- "I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather my spark burn out in a brilliant blaze than be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy, permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time." ~Jack London
Monday, March 31, 2008
I awoke this morning determined to turn things around. No matter how foolish my optimism can seem at times, I am still a firm believer in the power of positive thinking. I still believe that sometimes happiness is something we have to create for ourselves, that allowing ourselves to be conscious of what we want, of the choices we make in the pursuit of our goal, of our worthiness of that goal and the pursuit itself, makes all the difference. I still have faith that we are capable of creating the lives we want to be living.
And even though the day seemed no different than any that had passed recently, I resolved to make it special, to make it the first day of the something new I've been in search of. Instead of my usual lying around, gossiping, petty magazine reading during nap time, I took out my book and began to read. I annotated passages that I loved. I circled words and phrases that I loved. I allowed myself to feel inspired.
After work I went to the gym, which I shamefully haven't done in well over a month. I am shocked each time I return after being away by how good it feels. I am shocked each time by how easily I forget such a feeling. I am shocked each time to think that my body has not been crying out in agony for movement during this lapse in attendance, and I am even more greatly shocked to discover that it has been, that I've simply been choosing not to listen. How could I so easily neglect this body I use to journey through my existence?
It was raining lightly as I left the gym. People hurried down the sidewalk under their umbrellas and oversized hoods. I thought about that line I'd written a few posts back, about how I sometimes feel best about my life when other people are at their worst. I thought about my hate of umbrellas and my love of rain. I thought about how refreshing and cool and wonderful those spritzes of water felt upon my hot sweaty skin. I tilted my head up to the grey sky, closed my eyes, and smiled. What a beautiful day, I thought to myself.
As I turned the corner towards my apartment, I came upon a row of blossoming trees. I hadn't noticed them this morning as I passed in the dark. For a moment, they felt like the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I felt the softness of each petal, the fragility of each droplet of rain, clinging so divinely delicate to the gentle branches. I felt the etherealness of these small wonders within the very depths of me, blooming within my spirit, rising within my heart. I floated home on their perfection.
And perhaps I am still there, floating, twisting and turning in possibility, dreaming of things that have yet to happen, but I suppose that is just me. I suppose I am just an overly optimistic believer, and probably always have been, and hopefully always will be. I suppose I am just a woman, a person, a human being, trying her best to live the life she wants to be living. I wish for all of you to know such happiness.
And just like that, I've turned it all around.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
I'm sorry that I haven't been around much lately.
I haven't been sleeping much either, or eating well, or really taking care of myself at all. I have felt -- I don't know -- uninspired, I suppose. This month seems to be dragging on infinitely, as does the cold, as does the mundane nature of my daily routine. I'm just ready for something new. I'm ready for spring to fully arrive. I'm ready for a fresh beginning, a rebirth, a rejuvenation of the spirit. I'm ready. I'm waiting.
I love transitions. I love life changing moments and experiences. I love jumping whole-heartedly into a decision and I love the way I never feel more alive than when I am taking that leap of faith. I love the idea of a leap of faith. I love the idea that it is never too late to begin again. I love knowing that nothing in life is concrete, that no matter how stuck we may feel at times, there is always a means of escape that we had yet to consider. I love that nothing in this world is stagnant, that we are all moving forward in every instant, that the future is arriving even now as I write this. I love the way it burns with potential.
"Can we plant sunflowers in the yard?" She asked me. It was really more of a statement than a question as of course the only possible answer was an enthusiastic yes. It was like asking if this world was something to be cherished. It was like asking if life was something to be adored. It was like asking if we were destined to be friends forever. Surely our common love of sunflowers is proof enough.
We have been searching for a house to buy, to own, to make our own. We have picked out color schemes, plotted out our garden, planned parties. We have been brimming over with ideas for a place that has yet to exist (although we have some prospects). Over the next month we hope to be homeowners. It is a big step. It is one of the most grown up decisions I have ever jumped into.
People keep telling me what a good investment I'm making, how they wish they had bought young, how they wish they would have been so wise and brave. Their words somehow make me doubt things. Perhaps I am too young to settle into a life. Perhaps I am giving up on those alternative lives I could be living, on the potential of spontaneity, on the possibility of going anywhere and doing anything. Perhaps this so called bravery is actually foolishness. Perhaps it is silly to buy a house at the age of twenty-three. Perhaps it is more like playing a grown up than actually being one.
