what to hold on to.

28 Feb

IMG_3979

mostly, i’m still learning how to let go.

the things we hold on to are different for all of us- some act as anchors heavily weighing us down; while others, like lifeboats, keep us above water.  i’ve also come to realize that some things are much more difficult to let go of because the experience has in fact changed one’s biological functioning- like trauma, poverty, or abuse/neglect. and in the years i’ve had, i’ve learned that we keep so many things close to our heart, however, i’m also learning that not all of it needs to stay.

what i know is that there are some things that it is time to let go of.

it might be stress or automatic assumptions that do not accurately reflect your abilities.  it might be the mistakes you made when you lost yourself or the half-hearted attempts you’ve made in trying to figure out the person to become.  the classes you dropped and the goals you gave up on. the divorce you went through or decisions that have left you with regret and unhappiness. it might be the comparisons you make when you are surrounded by colleagues, peers, family, friends, or strangers, or perhaps the harsh judgements made towards yourself or others. the relationships that broke your heart, the tears that were never wiped away, and promises that were left unkept. maybe it’s time to let go of the friendships that didn’t grow together or the words that can’t be taken back.  what i know is that diverse life experiences weigh more heavily on different people’s hearts and that it becomes easy to drown in emotions like anger, loneliness, anxiety, shame, guilt, stress, sadness, or fear.  we hold on to feelings of failure or inadequacy, memories, expectations, desire, past hurts, and unmet expectations– and they keep us feeling broken.  and if you give it some thought, you might find that you are holding on to the very things that keep you stuck.

how would your life be different if you let go of them all?

take a deep breath in and become more aware of those things that weigh heavily on your heart.  and maybe today is the day you slowly find the courage to surrender into accepting what is.  acknowledge the past and move on.  lean into your insecurities and feelings of discomfort; find your personal weaknesses and allow yourself to grow into them.  mend the parts of yourself that are broken through self-love, acceptance, healthy relationships, choices that reflect your long-term goals, and commitment to change. and to do any of this- or all of it- we must learn to let go.

you let go by first recognizing what it is you are holding on to and then by deciding what kind of impact it is having on your life.  you let go by releasing the negative energy from your soul.  and after you decide, you must act.  you begin to choose one thought over another or exchange an unhealthy decision for a healthier behavior.  perhaps you release anger through forgiveness or acceptance and let go of greed, desire, and the pursuance of material possessions through contentment and non-possesion. letting go means allowing yourself the possibility of being wrong and being okay with that.  and when you let go, can you hold on to that self-motivation and fearless drive while releasing the stress, judgement, and criticism that we often allow it to accompany? letting go means beginning a search for inner-peace and deciding what moments you want to let define you.  and i believe that letting go is one of the purest acts of self-love we can gift ourselves.  and for me, this does not excuse our imperfections nor ignore our past mistakes or shortcomings, it does however foster our capacity to look at ourselves through a lens of compassion and grace that creates enough space to make room for change. and when we begin to let go, we also start to remember that all things are possible.

by letting go, we allow ourselves to become. 

the year of doing.

1 Jan

 

IMG_1675

it sounds silly, but i didn’t realize how much i was anticipating 2015 until it came. throughout the day, i kept finding myself committing to doing things differently this year, promising myself to not get weighed down with the unnecessary.  and what i know is that i am looking forward to a year of movement; of intentional change, and of consciously challenging myself to improve. i’m ready for this breath of fresh air.  2014 was different from the last few years in that i didn’t experience as much as growth as i had anticipated.  while i experienced a number of major life changes- like purchasing and remodeling a first home, beginning to fund my retirement, the loss of two grandparents,  committing my life to another person, passing my licensure exam, and developing as a professional-, i also recognize that i didn’t commit as much time and energy into my own personal development as i would have liked.  fortunately, i believe that shortcomings always present an opportunity to grow and so from this lack of change i have been able to learn.

 

last year.

in 2014 i learned about the amount of time i am consumed by stress and worry.  pick a topic and i can assure you i’ve spent a portion of the day catastrophizing it. i spent 2014 with a lot of worries- mostly unnecessary and unfounded- but i worried all of the same.  about passing my exam,  the logistics of days and events, about day-to-day stressors, interpersonal relationships, finances, why the dishes weren’t done, and about long-term plans.  i worried about about the amount of time i spent worrying.  i studied perhaps excessively, and spent a lot of time rushing from one task to the next.  in hindsight, the constant rushing kept me stagnant. part of the truth is that i’ve always been an anxious person and the rest of the truth is that i didn’t allow myself to slow down long enough to realize the impact it was having on my overall sense of wellbeing.

i experienced and witnessed heartache in 2014. the loss of sweet babies we didn’t get to know and grandparents who brought a lot of love into this world. i saw friends grieve the loss of parents, relationships, and goals.  i felt friendships change. i saw people from all walks of life struggle and hurt.  and i observed how hard life can be on some people.  2014 was also beautiful. i saw chichen itza,  swam in two oceans, visited three new states, and went on the most amazing adventures.  studying resulted in me passing my exam. i paid off all of my student loans completely by myself. and the time and energy put into remodeling the house resulted in a home that i feel comforted by.  i had the enjoyment of making memories with family and friends and i experienced so much laughter. i spent my days at a job i whole heartedly love, living out a life mission i am passionate about.  i witnessed people change and become more of themselves.  in fact, i even saw people blossom.  i fell even more in love with the greatest person i know.

