Friday, July 11, 2014

One of the most important stories I've ever told. (Please read and share!)


My career path has led me to a space where I work with at-risk and special needs students on a daily basis. As such, I have a tremendous place in my heart for youth that may require extra support, encouragement and love. I have had the privilege of meeting some of the most life-giving and joyful students while working within the special education system, and I can truly say that these students are some of my favorite people on the planet. Their capacity for love continues to humble and astound me and I am absolutely a better woman for having walked beside them. I am continually challenged to be wiser and kinder, and I consider it a privilege to learn from such skilled, talented and courageous young people.

For this reason, when my father shared the following story involving his friend and co-worker, my heart nearly folded in on itself. Following his lead, I asked about ways in which I could help. And so, with permission from the Meyers family to share their story, that is exactly what I am hoping to do. I’d like to create some good in a season that has been filled with pain. I’d like to help meet practical needs. And, most of all, I’d like to provide encouragement to this very brave and beautiful family. However, I can’t do it alone. Please read the following, and if, like me, you feel led to help the Meyers family, simply follow the link to donate to a fund that will be used to help with their mounting medical and mental health care costs. Feel free to share, repost, retweet and spread the word as you feel led. Your kindness is invaluable.


Thirteen years ago, Doug and Toni Meyers decided that they wanted to open their home to their two beautiful foster children named JD and Alli.  These siblings came from truly heartbreaking circumstances. Court records indicated 16 reports of significant abuse, neglect and domestic violence within the children’s biological home. JD spent the first year of his life primarily in his crib, with minimal care and nourishment. Both JD and his sister were diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and demonstrated levels of Methamphetamine in their system upon birth. Knowing all of this, the Meyers opened their hearts, applied for legal adoption, and began their journey as a family in central Nebraska.

As JD and Alli grew into adolescence, they continued to need special supports within their schools. JD often had difficulty fitting in with peers and frequently struggled to make friends. Teasing from peers was familiar and bullying was not uncommon. However, when JD was fifteen, he began attending high school. While JD continued to struggle to find acceptance within his peer group, he began to find solace in his new Welding class. Quickly, his enthusiasm for the class grew. He was so proud to come home with his small projects and was excited about learning and helping others in the class. He soon made friends and started wearing work boots, just like the older classmates he respected and looked up to. He had found his niche.

However, when the second semester began, JD was required to enroll in a P.E. class and, in turn, drop his favorite welding course. He was heart-broken. JD’s physical limitations, (i.e. his stunted leg development due to significant neglect and undernourishment as a baby) kept him from keeping up with the rest of his peers in class. As the P.E. class continued, so did the required races and physical activities. J.D. found himself consistently falling behind and finishing significantly slower than his peers. Soon the taunting and bullying began once again.

Quickly, the bullying began to occur via online social media sites as well. Using Facebook, other sites, and texting, students began to pretend to be “popular” girls in school, flirting and “asking out” JD via private messages. Due to JD’s trusting nature, he was not always able to discern what was real and what was not. As such, he often believed that these girls were interested in him. This continued for weeks without the knowledge of Mr. and Mrs. Meyers.

Eventually, JD isolated himself to the point where his main interactions occurred via the internet. This past spring, an anonymous individual (believed to be a child predator) began to email JD pretending to be a beautiful girl interested in being his “girlfriend.” They began “dating” and JD quickly became consumed with his affection for this new person in his life. In a weeks’ time this individual continued to contact JD, sending pictures affirming their relationship, and convincing JD more and more that she was “in love” with him. In April, this online predator, or “girlfriend”, asked JD to take inappropriate pictures of his little sister and share the images. When JD refused, she threatened to break up with him. When JD continued to resist, the “girlfriend” abruptly ended the relationship, sending JD into a deep depression. While Mr. and Mrs. Meyers had begun to sense that something inappropriate was occurring, it was only when JD shared the story about the “break up” that they realized something was seriously wrong.

Immediately following, on May 1st, at 3:30 PM, Doug Meyers received a phone call stating his father had been diagnosed with cancer. As expected, he was devastated. Two hours later, at 5:30 PM, Doug went out to the neighbor’s barn in search of JD. When Doug arrived, he found that JD had hanged himself. For twenty-five grueling minutes, Doug administered CPR, restarting JD’s heart and repeatedly breathing oxygen into his son’s weak lungs as they waited for emergency personnel to arrive. JD was immediately rushed to the hospital, where he was subsequently air lifted to a pediatric intensive care unit three hours from home. Once there, doctors determined that he had suffered from significant loss of oxygen to the brain. It was a very painful day for the Meyers family.  