I always thought of homeowners as being adults, with spouses and children and careers. That is not who I am. I don't even truly know who I am, not yet anyway, not the way most adults I know have learned to define themselves. I have yet to define myself. Which is okay. Really it is. Most days, labeling myself as happy is enough of a definition for me.
But every so often I go out for a walk in the soft light of early evening, through my little suburban neighborhood, and see through kitchen windows perfect families eating perfect dinners in their perfect homes. And of course, there is no such thing as perfect, and no way of knowing that any of these families are even close to such an idea, but in my mind they are. In my mind they are what I wished I had growing up, what I wish I will someday have, what I fear I may never become. In my heart I feel a great sorrow and longing for the happiness I may never know. Every so often I think that being a teacher and buying a home and trying my best to hold onto people are simply means of trying to fill that void, that fear of being alone. Sometimes I think that I will spend my life playing this game of pretend.
And other times not. Buying this home is not just about settling. It is not just about playing the role of homeowner. It is about my need to create. It is about needing to create a place that feels like home. It is about painting walls and life with color. It is about planting sunflowers in the soil of my soul. It is about furnishing the void with happiness and light. It is about a good investment financially, but it is also about a good investment personally, mentally, emotionally. It is about a fresh start, a rejuvenation of the spirit, rebirth, something new. It is about feeling inspired again. I'm ready. I'm waiting.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
The photo booth was broken, so my mother spent her teenage afternoon taking advantage of such a delightful opportunity. I like knowing that I get these creative impulses from her. I like knowing that if we had met in some alternate universe where she was not my mother and I was not her daughter, we would still be friends. I like knowing that I am in fact, her daughter. I am proud to walk through this life with such a title.
These are some of my favorite pictures of my mother. Not because she looks particularly beautiful (which she is), and not because she looks foolish (which she is not), but because I see in these photographs pieces of myself. I see in these photographs a silly, fun, creative, carefree, happy spirit. I see in these photographs a young woman who has only begun the exquisite journey of her life, who has nothing but possibility before her, who has the ability to do anything within her. I see in these photographs what pure joy looks like.
I do not look like my mother. In fact, I barely physically resemble anyone in my family. It used to bother me terribly. I'd spend hours searching through old photographs for someone with my cheeks or nose or eyes. I think I always felt that finding some familiar feature would somehow connect me, somehow make me belong. I am still searching for such a feeling.
I have blamed my parents for a lot of things. I blamed them (yes, BOTH of them) for letting our family grow apart. I blamed them for not making it strong enough in the first place. I blamed them for not creating better rules, and not sticking to the few that they created. I blamed them for all of the ways I felt they had failed me, all of the aspects of myself I disliked. I traced all of my self hatred back to their parenting.
Which is admittedly unfair, but also very human. It is natural to wish that things had gone differently, that our lives could have been different, that we could have been different. I wish that they would have taught me not to procrastinate. I wish that they would have taught me how to take care of myself, how to clean and cook and repair things. I wish that they would have taught me how to take care of my body, how to have a healthy relationship with food, how to learn to want exercise. I wish that they had been a little less laid back. I wish that they would have spent less time respecting our boundaries and more time guiding me and my brother towards happiness. I wish that they would have spent more time making sure we felt valued and deserving and loved. I wish that they could have spent more time feeling those things for themselves. I wish that they could have made love work for all of us.
But it is also from my parents (yes, BOTH of them) that I learned to love this world. They gave me eyes. They taught me to see. They took me across oceans and up hillsides. They showed me that we are all magnificently different, and how and why each of those differences are beautiful. They showed me how and why we are also all one, and the perfection in that, the perfection of humanity. They showed me what it means to be human. They proved to me the importance of reaching out, of staying open minded, of cherishing each and every soul for exactly what it is. They pressed the goodness of the world into my palms and said "carry this with you, always." They filled my heart with compassion and understanding, and even though they could not, despite their best efforts, provide me with an example of love, they at least instilled within me the insatiable hunger for it. I have spent every day of my twenty three years falling in love with this world. That was a gift from my parents.
They raised me in a house with walls made of books. They gave me a good education. They gave me good manners. They gave me the knowledge of how to be a good friend. They filled my head and heart with language. I am here, writing this, because of them. They brought me into this world and have spent every day since trying to make it a better place for me to live. They gave me breath and have spent every day since trying to make the air sweeter. I taste their gallant efforts on my tongue every time I breathe.
