Life’s Roller Coaster…

downloadI want to share all the things that have been going on in my life. There are so many changes that I don’t know where to begin. There’s too much to catch up and yet, so many important things to say.

It’s been an important year for all of us. Eye-opening (hopefully) with a call to action around issues of power and privilege that are impacting (infecting) our daily lives and killing (literally) others. I’m sitting with both sadness and empathy, but also a great deal of hope for what our future holds; even through these challenging times.

I’m living in Houston now. It’s good. I’m happy. I’m starting over, once more and while the past few months have been challenging, they’ve also been months of personal growth and more learning about who I am and who I want to be.

I’m in graduate school, too. In an amazing low-residency program at University of Vermont, Leadership for Sustainability, M.S. I’m learning both “book” knowledge and a lot about building relationships and gratitude.

I’ve also been learning about relationships and people who will sit in your corner even when it’s risky for them. I’ve been let down, by those I trusted. I’m learning to trust people’s actions, more than their words. I’m giving fewer chances, which may not seem positive, but I’m also learning I’ve given far too many chances to people who only use them to hurt me or others more. What’s been reinforced for me, is that the people you can trust the most, are those willing to sit through the hard times with you; those who will struggle with you to figure things out; will “grow through it” with you. I’ve been lucky to have these people in my life, these are the people I treasure and relationships I will nurture. For the others, all I can say, is “people will notice a change in your attitude towards them, but won’t notice their behavior that made you change.”

Lots of challenge and change. That seems to be the theme for this year. I wouldn’t undo it. I have zero regrets. I’ve had moments where I’ve been at my very best and others where I left my best self at home.

That’s what I have for an update, with a hopeful thought (as always) that I’ll do better at sharing more regularly.

Peace

In which she falls apart

I haven’t been writing. I could write lines and lines of why that is and not a single one would matter really. Tonite I write in search of something; solace, substance, truth, peace… It feels incredibly selfish in light of all that goes on around me to focus on what I’m learning about myself and why that matters, and it is. But it does, matter, that is.

It’s been exactly five months since I left everything I’d grown to know as home and comfort to set out on this adventure. The irony of this moment is that when I began to envision making this adventure a reality, I felt completely confident and comfortable doing so because I knew myself, I’d become the most authentic me, living life out loud, taking advantage of opportunities without fear or trepidation, and loving the heck out of myself and others. What was missing in my authentic self, was experience, exploration of new places and challenges, and a very honest desire to use the gifts and talents I possess to do work that supports opportunities of growth for others.

Here’s the crux…. Somewhere along the path of this adventure, when things started getting really challenging, when there was trial and hurt and sorrow, I unpacked a less authentic version of me, I hadn’t experienced in years. Those who knew me well in the ‘90s will recognize this self. Angry, hurt, afraid, cynical, frustrated, uneasy. I didn’t like this self much in the 90s and I really am not enjoying her now and neither is anyone else. Here’s what, I know that this is not who I am at my very core, but throw me into a situation where everything that is familiar to me is completely indiscernible as present in my life and those walls go up and authentic me sits quietly inside while this version lays waste to all who shall dare to approach. It’s not a pretty picture, but it is honest.

I wasn’t prepared for some of the challenges and changes, the culture shifts, quieter life, the loss of my animal companion. I’ve made mistakes and errors in judgment. I’ve tried to be accountable for that. I’ve misjudged other’s communications, intent, and willingness to forgive, move on and try another day. I’ve led with pride when I should have followed with curiosity. And maybe most importantly, I’ve hid myself in ways that have hurt others as well.

I don’t know what this means. I’ve never before been this aware of the fluidity of authentic self between those layers of protection that we keep “just in case” but which can wreak some of the worst havoc when they reappear. Truth is, its definitely all a part of who I am. Each day is a practice in peeling back those layers and shedding that skin to grow ever increasingly authentic. I know there is more change on the horizon. I am hopeful for what both this insight and the coming days brings. The one good thing about things falling apart, is the opportunity to put them together again.

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Some days are harder

blackbirds

 

Like today.

It happens, some days are better than others. Yesterday I was able to talk and write with confidence about the changes in my life. Today…not so much, for a variety of reasons. Every day I’m making what feel like fairly significant decisions. They aren’t life or death and most of them are not unrecoverable. But it’s still hard. I often feel isolated and alone in a place unfamiliar to me.

To complicate matters, today I let someone I once trusted minimize me. It hurt and it made me angry. Mostly, it hurt. I was upset, so I thought it might help to get out of the house for a bit. But I was crying, a lot. I mean probably in a way that could have had a positive impact on the drought in California. Less than a mile from home, I got pulled over by police. FOR CRYING! He approached the car, “Ma’am, you look to be a long way from home and really upset, is everything ok.” Seriously, perhaps if one is going to get pulled over for crying, the South might be the best place to have that happen. He asked if he could give me a hug and because I really needed one, I got out of the car on the freeway and let a stranger in uniform give me hug.