Due to the oxygen loss, JD’s cognitive and language skills have been impacted. Most significantly, JD suffers from marked deficits in memory and an increased presence of a speech impediment. It is projected that he will need long-term support and rehabilitation. While this information is harrowing for the Meyers family, they know how lucky they are. The doctors report that JD was very close to losing his life. He is in the 1% of the population who survive strangulation.

Today, the Meyers family is continuing to try to seek out information on what kind of predatory online activity occurred and who was behind it. They are also working with JD’s school staff and administration to work towards decreasing the potential for continued bullying and harassment.  When all is said and done, JD continues to be a regular and vivacious teenage boy who strives to be loved and accepted by those around him. He is continuing to try to understand the events that preceded that day in the barn and, as he is able, he participates in therapy and rehabilitative services to help him process his feelings about the last year.  With a heart as big as his, it can be difficult to understand why the bad so often outshines the good.

My hope is that JD can continue to receive the support and treatment that he will need. However, his treatment will be extensive and expensive. The Meyers family is steadfast, courageous and humble. They are more apt to give than to receive, and as such, would never ask for financial help. So, I've decided to ask for them. Let’s gather together to provide support and encouragement to this wonderfully brave family as they face a difficult road. I’d like them to know they are loved. I’d especially like for JD to know he is loved. And I’d like to turn the tide, and remind the Meyers family just how bright kindness and generosity can shine. If you’d like to help, please donate below. 






Sunday, November 24, 2013

full circle.

About a year ago I wrote this post. I don’t remember very much about that particular day. It was probably a beautiful autumn afternoon, as late October generally lends itself to this kind of thing. And I was probably seeking solace and some kind of tangible peace, as this is usually what brings me to a keyboard to tap out feelings, feelings, feelings. Maybe Marlo was curled up at my feet or maybe I was sitting, knees-up, to my small desk. It probably had been a long Thursday. They are, after all, the burdened days that precede the glorious Fridays.

But here is what I do remember: I remember feeling heavy, yet expectant. I remember allowing tears to fall knowing that they were carving a path of some kind of significant change. I remember a homesickness that began in my belly and manifested in my heart- an ache for the shifting days that I felt sure were just within reach. I recall a kind of tingling in my bones, an anticipation of a life that I so desperately wanted to wrap myself in.

And so I did.

Fast forward to a week ago, where I stood among a crowd of (mostly) strangers, staring at a stage filled with instruments and voices that came together to sing this song from this post. The crowd recognized it instantly and within seconds, the entire venue was humming and then singing and then swaying, and all of the sudden I remembered. I remembered the long drives, windows down, the music riding the wind. I remembered the homesickness and my frustrations and my desire for something I couldn’t define. I remembered this anthem that I had so connected with, that I had sung aloud to the trees that passed my by. And, for just a moment, I held my breath and listened.

I’m still expectant. And some days I still ache for my place and my space I’ve yet to encounter. But I’m also so thankful. I’m thankful for change and for the possibility of turning the new into the old. I’m grateful for a new map to navigate, full of rivers and roads that lead to kind hearts and kind faces.  New seasons and souls and songs, amen.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

adaptation.

A new place and a new job have ways of humbling you and encouraging you and humiliating you, all within a swift few moments that stretch into days, and weeks, and then, just like that, normalcy. Suddenly your house smells like you again and your driveway is familiar and your neighbors recognize your face. Home sneaks in through the cracks and before you know it the new place and the new job are just where you are and what you do. Your eyes adjust. Your brain adapts. And just like that, home is built.

I’ve been in Austin for almost four months now. When I moved, I was ready. I left quickly, without much fanfare and moved into a strange house with a strange man for a roommate, and a new job waiting in the wings. The change has been difficult at times, as this kind of thing generally is; it has a way of teaching leveling lessons that bring out the worst of us in the best kind of ways. I’ve learned a lot of new things about myself and it seems that each day the list continues to get longer. But isn’t this the point of the whole thing? To evolve and adapt and remember the process, and then say thank you very much, thank you very much.