They have put me on planes and trains and buses and let me have all of the adventures I could want. They gave me freedom, and the awareness of my fortune in having such freedom. They gave me the desire and will to fight for those less fortunate. They gave me money and shelter when I needed it, but they also taught me that money and shelter pale in comparison to character and experience. They gave me character and experience. They told me what was real, without imposing their own beliefs, without influencing my own opinion. They allowed me to be whoever it is I am, or want to be, or have ever been. I have not always felt accepted by my father, but even he has supported me. Somewhere deep down, I know that.
Somewhere deep down I know that even if I don't have their cheeks or nose or eyes, I am still their daughter. I am still proud (of yes, BOTH of them) to walk through this life with such a title. They are still my mother and father, as they have always been, as they will always be. They are not perfect. They are only two humans, two people, trying to do the best that they can for their children.
And while part of me hopes that I will not repeat their mistakes, that I will do better for my children, that I will not have to be the kind of parent or person that they have had to be, another part of me hopes desperately that I will. Another part of me could only hope to do so well. I hope that I can give to someone all that they have shared with me. I hope that someday someone will look at a picture of who I am now, in this moment, my mother's daughter, and see their own pure joy staring back at them. I hope that my eyes will ignite in them that familiar sense of belonging.
Friday, March 21, 2008
Yesterday I woke up at 2am. And I mean really, woke up. I opened my eyes to discover I was alive, more than I had ever been before, a kind of aching awareness of being present smoldering beneath my skin. I felt my heart beating. I felt my blood coursing within my veins. I felt my mind here, in this moment, calm and at peace and memorizing the way of things. It had officially been spring for two hours. I let my soul bloom softly in the nourishing soil of morning, opening it's thirsty petals to the sweet nectar of my one delicious life.
In my need to be early and his tendency to be late, I had an extra twenty minutes to spend doing whatever I pleased. I walked down to the edge of the pier and took from my purse my camera, which I have been taking everywhere lately, which has become as necessary as my journal and pen, which has become just another way I learn to stop and notice details. I captured a few images of the sky.
Walking back towards the restaurant, Ani DiFranco pulsing through my ears and head, I passed a group of women walking in the opposite direction. The one on the end closest to me, the one with the floppy yellow hat and purple sneakers, raised up her hand. I couldn't hear her through my headphones, but watched her mouth move as she said "high five." I gave her one and smiled to discover that as she walked away, her enthusiastic "wooo hooo" was loud enough to sound over Ani's guitar. Girl power. Surely there is no greater happiness than these gentle validations of the existence of kindred spirits.
I got to the restaurant, removed my headphones, listened instead to the bustling melody of the city as I waited. A man passed by on his skateboard, belting out Bon Jovi's "It's My Life" to himself, just because he felt inspired, just because it felt good. I smiled to think that all of us carry this capability to be so carelessly joyful. Another man passed in a black Armani suit sporting a very unsuited black eye. I smiled to think that none of us are as perfect as we'd like to appear. A woman across the street knelt down to help collect the fallen pieces of another woman's dropped purse. I smiled to think that kindness and love are everywhere. What an amazing place, this city, this world, this life.
Over dinner, my little brother and I discussed everything. It was the first conversation we have had, just the two of us, in a very long time. I learned all about his present life. I learned new things about our family history. I learned to see him in a new light, to love him in this powerful way that differed from anything I had ever felt for him before. I learned to forget my obligation to love him as family, and instead fell in love with him as a person, perfectly flawed, stunningly honest, remarkably strong. I listened to his testaments of truth, to how easily he offered them up to me, and was suddenly struck by how deeply grateful I am to him, for him, because of him. We share something between us that I will never have with anyone else, some secret understanding about who we are and where we come from. He is my brother, but also a kindred spirit, and also a hero of mine, and also a dear, dear friend. He is my brother, but he is also one of the universe's eternal reminders of talent and goodness and love. He is also the proof that my faith in the human spirit has not been in vain.
On the train ride home, I thought about the game she and I once played at a concert years ago. We'd take turns picking out a person and giving them a story, a history, a life that had brought them here to this point. It seemed sort of silly at the time, but last night I realized that a part of me is still playing that game, as I search this grand existence for signs of kindredness. Part of me still searches every soul for benevolence. Part of me still searches every stranger for friendship. Aren't we all just searching for ways to connect? Aren't we all just collecting words and images as a means of creating our history? Aren't we all just stories waiting to be told, and shared, and adored?
Aren't we all just learning day by day, morning by morning, how to wake up? And I mean really, wake up. I mean really, how to let our souls open their thirsty petals to the sweet nectar of our one delicious life.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
I've just finished work and am off to go babysit, but I wanted to post something happy in light of my last entry. So, here it goes.
