a new vision

“where there is no vision, the people perish….” 
    -Proverbs 29:18

“the most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight but no vision.”
   -Helen Keller

as the New Year approaches and i find myself embarking on (many!) new adventures, i decided to attend a Vision Board workshop at my yoga studio.  what, you may ask is a Vision Board, let alone a Vision Board workshop?!  i had similar questions myself and had a hard time describing to others what i intended to spend the morning of my day off doing. still, something stirred in my spirit and i knew that was exactly where i needed to be.

the concept of a vision board is simple: compile all those things you want to Be, Do, and Have, whether in pictures, words, phrases, and display them on a board.  in doing so, you create a space that houses all your desires, and reminds you daily what you’re looking for in this life, where you’re aiming yourself.  and on a deeper level, as i soon learned, you’re allowing yourself to be vulnerable enough to admit you want something.

we started our time together with a brief series of yoga moves, warming up our bodies and allowing the morning to slough off, like old skin.  whatever it took to get us there, whatever our mornings included, soon melted off and a peace settled about the room.  the coach explained a bit of the science behind the vision board, words that went over my head as i didn’t bring my journal to write them down.  and then she set us free to dream.

in the middle of the room were hundreds of magazines for the taking, and scissors and glue sticks and poster board.  i gobbled up several magazines like a child starving and began searching for images and words.  initially, i just grabbed at anything that attracted me, not thinking about what i really wanted to see in my life.

this has been such a strange time of transition.  i recently started studying naturopathy, which has shifted the focus of my priorities.  i also decided that my current job was taking too many precious resources, mainly time, and that i’d rather be spending those on the path it seemed i should be on.  i reached out to my yoga teacher, which in turn led to a job with a local yoga studio.  i am currently merging into my work there, while slowly cutting down my work with the winery.  i am also supplementing my income by selling Pampered Chef, so my time lately has been spent learning the ropes and spreading the word.  needless to say, there is a lot of change and transition happening.

which left me breathless, so to speak, when it came to the vision for my life.  this transition has forced my hand in a way, to develop that picture a bit, but there are still so many other items, tangible pieces that just weren’t coming into focus.

i wrestled with myself as i turned page after page.  what do i desire to have, to do, to be?

the more feverishly i worked, the more i wrestled.  the more i wrestled, the more feverish i became.  until finally i realized the issue: my own limiting beliefs.  focus, i told myself stubbornly.  focus.  what do you REALLY want?  as if my vision board where now some budgetary to-do list, with limited resources to supply it’s coming to fruition.  but there were no limits, and that was the point of the exercise.  what would life look like and include if you had no limits??  that was the very point of this time.

i had missed it.  i had let the limiting voices become mine.  but i didn’t let them take over.  i started to let myself answer honestly and without reserve.

i want to have peaceful mornings, i thought, to create a home, to have yoga be a more central part of my life.  i want a family to warm these rooms, to hear the laughter of little people.  more tangibly, i want to be engaged and be married.  i ripped out pictures of engagement rings and my wedding dress, and a couple holding hands.  i want to visit Paris and New York City.  i want to own my own business and remodel the kitchen.  all these things went on the board.

vision board

above all else, the coach added at one point, is the feelings associated with these things you desire.  how do you envision yourself feeling? she asked.

i struggled with this the most.  the truth is, i gave up a long time ago hoping to feel.  it is a classic survivor skill, neutralizing all expectation and hope to avoid disappointment.  i just didn’t realize how deep it went.  at the heart of all my wrestling, i was scared.  scared to admit what i really desired, scared to see it come to fruition, scared that maybe it wouldn’t fulfill me as i hoped, scared it may never come at all.  i was, and am, scared of good things happening.

i verbalized this to the lady next to me, fidgeting as i admitted it.  do you ever feel that way, i asked.  she nodded confidently.

“that’s called vulnerability,” she said.  ahh, yes.  vulnerability.  my old frien-enemy.  how to ever make peace with her, but that is a different post for a different day.

with my vision board complete, i rolled it into my yoga map and rode my bike home, the visions swirling in my mind.  the coach suggested putting it somewhere we could see it daily, and looking at it, reminding our subconscious selves what we’re looking for in this world.  so my little work of art sits on my dresser.  and the words “boss” and “family” and “cooking up a business” stare back at me when i wake and when i get dressed for the day, to remind me of what is possible and prompt me to pursue my dreams.

 

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.

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!

just another manic monday.

actually, it’s quite the opposite here.

the house is quiet, except the low hum of 90’s punk rock coming from B.’s computer as he works an editing project.

the dishes are done except for a couple mugs filled with “sleepybear tea,” as B. calls it.

my feet are tucked up under B. and i am warm and cozy, reading a book.

then a text from a friend, asking randomly, “were you attracted to B. before you started dating him?”  the question strikes me as funny, and i want to answer, “yes, and no.  and yes.  and definitely no.”  i look at B., intensely focused on his work, and have to smile at the journey we’ve had so far.

we became friends, or at least met, one day at the coffee shop, shortly after he’d returned from a visit to Spain.  he was sharing pictures with my coworker and i casually interjected myself into the conversation.  that was the beginning for him, but not for me.  for me, it would be still be many moons before i fell for this man.

we continued to meet occasionally here and there, seeing each other at the coffee shop and neighborhood events.  occasionally i would invite him to a backyard bonfire, and he would bring me a coffee and pastry to share during late nights at the gallery.  he was a good friend.

but that’s all i would let it be.  even when my sis insisted i date him (“B.’s a good guy!” she would argue), i shook my head.  “no, no, no.  he’s just a friend.”