I’ve learned that I’m an incredibly impatient driver. I’ve learned that I am prone to killing plants. I’ve learned that I’m awkward when making new friends and at my best one-on-one. I’ve learned that I continue to be terrible at dating and that I am perpetually attracted to the same kind of man, over and over and over. I’ve learned that I really do love dogs as much as I say I do and that I really do despise sushi as much as I thought I did. I’ve learned that I won’t wait in line longer than fifteen minutes, no matter how stellar the food truck. I've learned that there is something to be said for living around the corner from a banjo player who serenades me on my evening walks. I’ve learned that I prefer to commute by bike as long as I don’t get a flat. I’ve learned that breakfast tacos truly are a gift from above. I’ve learned that tattoos just really aren’t my thing and that I’ll never be able to stay on top of the indy music scene. I’ve learned that I should probably just stay away from liquor and that it’s ok to stay home all weekend and read. I’ve learned that seeking the quiet is as important as ever and that prayer continues to keep me sane. And I’ve learned that loneliness is a complex situation that requires the courage to endure it and not just the wits to go around it.

Yes, Austin is a wonderful place to live. But it’s wonderful because it has provided me the opportunities to make mistakes, cultivate my responses and watch myself grow.

Food trucks, be damned. I’m here to learn what it feels like to build a home.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

a camera of sorts.

Sometimes when I’m all alone, I look at my reflection in a mirror and try to memorize the details of what I see. I gaze steadily at my strangely- shaped nose and then my mouth and then my neck. I trail back up to my eyes and notice the color of my lashes and the way my mascara rests upon each one, like a thick winter coat that has the occasional ripple in its lining. I look up at my forehead and examine the beginnings of my wrinkles and lines- the evidence of my thirty years of laughter and then all that is opposite of that laughter, like the sadness and worry and anger. I take it all in, this person I am, and I attempt to take the truest picture I can. Because my brain is a wonderful camera. Its lens can see things as clearly and as beautifully as I choose to allow. And so I’ve been practicing, allowing the beauty to find its way through the lens and into a place that I can store up. I want to remember this reflection. I want to make friends with my ruddy cheeks and the moles on my neck - not because of vanity, but because this is who I am. I’m a creation, don’t you know? And the details of the thing are always what make up the beauty of the whole.

It isn’t always easy, this memorizing and remembering.

But this, of course, is why I practice.

(Because to practice in the stillness gives way to remembering in the movement and mess.)

Yesterday morning, I rode my bike to a local farmers market a few miles away. It was unbearably hot, as this new town in which I reside doesn’t seem to dip below 95 degrees most days. I rode over the river and across the busy streets and lusted after the breeze that surrounded my body the faster I pedaled. The sweat gathered and my jean shorts clung in unfortunate ways. But I didn’t care. Because as I pedaled, I caught sight of myself in the reflection of the tall glass building that stood to my right, shiny and twenty stories high. I glanced over and took a picture, a quick snapshot, just as I’ve been practicing. I captured a woman on a mission- a woman with  blonde braided hair and thick legs and a light in her eyes. I saw a woman on her way to becoming who she was meant to become. She moved quickly, but I was able to catch a peek.

I'm so glad that I've been practicing.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

post-bachelorette.

I sat at a long table last night, surrounded by people and loud music, strung lights and alcohol. I watched as my wonderful friend Aimey celebrated her impending wedding by donning her bachelorette veil and a lovely tequila-induced glow. She seemed happy, which made me happy. And she seemed alive- ready to embrace life as a married kind of person rather than a not married kind of person. I’ve watched numerous friends go through this same right of passage. So many, in fact, that I’ve lost count. It is the South, after all, and nothing brings the masses together quite like a good old fashioned bachelorette party. Or a good old fashioned wedding shower. Or a good old fashioned wedding. Followed by a good old fashioned baby shower and a good old fashioned birthday party. And then, well, really any good old fashioned reason to serve beautifully crafted beverages from vintage-inspired glassware most likely purchased from Anthropologie.

But I digress.

My point is, that in these kinds of celebrations, certain social rules seem not apply. Strangers shout things such as “Congratulations!!” or “You still have time to change your mind!” or, my personal favorite, “Don’t worry! Annulments are cheap!”  Very suddenly, the bride belongs to the world. And the world buys her drinks and doles out advice and offers to take pictures as though this is how things normally go. It embraces her and cares, very loudly, about this thing she is about to embark upon. The world shows up to the party, at each new location, whether invited or not. And this is always one of my favorite parts - the observation of shifting rules and strangers celebrating strangers. Perhaps we are all in search of a few more reasons to celebrate. Maybe we secretly want to buy drinks and make new friends and wish someone all of the luck we can muster. Perhaps we are hoping to share our wisdom and tell our stories and be reminded that life can be really beautiful. I think sometimes it just takes running into a stranger in a bachelorette veil to infuse us with the courage to say it out loud.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

a thank you note.