Is There Really A Human Race?
By Jamie Lee Curtis & Laura Cornell
Is there really a human race?
Is it going on now all over the place?
When did it start?
Who said, “Ready, Set, Go”?
Did it start on my birthday?
I really must know.
Is the race like a loop or an obstacle course?
Am I a jockey, or am I a horse?
Is there pushing and shoving to get to the lead?
If the race is unfair, will I succeed?
Do some of us win? Do some of us lose?
Is winning or losing something I choose?
Why am I racing? What am I winning?
Does all of my running keep the world spinning?
If I get off track, when I take the wrong turn,
Do I make my way back from mistakes?
Do I learn?
Is it a sprint?
A dash to the end?
Am I aware of the time that I spend?
And why do I do it, this zillion-yard dash?
If we don’t help each other, we’re all going to… CRASH.
Sometimes it’s better not to go fast.
There are beautiful sights to be seen when you’re last.
Shouldn’t it be that you just try your best?
And that’s more important than beating the rest?
Shouldn’t it be looking back at the end
That you judge your own race by the help that you lend?
So, take what’s inside you and make big, bold choices.
And for those who can’t speak for themselves,
Use BOLD voices.
And make friends and love well,
Bring ART to this place.
And make the world better
for the whole human race.
Monday, March 17, 2008
I used to lie a lot as a kid. Not about big things. In fact, I was more honest with my parents than most of my friends. My parents knew where I was and what I was doing. I told them about parties and nights I had gotten drunk and drugs I had tried. I told them about my experiences, and they sat back, calmly and patiently listening to my life discoveries, offering their advice without making set definitions of what was right and what was wrong. They let me define that for myself. They let me tell them things they didn't necessarily want to hear, because they valued my honesty, because they wanted our relationships to be built on trust.
So did I, and so I told them the big things. But when asked if I had started my homework, or remembered to fill up the car with gas, or finished off the ice cream in the freezer, I would lie. I would do it without thinking. I would deny things. I would get caught (I was never a very GOOD liar). I would hate myself for instinctually jumping to dishonesty when I had been offered nothing but compassionate understanding. I had no reason to lie. I wondered why I was so quick to do so.
In the middle of a fight, my little brother once screamed "why do you have to act like you're so superior to everyone?!?" I told him, quite indignantly, that I never acted that way. How could I? How could a person who spent the vast majority of their time hating themselves walk around with an air of superiority? How could a person with no self confidence act like they were better than someone, anyone? It made no sense.
I looked to my mother to defend me. She cocked her head to one side and smiled slightly in that compassionate, understanding way I had seen so many times before. "Of course you do, Frankie," she said. "You have such a need to appear perfect."
I was struck. Not by her agreement with my brother, but by how true it suddenly rang inside my head. I do that. I'm like that. It is why I never learned to ask for help, why I never shared pieces of myself I was ashamed of, why I was so quick to lie about those tiny insignificant details that would somehow translate into failures, into faults. Slowly I am learning how to embrace the shadows as well as the light, but for a long time, I didn't know how to even address the subject. For a long time I couldn't bear the thought of my imperfection.
I am writing this because during nap time today it occurred to me that most of what I write here is very one dimensional. It is not that I hide things, not even that I lie, but that I tend to write when I am in a good mood, or want a good mood. I tend to write more as the person that I want to be than as the person I more often am. Yes, I am happy. Yes, I am bright and smiley and learning the depths of joyfulness all around me. Yes, I love this life and this world with more fervor than I will ever be able to articulate. But there are also things I hate. There are things I am less willing to offer up to the public eye. There are things I'd rather not say. I am writing this because I thought, perhaps, it is time to say some of it.
Sometimes I can be a real bitch. I gossip a lot. When I'm angry I vent and vent and vent to people instead of addressing the problem head on. This also makes me a two-faced coward. I scream at my students sometimes, out of anger and frustration with them, out of anger and frustration with things that have nothing to do with them. I've done it with friends as well. I direct things at the wrong people.
I have made bad decisions about alcohol and drugs and sex. I have gotten into cars I knew not to get into. I have gotten into situations I knew not to get into. I have taken things out on my body through food, through the deprivation of food, through unnecessary pain. I have taken things out on myself through guilt and worry and my need to over analyze. I have run away from people and from the possibility of love and from love itself. I have hated myself more often than I've loved me. I regret that daily.
