Opposite Day

A day of so-called self-enhancement started with watching a Sesame Street episode that re-taught me a handful of ethics and some forgotten self-compassion, as I babysat my friend’s 18-month-old daughter. A counseling session, a massage, a few hours of reading, and a Yin yoga class followed the #SesameStreetWisdoms morning. The day rounded out with meditation and a Dharma talk (sharing Buddhist teachings) in the evening. I returned home to catch the last 15 minutes of Dancing with the Stars, but I’m not convinced that is part of the so-called self-enhancement.

The day of personal exploration left me feeling more uncertain than enlightened, but that is all part of the process – and it is the process that matters, or the intention. Not the outcome.

Today, struggling with thoughts instead of clearing them up, I recognized a few lessons for myself. And, of course, they are also contradictory.

 

Share when you want to hoard.

“No sweet girl, that’s my phone,” I told the toddler as she reached for the cell phone. “My phone,” she replied. “It’s my phone honey,” I kindly debated.

The next words stumbled out of her mouth as if she didn’t mean to say them. “Our phone,” she responded. Yes, of course. Our phone. She relented some of her ground, she took the first step, and it made everything right. So I also relented and she climbed up on the couch with me and we took pictures of ourselves. Our phone.

When I don’t feel good about myself, I want to keep as much energy as I can because I think I need it to feel better. But when I share that energy – even if it’s just an honest smile with a stranger or letting a toddler mis-text someone on my phone – that’s when I really feel good about myself.

Open when you want to protect.

I visited my counselor after a substantial hiatus because I noticed some old patterns and reactions surfacing. Since we’re being honest here (first blog post), jealousy is a concern high on the list.

It didn’t hit me like it has in the past, but I noticed it twirling in the depths of the Macbeth witch pot. I saw it wanting to reach up and grab my heart, mind, and ego.

In the session, I told the counselor of this girl in middle school whom I admired and wanted to emulate. I started learning world geography and watching James Bond movies in seventh grade, because she liked them and I wanted to be like her. Our education and careers since middle school actually took parallel paths, and she recently achieved goal in her career that I really respect and envy. I began comparing myself against her, again, like in middle school.

Jealousy actually stems from admiration. When we want to protect our ego, our vulnerabilities, our stories – we could actually open into them instead of hiding in them. When we open into what we are scared of and want to protect, that’s when we begin to heal.

 

Be when you want to flee.

I don’t want to be here. I laid in the yoga class, thinking this would be the perfect end to a perfect day, and it wasn’t. My mother and I had gotten into a re-occurring discussion, apparently an emotionally loaded dialogue for me, waiting for the yoga studio to open. I wanted to leave and be by myself; I was done opening and sharing for the day.

But, the yoga teacher showed up. I had grand dreams in my head of telling her that I was actually going to leave – that it wasn’t her, it was me – but I was just not in the “right” present presence for yoga.

Although, all of the presence is the right present. It is right, because it’s happening now. During the yoga class and the Dharma talk I resisted most of it, but that’s ok, because even though I didn’t want to be there, I was there.

For every moment (or at least most of them) I was there. Fully.

And for me, right now, I think that’s enlightenment.

More Sports! *More Jazz Hands*

BCS Championships. I had no allegiances but friends did – Notre Dame all the way – complete with one vintage shirt to commemorate the team’s “BLASTS OFF INTO THE 90s.” Commercials were muted and accompanied by the downloaded Notre Dame fight song and Rudy theme song. A drinking game developed as the camera panned to the Alabama quarterback’s girlfriend. What a “beautiful woman,” the announcer commented. Instead of drinking whenever Notre Dame scored, we started drinking whenever the camera focused on her long hair and make-uped face.

Growlers of craft beer and meatballs and cheese dip and a gratuitous veggie plate. And lots of friends.

Though some of the Notre Dame fans may disagree, it was a perfect night.

More sports. More heart. More memories.

Summer Beers

It has been two years since your death. Two years since I got the voice mail on my phone. Two years since I pulled over at a McDonald’s after surpassing a snowy mountain road. To sit. To cry. To uncomprehend what happened.

Tonight, I watched the sun set over your hometown mountains. I felt love – easy, pure, true love that comes from an unforeseen force. It is the same love I felt at your memorial at Kam III in Maui. When we all paddled out and circled the ocean. When we cracked Busch Lights in your honor. When we held each other and watched the pictured memories float by on a screen. When we forgave each other, and when we loved each other through your heart.

Dropping down into Fort Collins today, into your roots, tears sucked my breath as the radio stations picked songs that meant everything. Our first connection made over Summer Beers discussing Western mountain homes, staying up all night to witness a Hawaiian sunrise in the seamless ocean, capturing moments of laughter in a group of sun-wielding friends, and, of course, always, with love reigning down.

Your life taught me love. And your death taught me what it means to love.

