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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.

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.

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.

 

Star Light, Star Bright

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image by Robin Hallett

I can’t tell you how many times as a child I looked up at the night sky and repeated these words, over and over at times oh so hopeful that my wish would come true. Looking back, my inquisitive mind thinks it might have been a good idea to keep a record which of those wishes actually came true, so as an adult I would at least have a statistical basis for wish making.

It’s been several years since I truly made a wish. By which I mean a wish verbally expressed, birthed from a desire deep down in the core of my being and pleaded to the stars above. It was my birthday yesterday, emboldened with the knowledge of Mercury coming correct and an assurance from a friend that the stars would certainly be on my side, I took whatever risk there was and made not one, but two wishes.

The first of these wishes was for me, very personal and will go without sharing. The second wish was for you.

Maybe I’m reaching by calling it a single wish, because within it were the many things I wish for you:

  • A life with no limits you can’t overcome; of abundance; full of all the necessities and enough of the wants.
  • A fearless life where you are emboldened to take chances and leap, sometimes without looking.
  • A life where you get to do what you love and love what you do and where you are doing it.
  • A life where challenges are welcomed adventures and opportunities for growth.
  • A life of acceptance: of yourself and others, without caveats, and with celebration of your uniqueness and gratitude for all that brought you to this place.
  • A life of peaceful presence where the past was, the future is not yet and all that is important is here and now.

Most of all, I wish for you a life where you live your truth every day, without fear.