 

and mostly in 2014, i learned that you take the bad with the good.  i’ve learned that beautiful strength, grace, and personal change can grow from loss.  from watching others, i’ve learned that breaking points are also starting points. i learned that you have to nurture relationships in order to watch them grow and that no amount of success can replace time spent with the people you love. i have an increasing sense of understanding that your worth is not dependent upon your accomplishments or work. and 2014 taught me that when the timing is right, everything will be perfect.  and until then, you have today.  you have right now.  and that is enough.

 

 

this year.

i believe that you don’t have to wait for a new year to resolve to changing your life, i’ve always believed in starting now.  but i welcomed that midnight kiss and with open arms i greeted the newness, the fresh promises, and the opportunity to reflect on how i will do this year differently than the last.  i developed a list of goals that addresses most areas of my life- mental, physical, social, financial, spiritual, and vocational- and i have committed myself to working towards them and accomplishing them all. but what it comes down to is wanting to cultivate wellness. and so this year i will be intentional about holistic living- on attempting to focus equal attention to all aspects of my life. i want to live fully, deeply, and widely. and to do so, i know that i must experience new things and see new places. i will practice living without incessant worry and breathing without always doing.  i will manage my time so that i may use it well.  i will develop relationships with friends and family through presence; by showing up, putting my phone down, and listening. i will write hand-written letters and make phone calls more regularly.  i will find something to celebrate in each and every day and i will practice gratitude. i will spend less time on social media and more time being social.  i won’t allow myself to get so busy that i skip out on enjoying a warm cooked meal or hot cup of tea.  i’ll care more about my being rather than my doing.

 

 

today.

if you know me at all, you know that i always want to be changing.  from one moment to the next, i want to be developing myself into that person i hope to be. i say it too much, but we only have this one moment to act in and on.  so rather than thinking about what you hope to accomplish in a year, focus on what you can do today to work towards that goal. one week from now, two days from now, eight months from now, find that eagerness to change within you. foster your internal strength, self-will, and dedication to see this year’s resolution through. and remember, to accomplish everything we hoped to this year, we have to remain focused.  this year doesn’t have to be another year of setting goals with no follow through or empty promises that you are not committed to keeping. this year can be different. and the outcome will be so rewarding.

 

if 2014 wasn’t your year, then let it go.  2015 is the year of no longer holding onto those things that don’t serve you.  today can be your day.  i know that when your world feels like it is spinning out of control, it becomes easy to lose sight of the fact that we have  the ability to choose which direction we take.  we lose ourselves in the unnecessary- the worries, stressors, unhelpful people, and daily conflicts.  and we can start to drown when we attempt to fill empty holes with material possessions, drama, and negative energy and action. slow down this year. get to know yourself, and listen to your inner voice. focus on the good and all that you want to bring into your life and make peace with the rest. i’ll always believe that we bring out the best in others when we are working on bringing out the best in ourselves.

let’s do that this year.

 

 

 

what i know is that the only way the future will deliver its promise of brightness is if we create it.

you must start that fire and be the one to fan those flames.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2015 will be the year of doing.  

and while i am committed to change, i’ll slow down this year so that i can enjoy it.

the grandest adventure

28 Nov

IMG_4484

november 28, 2014 was one for the books.

in fact, it will go down as one of my most favorite beginnings of the grand adventure we are about to embark on.

there are so many beautiful words to say about this day and at the same time there aren’t enough words to capture it all. i can tell you that for a moment time stopped and the world slowed down; and i couldn’t quite tell if the experience was real or not real. and as magical and momentous as this day was, i believe that all of  the days leading up to this one special day are the ones that counti think it is easy to become so focused on the engagement and often accompanying ring that we lose sight of what the commitment signifies.  in this short month, i’ve already learned how easy it is to be tempted by the commercialization of engagements, weddings, and material demonstrations of love. and from my perspective, these things serve as distractions from what it really is all about.

what i know is that our love is much more than our breathtaking engagement story and undeniably beautiful diamond.

 

 

so i’m not going to tell you about our engagement, but i will tell you about our love.