I close myself off quickly to people I know I don't want to be friends with, people who remind me of others I got stuck with in the past from showing them too much kindness. I associate new people I meet with people I already know, place them into categories, forget the beauty and possibility of individuality. I pull away from people who I know are leaving. I hide from people who are already gone. I can be hypocritical. I can act completely superior. I can pretend to be much smarter than I am.
Sometimes I think people are stupid. REALLY stupid. Not just because I disagree with their politics or lifestyle or opinions, but because they can't even hold up their end of the conversation. Sometimes when I'm talking to them I'm only half listening while my brain sings "you're stupid!" over and over again. Sometimes it makes me feel really smart to be around such stupid people.
Sometimes I feel best about my life when other people are at their worst. Their anger and frustration makes me want to be happy, makes me want to prove that I am capable of what they cannot do at the moment, makes me want to shout with gladness that I have nothing to be angry or frustrated about. Sometimes I feel the worst about my life when other people are at their best. When she could repair a relationship I could not, I could only be half happy for her because the other half was so consumed with jealousy and want and the knowledge that she had succeeded where I had failed. She could make something of her life that I could not. Sometimes I want what I can't have.
I speak volumes about love, but I also hate. I have never hated any one person, but there are people and concepts and truths that I hate. I hate people who have children even though they don't want them or have time for them. I hate that there are people in this world who want children but can't have them, despite their every effort and good intention and boundless wells of love that they have to offer. I hate the idea of pro-life and I hate the term pro-life. I am not against life. I am for choice. You are not for life. You are against the freedom of choice. I hate that you can't see that distinction.
I hate that while we live in this country that promises freedom, there are still so many ways in which we are not free. I hate that we still have more freedom than almost any other country. I hate that I have this beautiful life because I was born into the right circumstances, because it means that there are people living miserable lives simply because they were born into the wrong ones. I hate that so much of our existence is based on money. I hate that I don't try harder, fight harder, to fix things. I hate that there are so many wasted voices. I hate that there are people in this world still ignorant enough to hate their fellow man based on insignificant details like race and religion and sexual orientation. I hate that in this day and age people can be stupid enough to draw such imaginary lines. I hate to think that we will always be at war. I hate that there is so much hate.
Perhaps all of this makes me awful. Perhaps these are pieces of myself best left unsaid, hidden away, lied about. I suppose I never told you this because I was afraid of my imperfection. But I think I feel as though it is more important to be honest than perfect, because my parents wanted me to have relationships built on trust, and because I want that to be our foundation too.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
I remember feeling the familiar rise of that lump in my throat as he approached us. He came right over, stuck out his hand and asked if we had any change to spare. In my bravest eleven year old voice I told him "no, sorry" and took a step closer towards my big sister's side. It was the first time I had been out in the city alone with her, without the watchful gaze of our father and my mother, without the tension of their history between them and her, without my ignorance about love between her and me. It was the first time I had seen her as an adult, as a human being, as someone with a voice and opinion worth listening to. It was the first time I had depended on her to protect me.
I thought that we would keep walking. That's what I had been taught to do. That's what I would have done with any other adult who would have been by my side at the time. But instead my sister stayed where she was. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a dollar bill. "Oh, I do!" She exclaimed, as though one of our friends had asked us for change, as though there was nothing to fear. My sister had protected me. She had made me feel safe. That moment changed my life.
Twelve years later I am still searching my voice for the same inflection of kindness I discovered in hers that night. Twelve years later I am still repeating those three words "oh, I do" to anyone who asks me if I have something to give. Twelve years later I am still listening to her lesson echoing in my head. "I think it's so funny that people are afraid of him," she said as he followed us down to Cosi, singing us a song in appreciation. Twelve years later I am still laughing at the foolishness of such fear.
On Friday night we sat outside a bar in olde city called The Plough and the Stars. I mentioned how strange it felt to sit there for so long watching crowds of people pass without knowing a single one. I think he thought that I meant I wanted to recognize a face, but what I was really saying was "look! Look at all of this burning possibility. Look at all of these strangers that I have yet to befriend. Look at all of these souls that I have yet to fall in love with." What I was really saying was "we are all so astonishingly perfect."
I consider all of you who read this who I do not know in "the real world." I wonder if I would notice you if I passed you on the street. I think probably not. I think we all must look fairly ordinary, perhaps even boring, perhaps like every other face in the crowd. Here on these pages we radiate with light and ideas and love, but out in the world we wake and work and sleep like anyone else. We breathe just the same. We laugh and cry and feel just the same. We live day upon day just the same, with the knowledge that there will be a final day, a day we will be gone and the rest of the world will continue on, just the same.