Mahalo you, my friend. Mahalo you.

I miss you dearly.

(See Led Zeppelin, When the Levee Breaks; The Who, Love Reign O’er Me; Ke$ha Feat, Die Young; The Fray, How to Save a Life)

Everyday Romance

The house smells like dog – specifically a very, very sweet and old golden retriever. Nothing personal against her, but still, the house smells very much of her existence.

Then there are a few other details. The toilet seat is up, there are stains on the carpet, dust clings to the edges of the bunny-eared TV, and facial hair remnants stick to the toothpaste-crusted corners of the bathroom sink.

I am house sitting a well-established bachelor pad. I was aware that his home may not have necessarily appealed to my feminine abilities/sensibilities (which I would proudly give a 22% rating), and I suspected that this experience might present a challenge. But, perhaps, I thought it might be a good challenge.

In a hotel on the border of Ethiopia and Kenya, I slept on a bed that was rented by the hour. I unrolled my travel linen sleeping sheet to avoid lying on the stained covers. When I touched the dense, lumpy pillow a cloud of dust confidently swirled above the fabric. I looked under the bed and spotted a used condom (which wasn’t mine).

But it was all part of the romance and the adventure of it all. I was in a colorfully rural border crossing in East Africa. The used condom actually seemed to be a perfectly-placed detail.

In Muscat, the capital of Oman, I had booked a guesthouse online. The first time the skeleton key unlocked the door to the room, I sat on the bed and cried a little (and I hate to admit that). Every space in my closet served as linen storage for the guesthouse, there were dead bugs in the plastic cups, there was no soap anywhere in the bathroom, and I was in a random suburb of the city 45 minutes away from any charming historical spots. I simply felt very, very alone. But, I could at least claim that I was the traveling “single woman in the Middle East.” I eventually picked myself up, rented a car for the week in lieu of no public transport, and drove to the local grocery store to buy soap.

But, now, I am not in a foreign nor inherently-romantic destination.  I am just down the street from home.

On closer inspection, and after a change of focus, I begin to notice the endearing details of this bachelor’s home and history. His plaid jackets hang on the wall, photographs of the Alaskan crab boat he captained for 20 years decorate the living room walls, and the tops of his rubber boots sit perfectly folded in his bedroom corner. A beautiful oil painting of a lighthouse rests in a 1980s wood frame on the bedroom wall. The light in the painting offers immediate and safe direction for ships to navigate through the layers of waves that match the colors of the cloudy, night sky. For me, this is the most beautiful moment of his home.

This challenge is not as easily justified as the romance in an African border crossing or the solo traveler in the Middle East. This everyday romance is a little more difficult to discover, but, it is just as real.

Duct Taping Truths – Not Dogs

I sip the last of the Bulleit whiskey while reclining on a couch that I am being paid to occupy. Before leaving on vacation, my friends generously instructed me to finish all “perishable” items – including the whiskey and the eggs – before their return. On the couch, I sit next to a incredibly sweet but still-not-quite-amazing-enough-for-me-to-want-my-own dog. This is a surprising statement coming from a resident of Bend, Oregon. I am a part of a hometown that proudly boasts one of the highest number of dogs per capita in the United States. I feel slightly guilty admitting that I want a dog as much as I want an unexpected pregnancy – although I am sure that there is an amazing amount of room in both situations for love and surprise – but I figure I better start out with the truth with you. This is my first blog, and I need to be honest. Not just for you, but for me too.

I intended to begin this blog discussing where my own life has fallen parallel to the connections that we make across continents and across time – our personal voyages of discovery that join moments of truth and beauty, while we surrender to heart-uprisings or unexpected down-stirrings, within the boundless extents of historical humanity and changing geographical horizons. But, I hope, there will be time for that later.

Now, instead of sharing these examples of my own journey (if you are Bachelor fan, you must drink at the mention of this word), I must admit how surprisingly happy I am to be “HOME.” I usually never want to be home. I need to be walking into hopeless deserts or breathing into blue oceans, I need to be pushing my own boundaries into unexpected landscapes to feel like the “person I want to be.” 

But, right now, I sip this sweet beagle’s ration of bourbon, and she sleeps next to me on the couch in tail-curling comfort. We listen to Ryan Adams and “Dirty Dancing” on vinyl as the needle catches on crackling dust.

This dog trusts me. Maybe not like Baby trusted Patrick Swayze when his smooth arms lifted her innocent curls up to near-heaven, but this beagle actually trusts me. She knows that I will not duct tape her twitching paws together, and that I will not sharpie a cattail on her Central Oregon white-ish underbelly. She knows that I will feed her in the mornings, and take her out to the lakes in the afternoon.

She is precisely where I need to be right now. Trusting. Trusting that this is the exact spot, on this couch, where we need to exist. Trusting that right now, it is perfect.