 

because i’ve always believed that love exists in the details.

 

you might know that we fell in love on a rock in the middle of a lake the summer after we graduated from high school.  we spent those days making each other mixed tapes with all of our favorite country songs and writing each other letters. four years of long distance resulted in hours of telephone conversations, weekend visits, and leaves and seashells sent by mail.  neither of us could have ever guessed that our love would take us to 11 different countries, 24 states, and five different places of residence.  adventures of zip-lining in the rainforest and in between mountains; parasailing and snorkeling in the ocean, visiting wonders of the world, napping in parks, drinking lemonade on rooftops, and having picnics at the lake.  you might know that we broke up once during our eight years and that he sent me my favorite flowers on valentines day even though we weren’t dating.  you also might know what it feels like to have your heart ripped out from your chest when separated from your soulmate. it felt like that without him. but that experience taught me that love does not get lost. in all of the right ways, it will come back to you.   after 10 months we met up in costa rica and picked up from the very last word we left off on.  my plane was ten hours late and he waited at the airport for me, hand-picked flowers in his hand. and when we are cold, we always make sure that our bare feet are touching; i think that’s important.  i edit his papers and he makes me spreadsheets. you should probably know about our not-so-secret book club and weekly budget committee meetings.

i’ll tell you about the crooked smirk he gets on his face right before he says something ornery and the scar he has on his nose from his childhood. i’ll tell you that he’s the greatest of planners although not the best of organizers. i can tell you about his patience and the way his eyes go soft after hearing another person’s story. the kindness in his voice when offering assurance.

i’ll tell you about him and his thoughtfulness.

the warm cup of tea next to my favorite book that he has ready for me when i get out of the shower. the silly imitations he performs and the kiddish jokes he tells because he knows they will make me laugh. the formal requests he makes for brunch dates and surprises that consist of picnics, sailing lessons, and road trips. i’ll tell you about his heart; the meals he buys for the people he doesn’t know and the good deeds he performs without telling a single soul. the 13 hour drive he made to ask my grandmother for her blessing with our engagement. he’s shown me that there is comfort in sharing all of the senseless details of your life with someone, not because they necessarily matter, but because someone cares enough to listen to them all.  one month later and i can’t help but get excited that i get to spend my life with the boy whose named i carved in the cement outside of my dorm freshman year of college.

 

 

i know that love is different things for different people. but for all of us, i think love is something that challenges you to become a better person and makes it possible to live out all of the good you have within you.  one of the greatest gifts i’ve received from this relationship is the opportunity to realize my individual dreams while simultaneously creating a life with him.  while we compromise regularly, we are fortunate in that we have not had to compromise on the goals we are passionate about.  i believe that the most wonderful kinds of love are the kinds that help each person to become more of themselves. the relationship doesn’t change who you are, what you like, or who you hope to become; rather it helps you unfold into the person you’ve always been.  and in these 8 years i’ve learned that love is simple.  and through it’s simplicity we get to experience the complexities of the beauty this life has to offer. i’ve learned that love is not something you say, but rather, it’s something you do. it’s a feeling that you act on.  he’s shown me that at one point in each of our lives, our paths will cross with someone who helps to undo all of that heartache, someone who helps to make sense of your troubles, someone who adds color to the world and joy to your life. for me, it’s always been him.  and until then, i believe in patience and in letting love find its way. from what i know, it will come, and it will be magical.

 

this love is our engagement story. 

 

 

i’m glad my heart chose you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

you are my home.

what you lose when you’re busy

12 Nov

we live in a world of movement, of busyness and racing from one moment to the next. we’re taught to be productive and efficient so we learn to multi-task.  we talk on the phone while checking our email with something playing in the background. and when we wake up, we start our days with social media, caffeine, the news, and lists of tasks to accomplish.  i am a person of busyness; i pride myself on being productive, setting goals and achieving them, and structuring my day so that i make the most out of my time. these last few months however, have been especially demanding and it has been through this incessant busyness that i found that all of the things i had to do were keeping me from getting what i wanted most done. and so busy became stress, pressure, and worry.  i began to notice that i wasn’t getting things done so much as i was just doing things. and without even really knowing it, i began looking.  it’s kind of a weird place to be in when you are aware that you are searching, but unsure of what it is that you are looking for.

but if there is one thing for certain, it’s that i’ll know when i find it.

and in my search, here is what i’ve found that i’ve lost:

 1. stillness

it’s hard to be still when you feel pressured to move. when you are pulled by goal setting, self-development, and the pursuance of passions, your focus on the future tends to rob you of today.  what i’ve began to learn is that my pressure is internal; i set personal deadlines and place the high expectations on myself–so part of being still has been learning to let go of the self-imposed stress i tend to create. part of being still has been learning that i don’t always have to move to progress.