And that's what I see when I look at a stranger. I see that sameness, that humanness, that idea that if I could access their thoughts I would see that they were not so very different from my own. Sometimes I think that if everyone I know had a blog I could read, we would all be better people for it. Sometimes I think that understanding one another is as simple as understanding how to share ourselves. Sometimes I think that we forget that we are all made of stars, astonishingly perfect, burning with possibility. There is so much potential for love.
And when you ask me if I truly believe that, if I truly ache with an optimistic hope for the world, if I truly throb with an unwavering faith in the goodness of people, my answer is always the same. "Oh, I do."
I have to.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
She kept looking over and nodding at me as though I were saying something important, as though I wasn't just chiming in with the appropriate responses. Such human kindness warms me. It makes me feel as though I am contributing something, needed somehow. It makes me feel as though if I were to say something important, someone would be willing to listen. There are so many ways to prove goodness.
After our meeting, I went to meet up with a friend at a local coffee house to listen to what their open mic night had to offer. We decided it was time to be more proactive. We decided it was time to explore what the world has to offer us. We decided it was time to live the lives we envision for ourselves. It was lovely. For two hours we sat and drank coffee and watched adorable boys playing adorable songs on their adorable guitars. Is there a better way to spend a Tuesday night? If so, I have yet to discover it.
I sat in this room of strangers and thought, there is something truly wonderful being created here. Music, yes. Coffee, yes. Community, yes. But more than even that was the ubiquitous and undeniable evidence of graciousness. The truth is anyone could stand up there and do anything, and the room would applaud. We would cheer on our fellow man simply for standing before us with bravery and passion. We would support our fellow man simply because we understand the need for support. We would chime in with the appropriate responses simply because we are all entitled to such reverence, and we all see that, and we all feel that, and we all live that.
And we are all, really, just standing on stage under the scrupulous lens of the public eye, trying to summon the courage to sing our only song. It is comforting to discover that we are not alone. It is comforting to consider that our songs are not so different. It is comforting to discover that someone, somewhere is willing to listen, and smile, and perhaps even applaud. And despite my fatigue and inarticulate account, I had to share this thought with you; I am here. I am listening to and applauding for your life, and I thank you for doing the same for mine.
Such human kindness warms me.
Sunday, March 09, 2008
"There is so much communication and understanding beneath and apart from the substantiations of language spoken out or
written down that language is almost no more than a compression, or elaboration -- an exactitude, declared emphasis, emotion-in-syntax -- not at all essential to the message. And therefore, as an elegance, as something almost superfluous, it is likely (because it is free to be so used) to be carefully shaped, to take risks, to begin and even prolong adventures that may turn out poorly after all -- and all in the cause of the crisp flight and the buzzing bliss of the words, as well as their directive -- to make, of the body-bright commitment to life, and its passions, including (of course!) the passion of meditation, an exact celebration, or inquiry, employing grammar, mirth, and wit in a precise and intelligent way. Language is, in other words, not necessary, but voluntary. If it were necessary, it would have stayed simple; it would not agitate our hearts with ever-present loveliness and ever-cresting ambiguity; it would not dream, on its long white bones, of turning into song."
Saturday, March 08, 2008
"Why are you so happy?" He asked me.
I was thrown by the intimacy of his question. He rang up my coffee and handed me my change. I shrugged. "It's a beautiful world," I said with a smile. He laughed. "It is with people like you," he told me. He gave me my coffee. We said our goodbyes.
As I started my walk home, I thought, how easy to choose happiness. How easy to choose love over hate, joy over sorrow, light over darkness. What a great struggle it is to be miserable, to carry around the heavy weight of sadness. Why would I ever allow myself to bear such a burden? Why have I been so quick to do so in the past? Why am I just now learning, at twenty-three, how to let go, how to set myself free?
I think about what lies within me, about my head so full of questions, about my heart so full of answers. I think about the way I am learning to listen to both. I think about my ears which I use to listen. I think about my feet which I use to step into adventures. I think about my eyes which I use to see all of the beauty around me. I think about my tongue which I use to taste the delicious sweetness of life. I think about my hands which I use to hold the magical treasures of the universe. I think about my fingers which I use to record it all. I think about the way I am wired for light - to be light, to feel light, to spread light. I think about this stranger's question, "why are you so happy?"
Because it is so easy. Because we live in this increasingly hopeful, possibility filled world. Because every day, in small and big ways, I am reminded of what it means to be alive, to be grateful for life, to be in awe of existence itself. Because those reminders fill me with happiness, with love, and with light. Because I let those feelings soak into the thirsty well of my spirit. Because I have made the choice to make of my life something spectacular.