I am leaving soon, moving on to another place and another space. As in most things, it is difficult for me to commemorate what exactly needs to be commemorated. It is tricky for me to recognize the value and the sentiment of a season, of a life. But this place, this unique and tiny world called East Texas, well, it has witnessed my transition from a child to an adult. It has seen me at my worst and it has celebrated me at my best. Over and over and over again.

I moved here because I felt that I didn’t know what else to do. I had an opportunity and I was in love and I was scared of going too far away. I thought I would stay six months.

I stayed eight years.

Life is not always funny, as they say. Often it is wonderful and heart-wrenching and confusing, all in the same breath. My time in this town has brought the sweetest of friends and the oddest of jobs. I dressed up as a pioneer for a paycheck. I hiked up mountains and hauled truckloads of kayaks and tried my hardest to patiently love on teenagers. I traveled to Africa. And then to graduate school. I slung coffee and pastries for far too long. I tutored. I studied. I graduated. Friends moved away, got married, had babies. But I stayed, in my small white house, my dog by my side. I found myself asking why I was here, why I was still here (and still here and still here?) And then I began working with students who required a lot of extra attention and care. I fell in love with them, and with their small town. I fell in love because these students, these often frustrating and oppositional and big-hearted students, well, they humbly reminded me that we all require a lot of extra attention and care.

And that’s just what they gave me.

I have been quietly sad for a very long time. But this place has given me the platform and the peace to endure myself. It has been patient. It has been nurturing. And it has provided the tools for me to grow stronger and feel better.

So, away I will go. In three short weeks I will pack up and move to a new place where I really don’t know very many people. I will begin a job in which I feel thrilled and terrified and blessed to call my own. I will leave my home and a history that I never thought would take root in this place. But truly, I am so thankful that it did.

Thank you to each of you who has loved me well in this part of the world. Thank you for your kindness and your wisdom. Thank you for your humor and your generosity.

And thank you for helping me to grow into the woman I was meant to become.

East Texas, my door is forever open.


Love,

Me

Sunday, April 7, 2013

paradox.

"When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty.  I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer."

- Brennan Manning

Sunday, March 24, 2013

levity (and the beginning of an honest conversation.)

Yesterday morning I attended the funeral of a friend’s husband. Earlier this week he was killed instantly when another driver struck his car head-on. He and my friend had been married eight months. They could both flash smiles that would ignite a room. He was only 23 years old.

Three weeks ago, while at work, I got a phone call telling me my dad had suffered a heart attack. For a man who bikes thirty plus miles a day and never misses a workout at the gym, I was shocked to learn that his heart could be so defiant and insistent on playing for the other side of things. For several hours I wasn't sure what the outcome would be. We waited and were told that one of his main arteries had been 99% blocked. He had not had any warning or inclination until the damn thing almost gave out on him. I was thrilled and terrified and frustrated and so thankful, all while sitting hundreds of miles away, praying, praying, praying.

Earlier this year, I underwent some minor medical tests of my own to try and figure out why I was feeling so strange. My chest was hurting and my heart was beating erratically and my head was swimming with all of the possibilities of what could be causing my body to act like it was. I got hooked up to some machines and had a few nurses do what they do and at the end of it all there wasn’t much of a conclusion. My doctor told me that it was obvious I was an internalizer (clearly) and that the stress was damaging me from the inside out. My job (ironically, working as a professional in psychology) was creating stress. My personal life was creating stress. My patterns of thinking were creating stress. And it was wreaking havoc on my health.  I agreed, left her office and went home and tried to re-evaluate a few things.

And then, two months ago, I decided enough was enough. With the encouragement of a sweet friend, a therapist, and the realization that I needed to walk what I talk, I returned to the doctor and asked to be put on an anti-depressant. I was tired of feeling sad. I was tired of feeling tired. I was tired of feeling as though my truth and my joy were being painted over by varying levels of emotion over and over again. So, I asked for help. And this time, it came in the form of a small blue pill that I take every night before I go to sleep. It’s been enormously helpful and in an effort to keep any negative stigmas in check about these kinds of things, I want to commit to an open and honest dialogue about choosing to take that tiny pill every day.* Because sometimes the best medicine really is medicine.

All of this is to say: time really is a beast of a thing, and never is this more evident than when you attend a funeral or wait by the phone for news that could rearrange you from the inside out or lie on your side while a machine scans the whole of your body. I think of my friend who lost her husband, or my dad, or the many others who have experienced first-hand the reality of how finite this life can be. I know I will always be the kind of soul who thinks heavily and deeply about all kinds of realities, but I am so grateful for levity- for hope.  While I can't deny that my days are numbered and patterned and beyond my control, I'd like to be the kind of woman who commits to more moments of joy- a multitude of minutes filled with honesty and laughter and the kinds of things that make time truly beautiful.




