Give

This fall, I volunteered with an organization whose goal is to empower and unite girls. I entered the term so pumped. I had visions of amazing discussions, close bonds of friendship, and giggling. I also felt like the years I have spent working with children (specifically girls) was ample training for a few hours every Monday.

Of course, I was wrong. It’s been a minute since I was in middle school, so I wasn’t ready for the girls I encountered. The first meeting, my partner and I couldn’t get their attention long enough to even play name games. Fifteen minutes from the end, one girl raised her hand and asked: “So what is this program, exactly?” I realized then that I had way more on my plate than I planned. The weeks that followed, I cried after almost every group and my heart rate was through the roof upon entering the school. Try everything became my motto. More games? More free time? More consequences? More debates? My partner and I were desperate to connect with the girls in a real way.

IMG_0829I wish I could say that we turned out like a pamphlet story: Girls are rough, leaders show them kindness, girls eventually soften, everyone is giving each other verbal affirmations and hugs at the end. However, the story did not pan out that way. But that’s alright! I got to look closely at how hard it is to be a twelve-year-old girl at a low-income school. At some point, I let go of the curriculum because I saw that these girls had so many big points of tension in their life that they had no capacity for truly caring about community action. Could I blame them? No.

I think this lesson is in there somewhere: give something of yourself to people that you know are not going to give back. It may be a little unhealthy emotionally, yes. But if you’re aware of that possibility, it is an amazing way to practice selflessness. The seeds will be planted by your words and actions. I still think about strong women in my life that gave me the gift of just being on my team, no questions asked. They are the heroes that inspired me to volunteer in the first place.

IMG_1498You know what is interesting? After three months of spending time telling girls to get off their phones, keep the conversation relevant, and journal about their ideas instead of writing the names of their boyfriends, I am signed up for another term. You know what is encouraging? A girl who came in during week eight and cried to my partner and I that she didn’t have any friends has signed up again too. I can only hope it’s because she knows she’s got an ally.

I wanted to end this on a lighter note, so here are some of the questions I was asked this term: “What contour kit do you use, Mary Emily?”* “Why aren’t there Meninists too?” “Are you a feminist?” “Will this affect my grade?”*** “Do we have to?” “I’m having a lot of feelings today, can I go out in the hall?”****

*I was not wearing makeup that day.

**We were asked this maybe three times a meeting. They seemed to think feminists were people that yell at you if you want to get married or have children.

***This was an after-school program that was not graded. They seemed to not believe me.

****I let her.

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Trust yourself

Since I graduated college, I have worked seven different jobs. These jobs have ranged from freelance work to slinging espresso in a café. I am hoping that someday when I am fulfilling my purpose through meaningful work (I can dream), I can show my good friend my job collection and say “this is what it took for me to get here.” For now, I’m just quitting my current occupation (again) and organizing my shell collection (again).

Next Thursday is my last day working at Pratt & Larson. I haven’t written about it much, but for the past seven months, I’ve been painting tiles in the polychrome department of a major tile factory.* On paper, it has been the most consistent, hands-on, and art-centric job I have ever had. In reality, it has been the most isolating, dehumanizing, and disheartening job I’ve ever had.

Crazy, right? Anyway, due to health complications** and overall good timing, I finally made the move and put in my notice. I have nothing lined up and I’m waiting for the Holidays to simmer down before entering the “job market” (again). Should I be nervous? Yeah. Am I? Nope. Why?! Pretty much for the first time in my life, I am really listening to my intuition. Translation: I am doing what I want without having to make excuses for myself. That sounds so selfish (trust me, I cringed while writing it) but it is the beautiful truth.

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As someone who was raised in a traditional Christian household, the idea of “trust yourself” seemed like a cardinal sin. I was taught that as a flawed sinner, I needed to trust in the Lord my God and lean not on my own understanding. After having a textbook “Crisis of Faith,” I honestly did not know who or what to trust in and spent the better part of this year bitterly confused. Since I began really searching for God again in October, I have felt empowered by diving more and more into the notion that God is not only in me, but is me. I’m not saying I am the Creator of stars and music (I’m literally envisioning Fantasia), but I am a divine channel of that Creator. Therefore, I need to trust myself.

Now, the idea of “trust yourself” is extremely calming, empowering, and important. Trusting myself is what led me to quit a job that I am immensely unhappy at, told me to start going to church again, caused me to get serious about getting well, made me call my sister, and twisted my arm into getting more intentional about doing things that make me feel alive.

The wonderful thing about trusting oneself is that anybody can do it. Should everybody? I don’t know. Outside counsel is helpful and some people are crazy. However, I feel pretty confident in suggesting you try it out. If you are a seasoned human who is smarter than me, you most likely saying to yourself “maybe try the wise counsel, first.” But if you’re a barely formed adult like myself, hell! Give it a try. Trust yourself. You’ve got the potential of vast intelligence and judgment and the highest vibrations of Spirit in you. Make some decisions!*** Later on in life, we can compare our boxes of old postcards, jobs, boyfriends, and artistic endeavors and talk about how glad we are we learned this lesson together.

