being held by him, wondering outloud if we were doing the right thing. like the sensible partner he always was, he reminded me of the differences of our paths, the things he wanted and didn’t want, the things i desperately did.

i stayed with him that night, and the other 2 that followed. as we went to bed last night, my last in the house, he pulled me close and, to my surprise, began to cry. it was our last night together.

“how long did you spend wanting to date me,” i asked. “and how long did i spend wanting to marry you. and look at where we are.”

“i’m so sorry it didn’t work out,” was all he could reply.

these are the things i’ll miss. the little moments before we went to bed or when we woke up in the morning. the sweet, quiet moments that only the people in the relationship can know or understand. the moments that know one else is privy to, where you feel completely understood by another human being, where you feel connected beyond explanation.

i look at the pictures of our earlier todays together, the bright, fresh love in our eyes. idealistic love that hoped beyond hope that love could conquer all. and i look at the love he have now, so powerful and strong that it could set the other free.

this morning, he helped me pack up the last little bits of things and hugged me good-bye, just like we have done for the last 2 1/2 years. no, there’s no easy way to end a relationship of that length and width and depth, but there was something very special about this one. no anger, no hatred. just love, all the way up to the end.

and for that i am grateful.

“‘all you need is love” is a lie ’cause
we had enough and we still said good-bye
now we’re tired, battered fighters

and it stings when it’s nobody’s fault
’cause there’s nothing to blame at the drop of your name
it’s only the air you took, and the breath you left….
    {split screen sadness by john mayer}

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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.

 

 

you’ve come a long way, baby

last week, my little sis had surgery (it was brief and she is recovering nicely) and i agreed to meet her at the hospital.  running late, i had to call before hand to send her my well-wishes and get directions to the surgery center.  as i spoke to my dad, i came to realize that it was just him and my mom there with my sister and, now that my sis was actually back in surgery, my parents were alone together in the waiting room.  and it was ok.  neither was pressuring me to get there, neither indicated a need for intercession or a buffer.  i was told all was well and to be safe getting there.

i cried as the realization of this moment washed over me.

but let me back-track just a minute, to give a greater perspective on the significance of this. my parents separated during my senior year of high school and divorced during the freshman year of college.  it was  a bitter time, full of anger and anguish and disappointment for all parties.  my parents found it hard to be around one another without incident, and we existed that way for years, my sis and i serving as buffers, nervous about moments where the two may have to be in the same space as one another.  it was a hard road, full of anxiety and pressure on my sister and i’s part to keep the peace.

but now, (NOW!), they were sitting there, in that waiting room, not best friends but not enemies.  gathered for a common purpose and not needing anyone to intercede.  they have come a long way in healing, and therefore our family has begun to heal.

a friend once told me she believes we pick the families we come into.  that before we’re born, and we’re just little speck babies out there in the universe or heaven or what have you, we pick the life we choose to enter.  i don’t know how i feel about that or if i agree with the philosophy, but it is incredibly empowering to think that we’ve chosen this life.  then i’m not the victim of the things that happened in my childhood or the events of my family.  i chose this life.

i choose this life.

at the start of 2013, i wrote this about the words i wanted my year to focus on, and so many of them have played a vital role in my year.  in preparing for 2014, tho, that phrase above–i choose this life–keeps coming to mind.

i choose the changes i’m making, the direction i want to go.  i choose my health.  i choose to love.  i choose to cherish the humans i’ve been entrusted to care for.  i choose to go into the kitchen and make a delicious, nourishing meal instead of going out for cheeseburgers (ok, i’ll choose that most of the time).

so, cheers to 2014!
“make good choices!”

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.

the need for speed.

i’ve watched this movie in every format possible.  from my ratty old VH tape, recorded from the tv.  to my dad’s living room, cranking up the surround sound so i could drown in jet wash.  i even flew solo and went to see it at the IMA’s summer night movies a couple summers ago, singing and quoting the movie along with my peers.

but 3D IMAX was by far the best experience i’ve ever had watching Top Gun.

from the beginning, you’re thrust into this film where everything is intensified by both the 3D effects and the size of the IMAX screen.  you feel like you’re in the cock-pit, swirling through space.  you’re so close to Tom Cruise you can reach out and touch his sweat-beaded forehead.  the laughs are more intense, as you feel strangely awkward during the larger than life sex-scene, and the tears readily available when ole’ Goose smashes into the canopy and falls, limp-bodied, down to sea.

initially, i was expecting to see a crisp, cleaned-up rendition of my 80’s classic, but was pleasantly surprised to see the grainy film of my youth.  it felt strangely like home, like somethings will always stay the same no matter what else changes.

and on the way out, i couldn’t resist this:

IMG_0381

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!