* Let's keep this conversation going. Share this post if you'd like, as I'd love to hear feedback and comments from those of you who may be in similar positions as myself.  It takes a bit of courage to discuss these kinds of things, but I think it is important and absolutely worth the time.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

adolescent wisdom.

I sat across from a student last week, and he solemnly stared ahead, fairly disinterested in why I was sharing an empty classroom with him.  I had pulled him from class and, because I was acutely aware of the clock hanging above me, I was doing my best to create a rapport out of the scraps of silence and humor and awkward stillness that lay around us.  I tried my usual tactics: I asked about sports. And then I asked about video games. And then, t.v. shows and music and secret, hidden talents. And then, after more silence, I asked about school and finally, girls. Still, he stared ahead, unwilling to share and unwilling to crack. Arms crossed, he occasionally moved his mouth this way and that until he found the place where his breath bounced off of his top lip and made a sound he seemed to like.

“How long do we have to stay in here?” he asked.

I looked at him, his red t-shirt torn at the shoulder and his hair shaved close to his head.  He seemed so very sad.

I understand, I thought. I understand what it’s like to feel so tired. To feel so heavy. To feel so sad.

“We don’t have to stay in here very much longer.” I said. “But I’d like to hear a little bit more about you. I’d like to get to know you a little better, if that’s ok with you.”

He glanced at me, and squinted his eyes slowly.

I spoke again, “I know that you don’t know me very well and so I don’t expect you to tell me all of your secrets. But I would like to hear your story. I’d like to hear your side.”

He looked down at the desk for several minutes and then looked up at me for the first time. I waited, sensing that he wanted to say something.

“My side goes like this. I’d be a better person if other people would be better people to me.”

I felt my breath catch in my throat and neither of us said anything for a little while as I let the quiet fill up the room.

Finally, I reached across the desk, tapping my fingers slowly in front of him to get his attention.

“You know,” I said, “I think that may be the wisest thing I’ve heard in a very long time.”

And ever so slightly, I think I saw him smile.










*I take care not to publicly write about my job for obvious reasons. However, I felt this short exchange was worth sharing as it certainly provides some food for thought.  I've taken liberty in altering descriptions above as to protect the anonymity of the student.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

coming home.



I see my people, my family, at most, three times a year. I’ve lived a day’s drive away from them since the day I went to college. I was seventeen years old. Those who know me well also know my family well because we are a closely-bound group. We have shared a uniquely-spun journey, the four of us, and I hold them very close to my heart. I think this is because in so many ways they are my heart. They have loved me well, and for a woman who consistently struggles to accept such things, I understand the significance of their offering, of their intentions. They are my family, in every sense of the word.

However, the past few years have brought changes. I have changed. We have grown up. Life has taught lessons that I haven’t always wanted to learn. And somewhere along the way, I became who I am, which I think, is not exactly who I was expecting to become.  Maybe I thought I would be working towards building a story alongside someone else. Maybe I thought I would be seeing and traveling the world in exorbitant ways. Maybe I thought I would laugh more and create more and share more than I have been able to do. And isn’t this the way of it? We become who we are despite who we thought we’d become. We fall in love with ourselves despite the things that try to convince us otherwise. At least, this is how it feels to me. Coming home when you are twenty-two and reckless is one thing. Coming home when you are thirty and learning to love your life is another.

Recently, I was sitting across the table from my mother. I sat, looking at her face as she spoke, at the pull of her skin and the color of her hair and the shape of her lips and I felt myself lift beyond the room to a space worn in by her experience and by her life. I watched her speak from a place beyond my role as her daughter. I listened to her share as though I was a stranger, as though I was hearing her voice and her tenor for the first time. I watched her graceful angles and noticed the way her hands wrapped around a mug I’ve used a hundred times before. I looked across from me and saw a woman that I’d never fully seen. And I tried to be still. I tried to breathe it all in, the experience of looking at a face so familiar that maybe I’d stopped looking at it at all. She is beautiful, my mother, and I know this with such certainty. But sometimes I forget. I forget until I take the time to remember.