Change isn’t easy. I used to avoid as much change as possible, to my own detriment. Now, every day is about embracing change.
It’s exciting.
It’s scary as hell, too.
Some days are harder.
And that’s ok.

For the rest of the day, I’m just going to choose to let it go.

Life IS the adventure…

I’ve fallen a bit behind in planned blogs and quite frankly so much has happened since the last one that I wouldn’t really even be able to catch up. But I’ve realized given recent FB comments and a couple of phone conversations with close friends, that those of you who are kind enough to follow my adventure may be wondering what is up with what appears to be an abrupt stop in the adventure as I settle in to a new apartment home in Jackson, MS.

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Playing Checkers in Las Vegas

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Worthy Opponent

My last post ended with my arrival in Las Vegas. Having learned to love Vegas in a way I never thought I would, I stopped here for a brief visit with one of my super good and amazingly talented friends, Charles. We spent an afternoon in “old Vegas” on Fremont Blvd and at Gold Spike, this little outdoor oasis of giant sized board games, really strong drinks, and a great place to smoke a smooth stogie. It was a good day. I left Vegas early the next morning with a long drive through Arizona, partially along Route 66, and in to Albuquerque where I spent the night at a hotel. I may kick myself for this later, but I did opt to skip Grand Canyon (I know, nature’s wonder and all).

Arizona

Arizona

From Albuquerque I drove to west Texas where I visited my friend Big E, who’d moved there from the Bay to be with his kids and where he just this past weekend, married his life’s love. So good to see him and meet his family.

Then it was on to Houston, where I landed for a few days at Don and Sid’s. This was a much-needed rest, Texas made me road weary, Leila had been getting carsick and I was ready for a bit of respite. After a few days, it was on to Jackson, MS that is where the story takes a bit of a twist.

While I was in Oregon a few weeks prior, my friends in Jackson sent me an email with a grant opportunity and said something like “lets do this.” And so we did. The three of us spent the next couple of weeks writing a 25+-page grant and preparing a budget to open an Adolescent Evening Reporting Center in Jackson, MS. The AERC is an alternative to detention centers and provides skills training, counseling, recreation and a warm meal. Our proposal was to do it in a different way, with a curriculum based on restorative justice, principles of democratic education, trust and respect. And the morning after that long trek through the desert in to Las Vegas that had left me feeling desolate and discouraged as I contemplated whether I was making the right decision about embarking on this adventure, the call came that we had received the grant! And so I arrived in Jackson knowing that this was now going to be my home for awhile…6 months, a year, or longer.

I landed in Jackson and almost immediately contracted a raging fever. Then I headed to New Orleans for a week to present at the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association Conference.

Upon returning to Jackson, I started looking for a place to live and in the past week, I’ve moved in and begun to settle in. And here is where the questions from you have arisen. As I’ve posted pictures of my new #home with connected hash tags and indicators that I was indeed settling in for a long while, you’ve asked about the adventure.

Some of my dearest friends have been quite direct about it, calling to find out what was going on and asking how I felt about not being able to continue the adventure or keep traveling. And what was I doing settling in somewhere? My gut response to all of this is that the adventure is NOT over. When I set out on this journey/adventure, I was open to whatever it held in store for me. Whatever it asked of me. I didn’t know where I would end up or where I would go. I had an initial “stop point.” That was Jackson. What the journey is asking of me now is to settle in for a while. I believe in this project, and I want to put in the effort to get it off the ground and operating. I’m still doing some consulting work and also maintaining operations for IDEA. What I know about me, is that in order to be my best professionally, I need to feel settled. I need to have a retreat that is my own, a place to rest; regroup; and start again the next day. And so Leila and I are making Jackson our home.

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But here’s the thing. Jackson is located in an incredible part of our country. The South is rich in history and natural beauty and amazingly kind and generous people. I’ve never been here, I’ve never traveled around the South and there are so many parts of it I want to explore. And there will be time for more travel and exploring and adventure.

The adventure is NOT over. Life IS the adventure and every day I am learning something new, meeting someone new and having experiences I’ve never had. That is what this journey is about…and so it continues.

 

Desolation by design

Somewhere near Barstow, CA

Somewhere near Barstow, CA

If I gave or even had the impression that this road trip adventure would be easy, I was wrong. It’s not. I knew (in my head) it wouldn’t be…logic and all. But damn if I didn’t just throw my heart right in, free-fall in to the deep end.  After three weeks in the NW with my BFFE (Best Fucking Friend Ever; aka Buffy), a visit to Portland friends, and my mom and sister in Seattle; followed by two days back in the Bay Area, I drove away from everything familiar in to the desert. As I was headed south through Cali, I had this thought: “damn, I love this place.” And I do, I love Cali, I love the people and the weather and I love the person that I became while living there. I love that while living in Cali I gave myself permission to be my authentic self; a blending of the young girl from sleepy, Nebraska; the well-educated career-focused woman from Oregon; and the all-out, life-is-too-short-to-work-too-hard, social justice minded, activist, party gurl from Cali. I really like this person I’ve become and I’m liking even more the person I’m becoming.