I remember sitting against the pillar across from him, watching as his eyes moved intently around the pages of his newspaper. His legs were crossed, his back straight, like a statue of Buddha, like my students at circle time as they listen closely to my small offerings of truth. He laughed. The sound filled the grand abandoned train station, echoing against the lonely tracks, filling us both with light. I remember thinking, how easy to fall in love. How easy to let my heart break open and spill out it's irresistible delight. How easy to refill it with wonder.
Today I sit and watch the thunderstorm outside. My kitten sits on the windowsill and joins me, following with his little paws the raindrops as they slide down the glass. His eyes widen as it thunders. He mews at the quickening lightening. We learn together, what it means to pay attention. We learn together, our own means of prayer. We learn together, how to express our gratitude for this rain, for this world, for this life.
I learn how to echo these divine flashes of light.
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
Today was the first day I began to feel the familiar pangs of a less than perfect existence. For a while, everything was wonderful. I awoke to a flash of lightening that for a moment, seemed to illuminate the entire world in an unnatural sort of way, a way that screams "there is so much more to this universe than anyone could even begin to comprehend." The rain let up just as I was leaving my apartment, as though it were timed, as though it were offering up its invitation to walk out into the world. Which is just what I did.
In my brightly colored patchwork chucks, I trudged through puddles, hopped over fallen branches, stepped in rhythm with the pulsating beat of the music on my Ipod, the pulsating beat of the earth before sunrise. I stopped for coffee, chatted about the beginning signs of spring with the man behind the counter, laughed as a passing bus splashed water all the way up to my knees. I wondered how long such joy could last.
And three hours later, as my friend and I sat waiting with too many children for our missing coworkers to show up, I thought, "ahh yes, there are days like THIS too." There are days when I am bombarded with questions and lectures from frustrated parents. There are days when people let me down. There are days when I am stressed and tired and taking it out on my students, and feeling guilty for taking it out on my students. There are days that feel less than perfect. There are days when I would like to go hide in the bathroom and scream curses and cry. There are days like this too.
By two o'clock I was so ready to get home, I had even regretted walking as it only made the trip from my classroom door to the comfort of my bed that much longer. I wanted to hop in my car and hide away. I wanted this dreadful day to be over.
But instead, something funny happened. I stayed to talk with a friend of mine, putting off the inevitable journey home. I vented. I showed her pictures. I laughed at her stories. I felt better. An hour passed by. We stepped outside and were pleasantly greeted by the sun who had finally decided to grace us with her presence. We said goodbye. I put Alexi Murdoch on. I walked to the Corner Bakery Cafe around the corner, bought myself a cappuccino and am currently sitting outside, writing, watching the world go by. I am currently doing exactly what I love to do, exactly what I would choose to do in every moment of my existence, if given such a choice. I am currently exactly who I am supposed to be.
The sun radiates down upon the screen of my computer and for an instant, as I write that last statement, I catch a glimpse of myself. For an instant, I see myself reflected on the page, on my own words. And I realize just how true they are. I am exactly who I am supposed to be.
And I think yes, there are days like THIS, but there are also ways of turning it all around. There are days that feel like patchworks of pain and joy, days that feel like the very shoes I walk through them with. There are days that look and feel like despair, but there are also little glints of beauty, of gratitude, of perfection hidden away in the most unlikely of places, just waiting to be discovered. There is also the insatiable hope of such discoveries. There is also this gentle reminder of such hope.
Monday, March 03, 2008
There's been a palpable change in me. Perhaps it is the weather, the arrival of spring. Perhaps it is the excitement of what's to come in the weather, in my life. Perhaps it is the resolutions I've kept; the reaching out to people, the taking care of myself, the choosing to be courageous rather than scared. Perhaps it is that I'm no longer hiding. Perhaps it is that I sat down and discovered I had 250 dollars worth of Borders gift cards and just spent the entirety of it in one trip. Perhaps it is the existence and availability of books and words as a whole. Perhaps it is that I've returned to this blog world. Perhaps it is the constant impulses to take out my journal and camera to record the beauty around me. Perhaps it is the conscious recognition of all of the beauty around me. Perhaps it is the casting aside of worry of what you will think of me as I stop in the middle of the street to remember this beauty. Perhaps it is the casting aside of worry of what you will think of me in general. Perhaps it is the decision I've made to be true to myself. Perhaps it is that I am learning to love my life.