We are all adjusting, my family and I, to our ever-evolving roles in one anothers lives. I am learning to take the time to remember what I know. We are learning to be still and listen. And my parents, well, they are learning to make space for their awkward thirty-year old daughter who still insists on coming home for two-week intervals, just because she can. Because sometimes the best and most difficult remedy is to surround yourself with the people that fell in love with you long before you began to fall in love with yourself. This is family. This is what it feels like to be home.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

words.

Several months ago, I set three goals for myself. 

The first involved attitude.
The second involved perspective.
And the third involved words. More of them, to be exact.

I decided I wanted to work on seeking out and utilizing words in ways that were healthy and life-giving. I wanted to gorge myself on ideas and books, conversations and prayers. I wanted to float in it, this season in which I have the silence and the time and the lonely spirit in which to befriend specific words, and I’ve found that I feel more buoyant than I have in a long time. 

My hope was that this practice would translate into more positive communication in terms of the world around me- that I wouldn’t waste words on unnecessary negativity and that I wouldn’t shy away from seeking out the right terms and verbiage to express myself and my emotions. And this may seem silly to some, or obvious to others, the idea of focusing on words and the ways in which they fill your body and your mind and those spaces in your heart that need rearranging. But I think in the end it has given me more peace and more courage than I ever could have imagined. I’ve read more books and initiated more difficult conversations. I’ve written more pages and spoken with my God more readily and more passionately. I’ve messed up tremendously and then moped around in my humility more eloquently. I’ve shared more and cried more (can you imagine?) and felt more than I have in a long time, and in the end, I have to believe it’s because of the words.  It’s what they say, yes. But I think it’s also the practice of seeking them out- of layering them strategically, one by one- that matters so much.

And at the end of each day, after all of this layering, I let them settle into the places of myself that need them most and I feel better.

(Proverbial check mark follows.)







Tuesday, October 30, 2012

door-to-door

A long, long time ago, I decided it would be a good idea to sell books door-to-door during my summer break from college. What resulted was a mildly traumatic summer that was composed of endless stories in which I can now see the terrifying humor. It only took me ten years.

What follows is a short little thing (what does that even mean?) that I wrote a few weeks back.  You know, just in case you were thinking door-to-door sales might be a good entrepreneurial experience.

_______

Let’s get one thing straight: I was neither intoxicated nor adversely affected by illegal substances when I agreed to spend a summer knocking on doors, begging people to take pity on my poor, 20-year old self by purchasing bulky books sometimes referred to as educational resources.  How was I to know that I would become the world’s worst sales-woman? That I would get yelled at by old men in underwear for interrupting viewings of American Idol? That I would spend three and a half hours in the homes of strangers, only to walk away with a box full of post-mortem mementos because their mother had just died and OH MY GOD is that a hair brush with her grey hair still matted in between the bristles?  She loved that brush and you just really can’t stand to have it lying around the trailer anymore? OK. Sure. I understand. I’ll take it off your hands and haul it around in the back of my red Honda Civic*  for the next three months. She always loved the color red? Perfect. Providence. So glad I dropped by.

It began innocently enough. I drove halfway across the country and attended my training where I received an important looking black, vinyl tote that was to contain everything I would need to convert myself into a confident and successful saleswoman. From there, I headed East, into the mountains of North Carolina.  I bought a few maps of where I would be selling and did what I called “research”. Or, you know, I found a gas station, bought a candy bar and sat in my car for two hours before joining up with the rest of the enlightened and ambitious individuals who had sold their souls for the prospect of making a randy amount of cash by seeking out children’s play equipment and soccer moms’ SUV’s. 

First thing on the agenda: Find a place to stay for the duration of the summer. Knock on doors, we were told. Get in small groups. It will be good practice! And the worst that can happen is that they will say no!  Sounded simple enough.

Ok.

Deep breath.

“Hi. My name is _________. I work for __________ and my friends and I are looking for a place to live for the next three months. We are hard-working college students who are willing to pay a reasonable price in rent and, we promise, we won’t require any extra treatment. You’ll hardly notice we are around, except for when our alarm goes off at ungodly times in the morning. But even then, we will hardly make a peep. Promise! I know there are several of us, but we can sleep on the floor. We LOVE sleeping on the floor. You don’t know if you can trust us? Nonsense! We’ve been talking for almost a full minute and a half and I haven’t tried to kill you yet. See? We are completely trustworthy. No? Are you sure? You’re positive? Ok. Well. Thank you for your time.”

