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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.

What I’m learning…

IMG_7332When I made the decision to quit one of my jobs, pack up my car, and go on an adventure, I knew there would be lessons. I mistakenly thought they wouldn’t start until I hit the road. The past month has been a bit of a roller coaster, filled with excitement; fear; and if I’m honest, second thoughts. The following are some reflections on the lessons that I’ve been learning recently.

Take a chance on a chance at love. Even if its not in your plans. Even if it has the potential to derail everything. Even if you aren’t prepared for what might happen, good or bad. And believe me, you aren’t prepared–ever. Whenever you are given the chance to connect your life and possibly your heart with someone very special, do it. Be open to all the possibilities. Don’t be cautious–let whatever will, happen. And then figure out how to deal with the outcome when it is time. If I’d have taken much time to think about it, I would have said I didn’t have the time to let this person in to my life right now; so I didn’t think about it. I let him in. Things didn’t work out the way I might have wanted. The timing was wrong, maybe it was all wrong. Maybe it was right and yet we couldn’t get beyond the chaos in our own lives to find a way to make it work. I’m not sorry I gave it a chance; even in the chaos that is my current life, risking everything for a chance with that ever elusive, potential life partner was important. Disappointing. Emotionally painful. But, important.

Stress doesn’t accomplish anything. In fact, perhaps just the opposite. I’ve had a few days where I’ve allowed the stress of everything that packing up my apartment in to storage and preparing to drive across the country entails to paralyze me completely. Which meant nothing got accomplished that day. I did take a couple of days for myself to work through some things related to the previous lesson that I just needed to deal with and let go of. I don’t regret taking that time, it was important. I do however regret every minute that I give over to stress. I also regret the beast it sometimes turns me in to and how I talk to or treat others in the wake of stress. I don’t want a life full of regrets, so I try not to let stress take over. That’s gotten harder given all the changes. I’m working on it. It’s a daily process.

Crying is healthy and helpful. I wrote about how much I’ve been crying in an earlier post. I’ve never been afraid or ashamed of tears, they seem to come much more quickly lately and I am very clear about how raw and on the surface my emotions are right now. Not everyone knows how to handle emotional reactions and so it is tricky to navigate sometimes with my friends. I find that taking and/or making the time to cry or emote in whatever way is necessary when I’m alone is critical to keeping my “shit” together at the moment. And so I cry and laugh and even scream whenever it feels natural to do so or is desperately needed.

Take advantage of every moment. This is true for all of life, not just this adventure. I’m finding that I wish I had more time to spend with people. And if you know me at all, you know that I’m already a bit of a social butterfly and I’m often on the go with friends. Yet, there are new friendships just blossoming and other friendships that I just want more time with. The good thing is, I’ll be back around. Some friends I’ll see in New Orleans in April and others I know will come visit me somewhere along the path of my adventure. I’m grateful for the time I’ve had and will cherish every opportunity to share time with them before I go. Also, distance won’t change how I feel about these people so keeping in touch will be a priority.

Embrace fear. Fear is natural. Even more so under these conditions. I’ve had friends say that if I wasn’t afraid, they’d be afraid for me and question my decisions. I’m afraid of many things related to this adventure–the journey, the experiences I will have, far out-weigh any of the fear I’m experiencing. I will listen to the fear, but I will not let it hold me back.

These are just a handful of the lessons I’ve been learning. I know there are many more in store for me. I’m anxious to get on the road. There are a couple more weeks of packing and preparing and then the adventure will begin for real. Thanks for sharing in this journey with me.

 

He hit me.

downloadHe hit me.
And I didn’t tell you because I was ashamed.

He hit me.
I was alone, scared and unable to move.

He hit me.
Shocked, I responded with “you don’t get to hit me.”

He hit me, again.

He hit me.
And for the first time I recognized through tear-stained lenses the choices I had made that put me here.

Too late.

He hit me.
His friends and family standing nearby, watching.

He hit me.
In a crowd of people I was alone.

He hit me.
And I realized that the only one who might have made me feel safe at that moment, had just hit me.

He hit me.
I took a deep breath and drove away, him in my car, threatening worse than what had already happened.

He hit me.
And I was frozen by fear and worried that this would not be the worst of it.

And then I got myself together and found my way to safety.

He hit me.
And when I called you crying and barely understandable, you stayed on the phone with me, until I was home. Safe.

He hit me.
And when I told you, you came to me out of concern and said you were angry with me for putting myself in that situation.

He hit me.
And almost a month later I wore the deep stains of bruising to my birthday dinner and told you.

He hit me.
Then called to wish me “Happy Birthday.”

He hit me.
And I said to him and myself, “I am not that woman.”

He hit me.
He said, “I’ll never do it again.”

“I know, I’ll never give you the chance.”

And now I’m telling you.

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