for me, stillness is about limiting my internal and external distractions.  putting the phone down and books away; resisting the urge to mindlessly scroll through screens of other people’s lives.  it’s about waking up to live rather than just to do.  it’s about calming my mind and stopping myself from the mental to-do lists, the incessant worries, the getting lost in should-have’s and what-ifs.  stillness is about the ability to become comfortable with uncertainty, the discomfort of limbo, the difficult emotions- to be able to sit alone in a room with the fullness of your being.  i’ve learned that we get so distracted by tasks, material possessions, other people’s opinions and expectations, and unnecessary conflict that we get pulled away from all of the things that are important in our lives.  we get so distracted that we are no longer present in the moment in which we are living in.

i have a habit of coloring stillness as missed time, a lack of motivation, or laziness, and what i’m learning is that stillness is not stagnation. stillness is about slowing down so you don’t miss out on where you are going.  and so i sit, or i stand, or i walk. without having something to do or somewhere to be.  stillness is about breathing and it’s about being- it’s as difficult and simple as that.   i let my mind wander without becoming too attached to thoughts, recollections, or fleeting ideas.  i’ve been trying to make time in my day to pause; letting go of unnecessary details or interactions, distancing myself from mindless distractions, and reflecting on what it is that i am doing and why it is that i am doing it.  it’s by slowing down that we can become energized and opened up to all of life’s possibilities.

 

2.  presence 

i lost presence.

when you are focused on nostalgia- or of moments passed and doors that have long been closed- or when you live in the future – of all the things you’ll do, the person you’ll be, of all the potential situations you cast yourself in-  you rob yourself of the life that you are actually living.  life in the present. i began to notice all of the ways i was unintentionally escaping from and missing out on the only thing i am guaranteed- right now.  i noticed that i wasn’t fully enjoying or appreciating where i was because i’ve been so focused on the next place i needed to be.  the result was a lack of appreciation and gratitude for my  experiences, it was apathy towards how wonderful and magical our moments really are. it was taking encounters and interactions as something i had to do versus something i have the opportunity to enjoy.  and i’ve found that a lack of presence is about forgetting that this is all we have.  this life is the one we get.

 

i’ve been practicing presence in simple ways like putting my phone away when having conversations with friends, in really listening to what others have to say and how they feel when they say it. in breathing deeply and through not trying to escape the moment i’m in by distracting myself. i try and do just one thing at a time. wherever i am, i choose to be all there and i remain very conscious of that decision.  i slow down when i’m eating so i can savor the flavor, i try and walk slower so i can see all of the beauty, and i try not to rush.  i do my best to not wish my days away- to trust in the process and appreciate the steps it takes to get there.  because what i know is that i’d hate to reach the destination to find that i’d missed out on the journey.

i believe that presence with ourselves and when we are with others deepens our connections.  it improves our relationships and fosters greater understanding of our actions. it encourages self-understanding so that we may grow, change, and improve. and when we are truly present with our friends, children, family, and all of the people whose lives we may touch, we have the ability to positively shape and impact who they become.

 

3.  acceptance 

i think of acceptance like the tide coming in. the waves roll into the sand and the ocean takes them back.  like each passing moment we experience, the waves rhythmically come and they go.  acceptance is allowing things to be as they are without adding on a filter of how we hoped they would be.  it removes the expectation, the disappointment, and the longing.  and when your acceptance is like the waves, you don’t get too attached to emotions, objects, thoughts, or other things- knowing that each will return to the ocean; that they are all impermanent.  acceptance is understanding that all things- good or bad- will wax and wane, that emotions and situations are fleeting.

and when we cultivate acceptance into our lives we can allow things to happen without passing judgment- without labeling something as good or bad, positive or negative, but rather, taking things as they come. and in this way we can react to situations as they are presented to us, rather than based off of every past encounter we’ve had. we can respond to challenges and frustrations more compassionately and they can have less of an impact on the flow of our day. through acceptance we allow things to be as they are and we see them as they are, which allows us to react as we are- with compassion, kindness, humility, patience, and grace.

one of the greatest pieces of advice i’ve ever received is, “whatever comes your way- whatever the situation,  be for it.”  i’ll start off by saying that this doesn’t necessarily work in every situation or circumstance.  some of life’s events are too painful, horrific, or devastating to readily accept, much less be on the same side as.  but as for the day to day frustrations, challenges, and bumps in the road, being “for it” has allowed me to accept the challenge and focus on the solution.  it has allowed me to remove the negative energy and emotions i attach to events and rather, just deal with the situation as it is.  a flat tire, a bad day, or a string of small annoyances all at once- by being for the situation i only have to accept the challenge at hand, instead of my reaction to it— if that makes any sense.

and so i’m learning to embrace whatever it is that comes, to surrender to the present moment.  i’m learning to let the tide roll in and the waves crash down without trying to change them.

the ocean is beautiful just as it is, you know.