Seventy-seven houses later, we found someone desperate enough to say yes. She was a lovely single mother, with a lovely matching child (Boy? Girl? If I’m honest, it was hard to tell which) and we commandeered her spare bedroom, with no floor space to spare.  The three of us shared a bathroom with said gender-neutral child and on the occasion that we needed to utilize the toilet, it was first necessary to remove a brightly-colored “training potty” that permanently hovered upon the toilet’s squishy, vinyl seat. It was green. With brown teddy bears. The plan was to stick to a strict schedule which included being in bed by 11:00 p.m. and up at 6 a.m. This almost certainly ensured enough time to shower, pack a healthy lunch and dramatically wallow in the realization that we had, in fact, made the worst decision of our young lives by agreeing to do this job for an entire summer, all while still leaving time for breakfast.

With our housing secured and a schedule set, our first day of independent work arrived. You’ve got to do some scouting, some investigating, some documenting of your neighborhoods, they told us. Pre-mapping, they called it. Get to know who lives where and look for evidence of children. Where the children are, the parents with the checkbooks are also. Swing sets! Stickers! Bikes in the front yard! Write it down, they said, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. So I did. I found the mail men who worked the neighborhood junkets and asked questions like “Can you tell me where all the kids are?” and “I’m looking for small children. Can you help me?”

Surprisingly, they did not provide the requested information.

I decided to try knocking on a few doors.  The first house loomed above me, large and brick with bright blue shutters. I felt my heart pound as I heard feet shuffle towards the front door.  Trying to remember everything I was taught at training, I turned away from the door, so that just my profile was visible.  Legal pad in hand, I looked down and busily scribbled illegible words, hoping to look busy and professional and not at all creepy or like a Mormon on a mission.

I heard the door open. “Honey, whatever it is you’re sellin’, I ain’t want none of it.” A large black woman peered down at me from behind her screen door.

“Oh. Um. No. I, well, um, I’m new in the neighborhood and *swallow* I’m, I mean, you, um, you may have seen me around. Or maybe not. I just, I mean, I am, um...”

Oh, hell. Is this what I am supposed to say? Suddenly my mind went blank. I couldn’t remember any of the script I’d practiced before.

“Um. MY NAME IS ____________ AND I’M HERE TO FIND ALL OF THE CHILDREN!”

Silence.

More silence.

Followed by the slamming of the front door.

I slowly walked back down the driveway towards my car. I tossed in my black vinyl bag and sat down in the driver’s seat. I looked at the clock on my dashboard. I’d been working for approximately forty-five minutes.

That was on a Wednesday.

_________________


* Not to be confused with the gold Dodge Stratus that I drove for several weeks after my red Honda Civic was stolen. But then I wrecked the Stratus, much to the men at Enterprise's dismay. However, do not fear! My precious Honda was recovered soon after. And the perpetrators left me my very own copy of an Avril Lavigne CD. Win!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

intuition.

If you want to know the truth of the matter, I’m pretty much the worst person in the world at making decisions. I ponder. I pray. I weigh my options. Multiple times. And then I wax poetic for days and then weeks until, finally, I nudge myself beyond my anxiety-riddled extremities and just do the damn thing. 

And that’s just when I’m trying to decide what to eat for dinner.

But, on the other end of things, I’m pretty great at telling other people my opinion on the kinds of decisions they should be making. I can listen. I can nod empathically. I can objectively provide perspective. And I can map out a path for their personal success like you’ve never seen. Except that you probably have seen it. Because if you are my friend and you are reading this, I’ve probably done it with you. I’m not shy with my opinions and/or my intuition. It’s one of the only things that comes easily for me. That and anything that involves queso.

The point is, it’s a perilous line to walk, the whole “practicing what you preach” thing.  And I’m still figuring it out. I have a few large decisions looming ahead, and my brain is tempted to capsize on itself and sink to the dark blue bottom. But I’m determined to not let it. I want to trust, not just in the greater picture, but in my ability to utilize my own intuition.  I throw that stuff around every day, launching it towards whoever is privy to my counseling chair. Sometimes it sticks and sometimes it doesn’t. But I use it. And I share it. And I do it without fear.

I’d like to treat myself the same way.

So. I’m praying for more of that sticky intuition. That it would illuminate answers even though I’m not sure of the questions. That it would bring peace to my anxious brain. And that it would allow me the privilege of trusting myself.


(And that maybe, just maybe, it would have an Australian accent.)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

rivers and roads.

I've always been someone who has believed that I would someday find my place-
that sacred space buried underneath the days and months that feels like it was constructed just for me.

I used to think that I would find such a place in the eyes of the man I loved.

Or at the desk that sat in my office- the one that represented the career that I had worked so hard to pursue.

Or in the art I created, or in the words I wrote, or in the cities I traveled to and the plans I made.