I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t think more than once today about turning around and going back. “Go back where?” asked a friend. A very good point. When I arrived at my destination tonite, one of my host’s roommates helped me with my bags and asked where I was coming in from?   “California” would have been the simple answer. But some answers, especially right now, just aren’t that simple. So I laughed. Later, he stepped in a surprise Leila left in a dark doorway and so I’m guessing that I’m probably not his favorite house guest and it doesn’t matter where I came in from anyway.

Also, the inevitable desert experience as spiritual pilgrimage metaphor of all of this is not lost on me. Not even in the least. And I have many many more miles of desert to drive.

So, today I panicked. Just a little bit, I phoned a friend who talked me through it and I drove on. Tomorrow (well not tomorrow), soon will be another day of driving in the desert. And I’ll deal with that when it gets here.

This is the adventure…

I have not traveled far, yet I am weary from the journey.

the-journeyI’ve heard you say I’ve been quiet. There’s truth to that. I haven’t traveled far. The boundless travel part of the journey has yet to begin. It’s approaching and I’m eager. But this respite; this down-time to regroup, take care of some business, visit with friends and family, is much-needed. It’s what a wise friend might call a “grey road.” Off the main interstates and highways.
There’s something to be said for these off-road journeys. Learning to be had, if we’ll have it. And for me, some reconciliations of sort. Both internal and external.

This is the adventure. It won’t be all unknown roads, anticipation and excitement. Sometimes, like now, it will be about retracing beaten paths, revisiting old haunts and sharing a drink or two with friends. And like the challenges, the unknown that is before me, I welcome these comfortable silences and the known. I’ll just be resting here for a moment, asking what there is to be learned, before continuing on.

Permission Granted

Permission-based-marketing-granted-Image-284x202I’m staying in my pajamas today. It’s day three of adventure2015 and I’m staying put, in the house, in my pajamas. It’s my attempt to get focused and get some work done. There’s some grant writing to be done for work and that requires focus. Something that has been lacking the last few days with the final push to pack up the apartment, load the car and hit the road. I made the 655 mile, 12 hour drive to Newport, OR on Monday. This is my first stop. It’s my best friend’s place. Where Ophelia (the cat) will make her new home. It’s a place to regroup, get my bearings. I need to finalize the timeline for the longer road trip to Jackson, MS. Friends and others there are anxious for my arrival, I’ve been told. And I too am anxious and READY.

There have been a lot of things on my mind the last few days. 12 hours in a car is a lot of time to think. And question. And doubt. And recall again what brought me to this place. What I learned yesterday, is that all the planning in the world won’t prevent the unexpected from happening. See yesterday when I left the house, I bought a new car. Definitely not in the plans.

On Monday, while I was driving, I missed the posting of this column on Miss Matters by my friend and former boss Julie Lythcott-Haims, “How to Live the Life You Imagine”. In it she lays out a three-step process to living the life you imagine. For me, the most critical of those steps and the one I keep coming back to, is: “Give yourself permission to be that person.”

The most common response I’ve heard from people when I’ve told them about my plans for this adventure, is “wow, I’d love to be able to do something like that.” A year ago, if someone came to me with this idea, I probably would have said the same thing. I acknowledge, that I have a lot of privilege that puts me in a place to be able to actually do this thing. But all the privilege in the world, wouldn’t have made it happen, if I hadn’t been willing to give myself permission to be “that person.”

Most of us spend the bulk of our life trying to live up to the expectations of others; our parents, our spouses/partners, our friends, our bosses, the media, society in general. It’s a lot of pressure, mostly unacknowledged. Many of us have this little voice inside saying something like, “but what if I could…”. The truth of it all is, you could and you can. And you’ll never know if you don’t try. And trying–requires giving yourself permission to be that person.

If you knew yourself for even one moment,
if you could just glimpse
your most beautiful face,
-Rumi

 

For the love of …

There have been times, recently, when I’ve sat in my apartment and not been able to fathom how to determine what is most critical to carry with me, what can be left behind in storage indefinitely and what to let go of. It has been slightly paralyzing. There have been brief moments of confidence and movement forward, but mostly there’s been a lot of shuffling things around and stressing out.

Last night I decided to make a list of the things I really needed to get done this morning before heading out to what I’m sure will be a lovely gathering of friends and acquaintances I haven’t seen in a long while. And I write this now having not only finished all those things, but having this amazing sense of feeling like this is actually all possible. A feeling I haven’t really, if I’m honest, had since I actually made the decision to go.

tumblr_lt6x1rKWuN1qf70r5o1_500It feels appropriate, on Valentine’s Day.

I spent the morning sorting through what I think is the last of the boxes filled with memories. Acknowledging that letting go of things and pictures is not at all the same thing as forgetting. And also falling more and more in love with my life. Life, as it is meant to be, hasn’t always been easy and yet what I know for sure is that my life has always been blessed by the most amazing people.

I have a great adventure ahead of me. I’m feeling lucky and also very much in love with who I am today, my choices and the people who make up this blessed circle of friends I will carry with me always in my heart.