 

 

4.  intentionality  

and because forward movement is important to me, part of what i’ve lost in my busyness and have been looking for in stillness is intentionality.  when being intentional, you recognize that your time is both limited and abundant.  you decide how you want to spend it rather than wondering where it has gone.  for me, intentionality is realizing that we have time for the things that we make time for.  and being intentional is about using your energy, talents, and time with focus so that your strengths can be offered to others in a way that fulfills your passion.

you decide what you want to cultivate, who you want to become, and what you hope to accomplish.  you are specific so that your actions match your goals. during the past few months i allowed my focus on household chores and work tasks to prevent me from developing the areas of my life that i’m most committed to. realizing that my constant doing was not moving me forward, i began to notice the ways in which i wasting the valuable time that i have.  i recognized my excuses and the distractions that were preventing me from accomplishing what it is that i’ve set out to do.  and so i sat down and prioritized different areas of my life and various goals that i want to be working on.  characteristically, i made out lists and schedules and developed a new rhythm.  i structured my time in ways that allow me both to focus on my goals without taking away from the spontaneity of living freely. it’s been a process.

and when we are intentional, we have the ability to use our lives for our individual missions and purposes.  we can develop ourselves so that we may see our goals, ideas, and dreams through to the end.  and when you make the best use of your time and thus, your life, you may  inadvertently teach and inspire others to do the same.

 

 

5.  gratitude 

you don’t have time to stop when you’re too busy, which means you probably aren’t taking the time to notice and appreciate the magic around you.  you forget that you’re grateful to be employed, to have a steady income, to be able to breathe air into your lungs, and to have the ability to move. you forget to be grateful for all of your child’s questions and sense of wonder- evidence that he/she’s able to learn and grow.  without gratitude, you lose fulfillment,  joy, happiness, and a sense of meaning.  in my constant rush from one task to the next, my focus quickly shifted from all that i have to all of the things i had left to do, how tired i was, how under appreciated i felt.  i focused on the frustrations, the rain clouds, and the negative. it left me feeling rushed, anxious, tired, irritable, and frustrated.  and what i know about myself is when i am feeling this way it’s generally because my priorities and focuses are off balance.  and when you are not in the habit of focusing on all that you are grateful for, doing so can require a conscious shift in thinking and focus.  i believe that gratitude is a choice in perspective- what you decide to look for and what you see.  it’s about contentment and appreciation.  and so with every complaint i attempted to speak, i now stop and try to find the good first.  through slowing down i’ve been able to choose to focus on the light, the positive, and all of the reasons i have to be eternally grateful.  they are there for you too, i promise.

 

and so today, be open to all of the goodness, blessings, and sunshine that comes your way.

it’s not just another day.

it’s the only day that you have right now.

this moment is our only guarantee. 

 

 

 

 

 

photo 2

 

 

 

 

and so here i am, trying to find a balance between the stillness of doing nothing and the intentionality of doing everything.

here i am, learning how to respond as if it were both the first day and very last day that i’ll ever know.

invisible threads.

10 Oct

 

 

IMG_3594

i’ve been thinking a lot about heart strings, invisible threads, and the ways in which people enter your story for a page or a chapter and change the entire ending. regardless of whether people come into your life by fate or chance, i’ve always been the kind of person that believes our interactions result in a connection. and so by the end of our lives, we could have an infinite amount of threads linked to other people’s lives, memories, and stories. and although it’s been grudgingly so, i’ve come to accept that not all people are here to stay; i’ve learned that the lesson and impact they bring often requires an ending.

because of friday, i’ve been thinking about all of the people that come into our lives for different lengths of stay. i like the idea of an invisible thread that links you to all of the people that shape who you become in this life. perhaps it is a ball of tangled string- sometimes tied complicatedly in knots and sometimes loosely bound together- or an uncountable amount of strings that run parallel to one another. but mostly, i just like the idea of an invisible thread that links one person to another; like somehow, our individual life stories are now part of each other’s. and so i’ve been thinking about the people i am bound to. the thread that taught me not to attach my identity to another person.  the thread from high school that formed from an unlikely friendship between myself and an adult in recovery from substance abuse.  the interwoven threads of kindness from people like the frail Chinese woman who prayed over my body in the parking lot or the nurse who walked across the street to the convenience store to buy me reese’s pieces when i had meningitis because it was the only thing i would eat.  a thread that was a lesson in heartache from the boy who taught me about the strength it requires to put yourself back together.  my college chemistry professor who i spent tuesday afternoons with.  the sheepish grin that taught me about hope and what life can be like when you lose it. the thread to your father- the first person to show me what a mandolin sounds like. i’ve been thinking about my invisible threads stretched out across this world;  the attachment to the Egyptian eye doctor and his Polish girlfriend who found us crossing the nile river and took us out to dinner; the new york city taxi driver who coincidentally ended up being our driver for two consecutive nights; the man from Turkey who showed us his grandmother’s rugs over a hot cup of tea.  and maybe it’s so that i could say goodbye, but i like to think about all of the ways in which our lives are now intertwined. in the ways that i’ll see red converse shoes and deep ocean eyes and think of you.