But lately I've been homesick for my place, for that peace that comes from knowing that this, this is what it feels like to stand in front of yourself and see your body take root. This is what it feels like to know with certainty that I belong here.

I miss what I don't yet know.
I'm homesick for a home that I've not yet created.

And so, when this song by The Head and the Heart filled my car yesterday morning (you've probably heard it by now, but even if you have, listen again. and again. and again.)  I couldn't help but think of it as a love letter of sorts. A love letter to my place, and to a home I'll one day discover. To the faces I've yet to see. To the souls I've yet to meet.  To the mistakes I've yet to make.

And to that space I've yet to encounter.

To this place I say, rivers and roads.

Because goodness,
I miss your face like hell.



Friday, August 17, 2012

why I take the time.

There is a posture in Bikram Yoga called Standing Head to Knee Pose and, as you might have guessed, its goal is for the participant to firmly, with one leg standing and locked, grab a hold of the other foot, gently kick it out, and eventually touch forehead to knee. It requires balance, patience and an enormous amount of strength.

In short, I want to scissor-kick this posture in the shins.

I would be lying to you if I said that there aren’t ten other postures just like it in which I feel the same way.  It’s not an easy thing, spending ninety minutes in a heated room, pumped full of humidity.  It’s an even harder thing to actually move around and try to accomplish yoga-type endeavors in said heated room. And did I mention there are mirrors everywhere? Lots of mirrors that are just perfect for watching the sweat glisten in between the folds of one's belly.

I’ve been taking Bikram classes for approximately six months.  Occasionally, I’ll have friends ask me why. Why, they want to know, would I subject myself to that kind of terror? Why would I willingly sweat buckets when I could go to the gym and hit up the Elliptical machine and call it a day? Why would I participate in a class that is the same 26 postures, in the same sequence, with the same dialogue, day after day? They have valid points, these wise friends of mine.

And here is my response:

Because it matters.

It matters to me that I spend my time well. It matters to me that I engage in activities that challenge not just my body, but also my mind and my heart. Yes. You read that correctly. My heart. I’m talking feelings here, people. Bikram is a yoga class, absolutely. But it is also a wonderful arena to practice the kinds of things that we don’t often get a chance to think about prior to life scissor-kicking us in the shins. 

Every class, I’m given the opportunity to stand in front of myself for an HOUR AND A HALF, pure and unadorned, and decide if I’m going to respond positively or negatively to whatever the class throws my way. (When else can I take the time to look directly at myself that honestly and for that long? The answer is never.)

I’m forced to look myself in the eyes, focus on the present, and choose to try my absolute hardest.

I'm practicing the art of not believing everything I think.

Perfection is not my goal. Instead, grace is what I strive for. I’m learning to be patient. I’m learning to find contentment. I’m learning that in order to become better I must first practice humility. (Because it's humbling to have a difficult class and not be able to complete a posture that you've done a million times before.)

I’m learning that sometimes the easiest way to get through terrible times is just to be still and breathe. (And then, sometimes, you realize the terrible times really aren't that terrible.)

If you can, you must. Inevitably, I will hear my teacher say this every class. And you want to know the magic of it all? I think about this phrase more outside of class, then in. Because going to class and sweating out the calories and toxins and beer from last weekend is the least of it. Instead, the beauty of Bikram, the part that matters, is that I can take, not just what I hear in class, but what I practice and feel and tangibly experience, and apply it to Every. Single. Day.

I know what you’re thinking. Oh God. Here she goes. Talking about feelings and yoga and why Sanskrit and Namaste has changed her middle-class, organic milk-drinking life.

But. You know what?

Bikram Yoga hasn’t changed my life.

Nope. It’s the stuff that happens around the yoga that has made me a better individual. I know there are other arenas in which I could practice positive thinking, grace, patience and humility. But, for me, there are none that are as encouraging, energizing and consistent. To look around and see a room full of diverse people, sweating it out, equally human in such extreme conditions, well, I can think of no better parallel to life. Because isn’t that what we all are, just diverse and sweaty people, trying our damnedest to get through to the next posture without falling over?

No, Bikram Yoga hasn’t changed my life. It’s just allowed me the tools and the space to help change it myself.

And so, dear friends, this is why I will continue to go to Bikram class, even though it may seem crazy and smelly to so many. This is why I will continue trying to get my head to touch my knee, and my breath to rise and fall, steady and focused.


Because it absolutely matters.





For more information on the practice of Bikram, you can visit here.

And if you're in my area, here is information on where classes are available.