*Fun fact! P&L did the tiles in Robert Downey Jr.’s new vacation home! Sad fact. None of them were painted by me.

**Nothing super serious. Long story short, I might be allergic to everything and can’t really eat like a normal person right now and that makes me hungry a lot and have weird energy levels. So cool…not.

***Don’t hold me to their outcome, please and thank you.

Moving is healing

I have Fridays off now. I always thought I could manage a traditional full-time work schedule, but I am learning that I really can’t. What I really crave is flexibility with my time. I want to be able to make scones and tea on a Friday morning and watch the rain fall with my cat. I want to go to yoga or the gym in the middle of the day to boost my mood. And above all, I want human connection to be at the center of my work.  I learned all this and more while running my half marathon on Saturday.

Last week, I ran 13.1 miles across the foothills of the Sisters mountain range in twenty-degree weather. I was undertrained and mentally underprepared. However, I gave myself permission to surprise myself. And I did. I set a new personal record, didn’t get injured, and did not run the whole race alone. In the last few miles, when the pain started to set in, I began throwing around mantras in my mind. I tried Robin Arzon’s classic: I am. Didn’t help. I tried adding something to it: I am strong, beautiful, here. Still no mental relief from my throbbing right calf. I rounded a boulder and it came to me: Moving is healing. I whispered it in rhythm with my stride for maybe a minute before my eyes started glazing over with tears. I realized then that I had been struggling to stay static and I had been impossibly hard on myself. But I wanted all along was movement, because that’s where I thrive. Moving is healing.

I have never been good at being an employee or student, although I enjoy working and studying. I haven’t stuck to training regime ever and I have only recently gotten more disciplined about finishing monthly challenges. My point is, I do best in transition. I have struggled with that part of me for most of my life. It feels good to finally celebrate the fact that I always have new things I’m into, I like being a beginner, I like learning new skills at different jobs, I like not having a plan, I like going new place, and I like moving my body in new ways.

I knew that running my race would be transformative in some way, but it truly left me vulnerable and raw. This whole week, I have felt some amazing things happening inside of me and I have a fresh outlook on my future. I have movement to thank for that and I am eternally grateful.

Thank you for participating in this journey. I started this blog to help document my training for a race that I ended up missing completely and share my search for a sense of faith that I continued to lose.

Yes

Second only to “love,” “yes” might be one of the most used and written about words in history. “Yes” is an essential part of our existence and thriving as human beings in the tragic world we live in. I keep on learning that it’s not only important to say “yes” to things but also to surround yourself with “yes” people. Honestly, this is not an easy task. Being a busy millennial who is recently curbing her over-committedness in a fairly disconnected city makes it hard to meet and invest in people. But it is not impossible. IMG_9758

We have all heard the studies-who you surround yourself with effects your quality of life.  The best way to attract “yes” people is to be one, right? Here is a short list of things I am trying to do to become a better “yes” friend:

  • Say “yes” to texting/calling back within at least 24 hours (sooner is preferred) . This seems like a given, but I can count numerous occasions where I have been confused by radio static. If someone is worth your time, don’t leave them hanging. If I work long hours and need to sleep instead of replying to what was said, I’ve been challenging myself to at least send an acknowledgment saying “I see this, I can’t deal with it yet, sorry.”
  • Say “yes” to making plans. I live in a generation where people throw around “let’s get coffee sometime” like it’s a Facebook thumbs up and not a genuine offer. I am trying to find people who say those things and aren’t surprised when I reply “Yes! When?” Conversely, I am trying to push to make plans when possible.
  • Say “yes” to new things. Don’t like theater? Try a play out. Going hiking? Don’t be afraid of a new route.
  • Say “yes” to new people. This is tough for me. I’m not a good small talker. I like to dive deep, cut to the chase, and find out if we’re compatible quickly. However, you never know who is your new soul friend, so take chances.
  • Say “yes” to boring adventures. This one is also challenging, but I’ve always found it to pan out gracefully. Too tired to go out? Invite your “yes” person over for tea at your place. Your apartment too messy? They probably won’t care.
  • Say “yes” to big adventures. Stop saying “let’s get a cabin somewhere, sometime” and just do it already. Case closed.

IMG_9648This list sets high expectations, I know. But as a person who has a small handful of “yes” people, I know that it is worth it to find them. There are friends that will take hounding to get to hang out with you. There are friends who will just say “yes, when?” The first group is good for light fun, but for something real, you and I and everyone needs a “yes” person who will seek us out, too. We’re worth deep friendships and real connections.

 

 

Om Shanti-week one

There has been so much going on all around me (and I’m sure you, too) and I have been MIA. Wow, it is already September 7th and I am a week into a new month-long commitment. I have decided to do yoga every day for the month of September. This is not a unique challenge, by any means. However, the “why” of any task is what gives it its importance. Here are a few things I journaled after practice tonight on my “why”:

It feels a little silly to write this, but I honestly felt called to this.