 

so maybe some people don’t come into your life to stay forever.  maybe we will each go off and do a million separate things and maybe our life paths will never cross again, but the thing about threads is that you can’t undo what has already been formed.  i believe that people stay long enough- even if only for a moment- to impact your existence and to help write out your story. like the strangers in the check-out line that teach you about patience or the ordinary people who do extraordinary things in the corner of their world that teach you about humility.  the child on the airplane with an endless amount of questions that reminds you to wonder.  the people you see on the street or wandering through the town that teach you about strength and acceptance.  and if life has taught me anything, it’s that some people’s stay will never be long enough. i don’t have the answer for that, i don’t know why it is that they sometimes leave before we are ready.  all i know is that maybe you don’t get to decide how they leave, but you can choose which parts of them stay with you.  and so on days like today, i remember how important it is to think about the people who have impacted us- both positively and negatively- and to be grateful for those lessons, those threads.  we can only hope to experience this life in it’s entirety and so we take in the good and the bad and every little thing in between.   love intertwined with heartache.  loss accompanied by strength, hope, and growth.  a million failed attempts and one moment of success. endings that become beginnings. the people that teach you about self-discipline, motivation, and perseverance.   a million words and one set of ears that will listen. and when you think about all of the threads that comprise the person that you are, think about the ways in which you have impacted the people around you.  what lessons have you taught?  what message did you send? and are your threads ones of love and kindness?

 

what i know about invisible threads is that if you give people the chance, they will surprise you.  connections are formed when you put your phone down and  lift your head up.  when you offer a smile or change someone’s day. when you look someone in the eye on the elevator or really listen to what people have to say.  they are formed when you realize that at every given moment, your life is being changed by the people around you.  invisible threads link us to unsuspecting people in the most beautiful of ways. you may not get to choose who comes into your life, when they leave, or what lesson they bring, but you do have a say in the way you link yourself to other people in this world.

 

 

and with all of these words, i guess i’m trying to say that i’ve been thinking about how so many parts of my life are not mine alone-  and i’m comforted by the idea that so many parts of our lives are experienced together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 and so this is for monday mornings and for letting me be a part of your growth.

i like where our stories meet.

a robin williams story.

10 Sep

i can’t remember how old i was, but i remember being in my parents’ room, sitting on their bed with a plate full of snacks.  the moment i started watching the movie, i knew that it had been made just for me. and i’ve always been a little bit selfish when it comes to stumbling across a favorite movie, quote, or  book- of holding on to the stories they contain like treasure- trying to keep all the magic they consist of just for myself.  so i can remember my elementary school self not wanting anyone else to know about “Patch Adams.”  i was going to be him, i remember thinking.  i was going to be  person who brought light to the lives of others, who was attentive to other people’s suffering, and who knew what to do to help make it better. i can distinctly remember not wanting anyone to know about Patch Adams because i thought the world would only need one of him, and i wanted it to be me.  i’ve grown up since then. and i’ve learned that having the tiniest impact on the world is about focusing less on one’s ego and more on one’s understanding of the challenges, solutions, and contributors to a problem. but that movie became the spark that ignited my dream to go to college to become a doctor.

 

like many of you, i have my own Robin William’s story.

 

as you may know, i held tight to the dream of becoming a Patch Adams kind of doctor, until my junior year of college. and as you may also know, i chose to become a social worker instead.  this choice has afforded me the opportunity to work with some of the most remarkable and resilient people i could have ever hoped to meet.  and so in the last few years, i have spent time talking with people who are homeless, people who have a severe and persistent mental illness, people who have been diagnosed with other mental illnesses, people who have endured traumatic life experiences, and people who are struggling to make it through the day. i’ve had the opportunity to get to know people whose lives have been very different from Robin William’s, but perhaps similar in their experience of depression and suicidal ideation.