Whatever the reason, as I strolled down the walkway to my apartment just now, arms filled with a new library of books, I thought, "I don't truly despise myself," which may seem like a small victory, but for me, speaks volumes about where I am right now. I cannot remember the last time I had such a thought. Certainly not since high school. I have loved my life, yes, but loving myself, loving who I am within my life, has been a far greater struggle. Reaching a level of self acceptance where I am not doubting my every move, feeling awkward in every situation, reveling in the should haves and could haves, is something new for me. Something deliciously, magically, amazingly new.
And I am so happy - that bursting, beaming, shouting, jumping, dancing, singing, glowing, smiling, laughing, hugging, kissing, loving, exalting kind of happy. Each day I assume it will end, as most good moods eventually (and I once believed, inevitably) do, and each day it only continues to grow. And there is no rhyme or reason to it other than those small delights I've listed above, those small steps I've taken towards joy. There is no derivation of such exuberance except for my own creation of it, a thought that in and of itself is reason enough to celebrate.
I have created my own kind of joy. I have created a life that I want for myself, a life that I have dived into head first, hoping to drown in its offerings of light. I have learned how to make myself happy. I have learned to listen to the whisperings of my wild spirit. I have let them become bellowing yawps of self expression. I have allowed myself to break down the nagging of my inner critic and nurture the blossoming garden of my poetic soul. I have been creative. I have been confident. I have been the person I always knew I could be - should be - if only I could let go. I have let go.
I have released the worry, the doubt, the insecurity. I have drowned out the voices telling me "no" and "can't" and "shouldn't." I have embraced the here, the present, the now. And in letting go, in not letting any opinions of who I am matter, I have discovered within myself the kind of person I could someday learn to love. I have discovered the kind of artistic, creative, outgoing, honest, loving, REAL woman I have always looked up to. I have discovered me.
I have felt more like myself these past few weeks than ever before. I have felt comfortable with my definition, with my place in the world. I have felt like I could be this person forever, and more importantly, that I could be happy with such an idea. I have felt this palpable change in me, and I have felt the boundless jubilance of its arrival.
Sunday, March 02, 2008
Saturday, March 01, 2008
Monday night my mother and I went out for dinner in the city. She has this remarkable way of always picking the perfect place to go, of knowing exactly what I will like. It was a charming little BYOB Mexican restaurant, with brick walls and a curtain for a door. It was small and quiet, but also intimate and warm. Over good wine and delicious food, we discussed everything, and by the end of the evening I had rekindled all of the love and admiration I have for my mother -- as my mother, as a woman, as my best friend.
Wednesday night I went out to dinner in the city again with my other favorite person on earth. It was lovely. We talked, we confided in one another, we laughed. We went to see Chris Rock perform at the Academy of Music. We laughed some more. It was a wonderful evening, and as I finally got into my bed at around 1am, exhausted and knowing I had to be up in four hours for work, I thought to myself, how lucky I am to know you. How lucky I am to be able to call you my friend. How lucky I am to get to rediscover my love for you over and over again.
Last night another one of my heros and I went to see our former teacher perform in a play and then went out for drinks. Today we went to see the Star Wars exhibit at the Franklin Institute because it was the nerdiest thing we could think of doing, and sometimes, that's exactly what needs to be done. I wore my "adopt a tree" sweatshirt, yellow converse sneakers, and earrings made of bright pink legos because if you're going to be a geek, you might as well go big. Sometimes I like being an all or nothing kind of girl.
After the museum, we went and got cheesesteaks from our favorite place, because that's what Philadelphians do. All around us people discussed their steaks, the weather, the Eagles. Something wonderful was being created. Something wonderful was already here. This is where I come from, I thought. This is my community. I love this city because this is my home.
Today as we drove around downtown I thought, how easy it is to forget the things that I love most in this world. How easy it is to take it all for granted. I live just outside this beautiful bustling city that offers me everything and anything I could possibly need in this life, and far too often, I neglect it. Far too often I refuse its kind gifts of possibility. Why can I never seem to remember how fortunate I am?
Sitting beside you on your stoop this morning, sunshine beating down upon us, the winter winds graciously calm, I remembered how fortunate I am to be here. I remembered how fortunate I am to be me, living in this city, traveling the world, loving my job, listening to beautiful music, drinking good wine, eating delicious foods, exploring restaurants and museums and performances, reveling in freedom, claiming my independence, writing my story, cherishing people, being cherished by people, having friends like you. I remembered how fortunate I am simply to be by your side. And that reminder, my loves, made this one of the best weeks of my life.
And I thank you for making it so.