For many reasons, I have not practiced the religion I grew up in for almost a year. In light of recent events and the world I live in, I felt frustrated with Christianity and hopeless in my faith. So, I said my goodbyes to my past life and escorted myself out of the culture that I had been so completely shaped by. Months passed, full of so much beauty, bitterness, anger, gratitude, and grace. Whether I liked it or not, the Divine was underscoring everything I experienced.

But I have also been empty and longing and I have recently come to terms with that. Like, tonight.

Rilke wrote that God is “the great homesickness we could never shake off” and that seems to be my truth.

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All this to say, I think I started this ritualistic practice to open myself up to that world again and to prayer again and to the idea of God again. Maybe if my breath and body are intentional, every time I unroll my mat, I will be heard by the Lord. My sweat, the result of work full of gratitude. My balance, evidence of a quiet mind. My rest, the clear presence of a searching heart.

I am unashamedly chasing God during this journey. I will let you know what I find.

Namaste.

 

Thank you

I have spent the last month listing things I am grateful for every day. Honestly, I had read accounts of this process changing people’s hearts and lifting spirits. But I was still doubtful. I am here to tell you that, although I am not a completely new person, this practice is transformative. Gratitude is like a wave, with each thankful moment folding into itself. By the end of the month, I was wading in an ocean of gratitude.

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Acknowledging all of the beauty and privilege that I experience every single day was humbling and moving. The ocean is vast and I have an incredible amount of things to be thankful for. I have kept up this practice because no matter how bad the day is, there is always something to be thankful for. It also gets me to clear my head for a few moments and get connected with the gifts that the Divine has given me.

I wanted to list everything I was thankful for this past month, but it was a very long list. So here are some of my favorites-

THANK YOU:

  • for this inkling of hope I hold on to
  • for strawberries on my salad
  • for David’s face near mine
  • for sun on my shoulders
  • for the song I sing in every darkness
  • for cold water
  • for Leon Bridges
  • for purple
  • for green smoothies
  • for feeling strong
  • for the pain that lets me know I am alive
  • for Jenny and young love
  • for forest park
  • for home made coffee
  • for my spirit being full and empty
  • for the train going by us through trees
  • for sleepy anticipation
  • for Tennessee rain
  • for flickering lights like stars or souls around us
  • for waking up at Anna’s house
  • for no more late nights
  • for intimacy at midnight
  • for sweetness at dawn
  • for You
  • for Me
  • for it All

 

 

 

Adventure seeker

It seems like I have blinked twice and the summer is already half over. If I am completely honest, this summer has gone by the quickest of any I have experienced in the past. There have been only a few markers or events to even denote the passage of time. Real question: is this what getting older feels like?

Regardless, that is not what this particular post is about. I have been thinking more and more about having a life of adventure. I recently finished The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron and have started reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Both books are about creative living and I highly recommend them. In a nutshell, they are both about pursuing your dreams in a real way within the structure of your real life. Since birth (most likely), one of my dreams has been to live a life of adventure. I have always wanted to be an independent, free-spirited adventuress who writes and paints and runs and rides horses and etc. In May, I got a great full-time job as a tile painter. And just like that, I became a “weekend warrior” type. The adventure-seeker-free spirit inside of me yelped and I became anxious.

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I asked myself “what does this mean?” and “am I giving up my dreams?” and “Julie Cameron would shake her head if she knew.” A few weeks after accepting the job, David and I decided to make good on a new year’s resolution: to hike the Wildwood trail (over 30 miles) in one day.  We started the trail at 6:15 AM on the hottest day of the summer. I wish I could say that it was easy peasy and such, but it wasn’t. It was easily the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It was hot, my feet swelled to twice their size, and I came face to face with my weaknesses. However, it was easily one of the best things I’ve ever done. I got to spend the day with my best friend, I was outside for almost 14 hours, and I came face to face with my strengths. Additionally, I feel a whole new connection with Forest Park and for that, I am grateful.

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What does the Wildwood trail have to do with Julie Cameron, dreams, and adventure? Well, that day spent on the trail graciously showed me that I am pursuing my dream of an adventurous life. I get so focused and frustrated on what I am not doing, following, experiencing, that I ignore all that I am saying “yes” to: I have been to the coast seven times this year, I have run a lot of miles in the woods, I have spent time outdoors every Sunday for the last 6 weeks, and I have written almost every day since December. I am not intending to sound arrogant or braggy. I am intending to show myself and you that we may already be following our bliss, whether we feel like it or not.

Hiking Wildwood trail, committing to my writing practice, Ms. Cameron, Ms. Gilbert, and the “Outdoors on Sundays Project” (which I hope to unpack more next week!) have all been incredible teachers to me. They have taught me that, yes, I do long for an adventurous life and yes, there are always new and better things I can accomplish. But they have also shown me that adventure seeking is in my blood. I don’t have to worry about living complacently, and neither do you. When we find those things that make us feel alive, we won’t be able to stay away for long.