and in the days, weeks, and month following the initial shock over Robin William’s death, i’ve noticed that the conversations about suicide, depression, stigma, treatment, and mental illness have waned. but it has left me thinking about the friends, family members, consumers, Veterans, and people i’ve come to know who have struggled with depression, addiction, other mental health challenges, or thoughts and plans of suicide.  i’ve never personally experienced depression, but i know that it can feel a lot like darkness, like an unexpected blow to the stomach, or like a heavy feeling of dread that you just can’t seem to shake. i know that depression can mean not feeling anything at all, or being numb to everything you are feeling all at once. it can mean feeling withdrawn or withdrawing yourself from the world. and i know that depression can feel a lot like a sinking hole that you cannot climb out of.

what i know is that suicide is often a symptom of major depressive disorder- a  mental illness caused by a number of biological and environmental factors. what i know is that over 90% of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable mental illness (including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorders, anxiety disorders, and eating disorders).  and for people who experience chronic and recurrent symptoms of major depression or other mental illnesses, suicide or thoughts of suicide may come to feel like a comforting solution or viable option to end the pain that no longer feels endurable. depression is not a choice nor a character flaw, and it is not a decision of someone ‘wanting to feel sorry for themselves,’ or not being able to cope with life’s challenges.  suicide is not about being selfish or weak, but rather, it’s about pain. it’s about loss of hope. and i think we forget that it’s human nature to want to end suffering, to find relief.  to be clear, it is not my intention to encourage, promote, or advocate for suicide.   i am however, challenging you to empathize with another person’s experience before making a judgement or criticism about their character.

 

since beginning this profession, i’ve been collecting other people’s stories.  and these stories- their life experiences- have been guiding and shaping my interactions with others. conversations with people who are both chronically homeless and transiently homeless demonstrate to me the complicatedness of poverty, the challenges of locating affordable housing, and the difficulties of maintaing competitive employment while also living with a mental illness and/or addiction. play dates with children in foster care and with children who have been severely abused and neglected remind me of the impact of abuse on cognitive development, emotional regulation, and attachment. and when working with these children when they later become adults, i consider their childhoods and the traumas they’ve endured. i think it’s important to recognize the number of factors that contribute to a person’s behaviors and perception of the world.  i am also aware that some people-regardless of their upbringing, or despite having a ‘healthy’ upbringing- will make poor choices.  and even then, i attempt to understand.  because what i know is that you cannot reduce people to simplistic generalizations based on your limited understanding of their situation.  it is much more complicated than that.

 

and what i know is that there are still so many people in this world who do not understand.  who choose not to understand. and who continue to blame people for the suffering they do not take the time to understand.  and so if your understanding of depression or suicide is one that blames the person who is struggling with the mental illness, i would challenge that your knowledge of their life and experiences is incomplete. i would challenge you to have one conversation with a person who has had thoughts of suicide, attempted suicide, or who struggles with a mental illness. i challenge you to be curious rather than judgmental.  open minded and open hearted. i challenge you to seek to understand rather than assume that you already know. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and so this post is for you.  for those whose suffering feels unnoticed. for those people who feel quietly stuck inside their mind. for those that feel hopeless. for those whose cries for help are mislabeled or misunderstood as cries for attention or flaws in their being. for the people who feel too tired to continue on.  for people who struggle with depression and for people who don’t.  for people who are having a bad day, a bad season, or a rough stretch of life. and for those people who don’t understand the illness but are willing to try.

 

 

 

It’s okay – whatever you need, wherever you are,  however long it takes – it’s okay.

there is still time.

to ask for help. to grow. to heal. to recover.

there is still time for the sunshine to begin to seep through the cracks. for a flower to grow straight from your heart.

 

 

 

 

 

just in case.

  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:  1-800-273-TALK (8255). They are available 24/7
  • Talk to someone online through the Lifeline Crisis Chat
  • Teens can get text support from the Crisis Text Line by texting “listen” to 741-741.
  • Veterans in crisis can contact the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255.
  • Call 911.

…because of roadmaps and treasure chests.

29 Jun

as you may know, i am the kind of person that is easily overwhelmed.  by the kindness of a waitress on an ordinary day or the breeze that blows through the summer air. and on a daily basis, i am overwhelmed by the indifference of the world in light of all the suffering that takes place. i get anxious about small things like passing a licensure exam or an interaction that didn’t go as i had hoped. and i’ve always been the kind of person that can be overwhelmed by how much i have left to do and how little i have done.

so it’s no surprise that i was standing in the hair and make-up aisle when i was suddenly overcome by the number of products i was surrounded by.   hair extensions, highlights, blush, foundation, and mascara.  eye shadow, lip liner, and eyelash extensions. age-defying cream and wrinkle prevention lotions.  there are lotions and sprays and tanning beds. straighteners, curling irons, and hair sprays.  the magazines that tell us what we are supposed to look like, the headlines that call on us to be thin, tan, and flawless. the implications that our outward appearance is a determinant of our individual worth.  and all i could think about was how many products tell us that the way we look- the way we are- is not enough.