(cue a little Biz Markie…. “so you say he’s just a friend.”)

ok, enough of that….

what happened on that evening in July i can only describe as divine, for it was like a cloud had been lifted.  a veil had been pulled back from the windows of my eyes.

B. text to ask if i wanted to play tennis.  it was the first night in over a month where the heat subsided a bit, and a light breeze was blowing.  he was serving, calling the scores in a British accent as he enjoyed doing, and a thought went through my mind.  a quiet, simple thought sailed through like a whisper on the breeze.

“i could do this for the rest of my life.”

that was the beginning of a new and different type of relationship for us, as i quickly realized my feelings ran much deeper than even i could have expected.  we began dating and found such happiness in being together.  B. used to wonder why things didn’t happen sooner, but i have to say that was divine as well.

i was in a much different place when B. and i met, and even as we continued to be friends.  the change didn’t happen, in fact, until i began to love myself.

in the spring, in the midst of a crazy relationship type situation, a friend quietly reminded me, “Christie…you don’t have to do this.  if you want to marry someone who can be a rock to you, that’s ok.”  that was the catalyst, the place where something changed.  i had not, up until that point, given myself permission to have a healthy, loving relationship.

over the following months, i resolved that i had had enough pain in this area.  if a relationship could not be loving, supportive, gracious and gentle, i wanted nothing to do with it.

then the lights came on and there was B.  this wonderful man who fit all my qualifications (and more!) and had been doing so under my nose for nearly a year.

was i attracted?  yes, i must have been, though i never knew it or understood why.  regardless, things worked out in the time they should have.  and not a minute sooner (or later).

so, on this quiet Monday evening, i find myself thankful for so many things, for sharing tea and stories about the weather.  for little kisses here and there.  for playing fetch with the cat.  for love and this special place in the journey we find ourselves, as our story continues to evolve.

thoughts on church.

i visited church today for the first real time since my “hiatus” (Easter doesn’t count).  i’m not sure why, except that it’s been a rough weekend and i just needed something familiar, something like home.  i was quickly reminded why i’m going to maintain my hiatus.  here are some of my notes:

“i am weary with this life…or at least with the life the church expects me to live.  one of the tenents of Christianity is that this world is not our own, that we live toward a greater place.

so then what do we do with this life?  why can’t we just be ordinary, living out and appreciating the minutiae of life?  why can’t we settle into relationships and places and do the steady slow work of putting truth and life and light into the dark places?

we use such language to talk about God–rightly so, He is a big mystery.  but we think we have to constantly work to grasp Him, instead of just allowing Him to be big and us to be small.

why do we have to be aware of what the “enemy” is doing?  did Jesus ask this of us?  did he ask us to be so aware of darkness, or to just love the light so much we radiate?

this is why i’m not “doing church” right now…all of our language is laden with conviction, and some believe strongly that is the greatest catalyst for change.

but Christ brought grace.  He constantly met people where they were and told them He saw all of them, and His heart broke for them.  why do we keep trying to push people into the mold of who we think they should be?  instead of affirming who/where they are, allowing our love to provide space for the transformation they uniquely need, the transformation that looks like what they need it to look like.”

i went in this morning completely exhausted, emotionally, physically, mentally.  i felt weary and heavy and sad.  i needed an old friend and a couch to lay on.  what i realized is that the church is not for the weak, or the weary, or even the marginalized.  the only way to survive there is if you’re strong, happy, able to participate in “meet and greets” and smile.

i want to be that version of church i long for.  i want to be a place where people can find rest and unconditional love.  i want to be that all the time, not just on Sundays.  i want to be a person that meets people wherever they are, in whatever state, and says, “let’s be encouraged, because we are so dearly loved,”  because that’s the heart of what i need to hear.  and the heart of what i see so many around me longing for.

we don’t need another message about we’re not living up to some standard; i think we are all very aware of our shortcomings.  even those of us who’ve learned to hide it well.  we could all say, if we were really brutally honest, that we are crappy creatures.  we need to hear that there are good parts of us too.  that we were created in the image of a loving, beautiful God which means we are also loving and beautiful.  even when we’re messy.

that’s the church we need.

the cost

by Morris West

it costs so much to be a full human that there are very few who have the enlightenment or the courage to pay the price.  one has to abandon altogether the search for security and reach out to the risk of living with both arms open.  one has to embrace the world like a lover.  one has to accept pain as a condition for existence.

pilgrimmage.

we are all pilgrims,
none better than the other
grasping for the promised land.

we are all pilgrims,
wearing out the skin on
our knees crawling towards it.

we are all pilgrims,
feet bloody and blistered
as we make our way home.