 

i don’t watch television and i generally don’t skim through magazines, but i hear the messages all the same.  we tell them to ourselves.  we’ve been trained to become insecure about a blemish on our face, a haircut that’s a little too short, stretch marks on our stomaches, or weight gain in all of the wrong places. to be clear, i wear make-up on a daily basis and i work out as often as i can, i reward myself with new clothes and even bought eyelash extension cream once.  in no way am i suggesting that there is anything wrong with wanting to feel beautiful and confident, i just don’t believe that a flawless outward appearance is the only way to get there.

in high school, someone once told me that it didn’t matter whether or not i understood advanced placement calculus because ‘at least i was pretty.’ while i understand that they were trying to be comforting, encouraging, and nice, i can remember my exact feeling of outrage. the anger that arose because i was supposed to feel relieved by someone’s perception of my outward appearance; of the implication that the way i looked would somehow be enough to help me get a scholarship so that i could go to college.  that somehow the way i looked would help to determine whether i would develop enough self-discipline to finish what i started, that somehow my appearance would help me to further my career. and i remember wondering when ‘being pretty’ began to outweigh our intelligence, capabilities, attitude, and our individual contributions to the world.

i find that sometimes we place so much emphasis on what our body looks like that we forget about the amazing things it does for us. your legs- regardless of their length and width- have carried your body for all of these years.  they have held you up on your weakest days and were there with you to jump for joy in moments of celebration.  they’ve ran through the grass during summer nights of hide and seek and they’ve rooted you to this earth. and your arms, they work. they can bend and they can write. they can pick up a child and hold another’s hand.  they’ve helped you to feel objects and to build things, they are your ability to reach out to the world. your mind, it is a wonderful, magical, and complex tool that continues to guide your perception and understanding of the world.  i could go on, but you get the point- each and every one of your body parts has served you in some way. each and every part continues to do something for your life. let’s not forget that every minute detail of your being is made with extraordinary and intricate capabilities.

 

 

i have always believed in not being attached to something as impermanent as our physical appearance.  of being attached to short hair, long hair, thick hair, or thin.  of what color it is or what color it’s not. of not being attached to the number on a scale or the amount of space between your thighs. the way you look can change.  it will change. and it is always changing. i was fortunate enough to be raised by parents who taught me that what i looked like was not who i was.  it has never been my job, responsibility, nor my dream to be beautiful.  i am not alive for that purpose.  we all have so much more to offer the world than our physical appearance.

 

who you are as a person, that’s what matters. that is what is constant.

are you beautiful on the inside?

 

 

i believe in intelligence. i believe in the ever expansion of your mind through books, travel, and new experiences.  i believe in having conversations with people who have a different point of view than yours and in staying current on world events. of challenging yourself to set higher expectations and to dream bigger dreams. and i believe in health. in eating healthy, nourishing your body, and being good to your soul.  i believe in exercising to add longevity to your life, to add strength to your mental and physical abilities, and to foster self-discipline. i believe in pull-ups, cardio, and strength-training.  i believe in getting adequate amounts of sleep so that you are energized throughout the day. i believe in confidence and beauty in the form of a smile to a stranger, of a hand that reaches out to help without question or reservation.  kindness towards others, determination to succeed, and the courage to forgive; that is beauty.  our internal integrity, our ability to respond with grace, the gifting of our time, and the mark we leave on the world- that is the beauty that should define us.

 

 

i believe in beauty that is real.

in the naturalness that can be observed when you become unapolgetically who you are.

 

 

i believe in our bodies serving as road maps to remind us each where we have been.  that scar on my left leg from the bike crash i had as a second grader, the indentation above my left eyebrow where i ran into a door, and the deep stretch marks on my thighs and around my knees when i went through my first big growth spurt in seventh grade. i believe in growing old and your body having all the proof to show it.  i believe in wrinkles.  i believe in flaws, blemishes, and stretch marks.  laugh lines for a life well lived. greying hair for all of the challenges you have overcome.  extra weight around your midsection from the babies you’ve birthed, from the celebrations you’ve had the opportunity to experience, from those delicious desserts you were able to indulge in. worry lines on your forehead for the uncertainty you felt during troubling days. i believe that your body is a treasure chest holding within it all of the goodness you’ve received, the love you’ve given, and the pain you’ve endured.

 

 

you are more than beautiful.  and you are more than something to be looked at.

 

 

 

you are strong. you are brave. you are intelligent.                                                                                                                                      you are kind. you are funny.                                                                                                                                                                              you are a giver, receiver, a dreamer, and a doer.                                                                                                                                        you are an athlete, a thinker, an encourager, a creator.                                                                                                                            you are as bright as the sun and you are so much more than the simplicity of your outward appearance.

 

 

you are so much more.

%d bloggers like this: