New Years

It’s already been a seemingly tough year. New years generally start with a lot of hope and a first journal entry that encouragingly expounds on possibility and intent.

Not this year. The first journal entry this year started with: “The dream of myself then is not the dream of myself now.”Some may call it growing pains, or some kind of life transition moving to Kansas and living with a man for the first time. But, now in the bleak midwinter with below freezing temperatures, this upcoming year is going to be scary.

I dreamed myself into a certain image when I was young – smart, beautiful, strong, traveling adventuring journalist – but it stopped at the point when I met someone I could see my life with. I thought everything would effortlessly fall into place after that. I stopped fantasizing about myself beyond that point.

And that’s where I am now. I don’t know what happens next. I can create a new image for my future self to find arbitrary worth – perhaps as a teacher or a mother or a writer or whatever I think I want to be.

Or, I don’t have to.Instead of designing a new expectant identity, that separates me from humanity, I can reach into the fear of not knowing in 2014. I can trust, and open, and sit with that soft vulnerable spot in our hearts that connect us all.

I can just be. I can appreciate that I don’t know. And, kindly, that I never will.

You might be rough and scary, 2014, but thank you for it all.

Trains of Thought

With a dry run of inspiration for blog post ideas (after more than a year), it’s time for that fun writing exercise: stream of consciousness writing. So, the following is four minutes of “train of thought” writing. It’s always fun to see where this stuff goes.

          

The sun glances through our new curtains in a divine filter. Makes you smile when you get up in the morning and see it. My boyfriend noticed it first when he got up – oh baby look at the curtains – and yes, it is beautiful. Trains planes and automonames. Automonames. Sounds like a failed Disney movie.

Oh it’s almost Christmas! We are wrapping gifts and cooking things and listening to my Holiday play list of random holiday music that is not holiday music. Kind of fun. Snow outside. Cold outside. Sunny skies and squirrel nests in the trees. Ryan Adams makes me want to dance. Dance with honesty.

There is a pile of books next to me – some of my favorites – waiting to be wrapped. It will be my first Christmas in Kansas. That has a ring to it, huh? Christmas in Kansas. With the north wind and freezing temperatures and icy roads and Christmas wonder. Wonder of everything we know and don’t know, of God, and God. Of control and trust. I know there are more things I don’t know, than what I think I know. We never know, really. Our opinions and what we think is right or wrong or what is going to happen in the future or what we actually want even – we don’t really know. We just watch, and feel, and appreciate wherever the path may wind.

A Death Letter

Dear Death,

Hello!

I just wanted to let you know that you have been on my mind of late, especially since turning 30. I fear you, big time, even though I have been gifted such amazing moments and feelings in this world. It’s more real now, getting older, and after meeting my boyfriend I feel that there is more to be possible in this world, and I have “more” to lose now too – a future I wasn’t expecting (which will of course not happen the way I expect anyway, so perhaps a mute point there).

So, just in case something does happen any day now (like dad comfortingly says, “if it’s you’re time, then it’s you’re time”), here are a few thoughts.

Key to accountability: self-forgiveness.

Key to shame: don’t be ashamed of feeling ashamed.

You’re ego: give it a hug – that’s what it wants anyway.

Don’t forget to breathe. Don’t forget to love. Don’t forget to not be hard on yourself. Don’t forget that you don’t have to earn self-worth because it is there the whole time. Don’t forget to smile. Don’t forget to be thankful. Don’t forget to love.

We all know these things. But, I need the reminders in a book or a movie or a song or a laugh or a landscape that angles these thoughts in a new slant.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s love. It comes down and back to that: love. So why should death be any different?

Hello Goodbye

A skip. A jump. A catch. The elongated hug as she wraps her legs around his torso, the blue snowflakes on her knitted sweater distorting in as she clings to him. Eventually releasing her, the veins in his arm strain as he holds a bag in one hand and blond woman in his other hand. Reflexively he dares not drop his bag – or her.

Everyone has watched the airport greeting-farewell. Clinging hugs or awkward pats, it is hello and goodbye, releasing and holding, separating and connecting.

It is the same thing. It is the same love. It is the same hug. When she wraps her body around his in goodbye, the snowflakes would have stretched the same way. A hello, and a goodbye.

 

Fifty Shades of Something

Seventy million copies of the trilogy sold worldwide. The motion picture will be released in 2014. I have been involved in numerous discussions about the plot, the “bad” writing, and the romanticization of control and abuse.

So, I finally read the book.

Surprisingly, it hit me on unexpected levels. After participating in a destructive relationship of my own in the past, I had to put the book down for days or weeks until returning to it. Here are a few pull quotes that made me pause (and apologies for getting a little soap-boxy here…)

“So you want to possess things?” You are a control freak

“I want to deserve to possess them, but yes, bottom line, I do.” Pg. 12

It falls back to self-worth; we reach to external answers to mask our internal holes. Things are not our identity, and more things collected for that reason begets more holes. Traveling in Jordan years ago, one of the girls in the tour group bought two paintings that hit her heart. After leaving the Roman ruins and dusty gladiator show at Jerash, she noticed the paintings were not on the bus. Understandably she was upset, but then someone commented, “It’s ok. Easy come, easy go.” True. We are gifted things and people in our lives, and when they leave it’s because we don’t need them anymore. It’s rather freeing, to release the fear of control and impermanence. As my boyfriend commented the other night, we can just hold on tighter somewhere else. We can be grateful instead of wanting – that might really close those holes.

 

“My worst fears have been realized. And strangely, it’s liberating.” Pg. 510

Right now, for some reason, my worst fear is death. I worry about it. In my 20s, I thought I could die happy at any time – I have been lucky to lead an amazing life full of love and dreams coming true. But, at 30, I notice that there is a whole new level of living I’m just beginning to touch on. I have more to lose now – a future that is not just mine anymore. Maybe I am worried about this transition, the death of my old self and reaching into the unknown again. Hmmm…that is rather liberating.

 

“All those decisions – all the wearying thought processes behind them. The ‘is this the right thing to do? Should this happen here? Can it happen now?’ You wouldn’t have to worry about any of that detail.” Pg. 224

Free will is the basis of America, Christianity, the human condition. It is sometimes a relief not to have so many options, not to think there is always something else that is better. I totally get that. But I found my answer about it (thanks mom – I know you’re reading this): It is the right thing to happen, because it is happening right now.

Bottom Line? When we tap into our true nature – devoid of ego or want or stories or man-made suffering – then we don’t have anything to question.

 

 

(Just a gratuitous picture here of a gladiator and I)

Flipping Pages, Again

Well fellow friends and followers – it’s time for another change, and another chapter.

I just turned 30, so the blog’s tag line needs editing, but not too dramatically. Instead of “dangerously close to 30,” it shall become “barely 30”. As time inevitably passes, I would like to start making these changes with grace and integrity instead of with resistance. Clinging and resisting, I think, actually just makes time go faster. Feeling and trusting allows it to slow.

The essence and intention of this blog will endure, so not to worry.

Embarking today for my move to Topeka, Kansas (not via a tornado), I chose to begin another blog to record those adventures that will be happened

upon in Middle America. Check it out or follow the new blog: Kansas Adventuring.

While the Kansas Adventuring blog is a side project, Wonderings and Wanderings will continue to be updated twice a month with posts about geography, humanity, time, connections, and duct taped those small truths.

Even though we are now “barely 30,” we are still wondering and wandering.

Forever, and ever.That’s a promise.

30 Plus Infinity

 

I am thirty today.

 

Here are a handful of thoughts and experiences learned during my 29th year about aging:

 

 

1) Watching the Olympics last summer on TV, I accepted that my unrealistic Olympic dream can never be realized. I had scotch-taped newspaper articles about Kristi Yamaguchi on my bedroom wall as a child, dreaming of the beauty in possibility. Now, my irrational Olympic possibility is even more impossible since I am 30, except perhaps in skeet shooting because the gold medalist was a 33 year-old woman. But it’s ok that I will never by an Olympic figure skater, because I have different images taped to my walls now, ones that still celebrate the beauty in possibility.

2) A personal relationship with hemorrhoids. I don’t think I need to say more here.

3) Inspired by a commercial explaining that Julia Child became a famous chef in her 50s and that Picasso didn’t paint masterpieces in his 20s. Turns out it was an AARP ad.

4) My biggest lesson this year: it’s the process, not the outcome. It’s the space to quiet everything and safely ask the question that allows answers to unfold without fear. They are there.

5) I catch a glimpse in the mirror of my face. More refined, grown, beautiful, and not as afraid to look into my own eyes. I see my mother, grandmother, or sometimes my father, and now I am oh so proud of that.

6) Eating a handful of walnuts on the way to the toilet and one drops into the bowl. That’s an unpublicized reason why you don’t eat in the bathroom. (Basically just a life lesson here, nothing to do with aging).

7) We are all connected. Everyone and everything.

8) My nieces and nephews gave me a tour of six bouncy castles at an establishment called Jump ‘N Bounce about a week before turning 30. Occasionally we just have to suspend our beliefs, and our bodies, to feel joy.

9) Sometimes life isn’t perfect: there may be physical pain or emotional sorrow. But we can’t let that stop us from having fun. And living, nonetheless.

10) Goals before 30 included dancing on a pool table to Journey, mastering parallel parking, peeing my name in the snow, being jailed, eating a steak and drinking whiskey and smoking a cigar simultaneously Ron Swanson style. I have accomplished two of these (I’ll let you guess which ones – pretty much the ones that sound most fun) so I suppose the rest will be added to the “to do before 40 list.”

That’s the thing. No matter our age, it’s the process, always changing and ever-learning, that never falters. Our discoveries with age only reach deeper into the heart.

To infinity and beyond.

29 and (Not) Tattooed

The Barabaig men jumped high to the rhythm of dusty chants and vivid yelps. Wrapped in Massai-red blankets and holding spears, they reached high to impress the women standing across from them.

They jumped without bent knees, displaying virility and skill and energy, reaching out to a woman in attempts to find a soul mate. The women, with scars decorating the curves of their eyes and cheekbones, watched and discussed the men as they flew.

 

 

 

 

 

At a courtship ritual on a flat plain in northern Tanzania, I photographed the movement, the intention, the time. I was sixteen, probably the same age as the women. At the end of the ceremony, an elder banged one of the tribe’s heavy brass bangle onto my wrist, and I vowed never to remove it.

It stayed on my wrist, sometimes turning the skin green, for five years. I eventually took it off on the behest of an ex-boyfriend. I now wear it when I want to connect, need a little extra strength, or simply when I feel it.

Suddenly, a few days ago, I knew I wanted the tribe’s design tattooed on my back on the right side of my spine. I wanted it there to always give me strength, a reminder to lead with my heart, and as a memorium to my adventurousness before I would turn 30 in a few short weeks.

I made an appointment, went to a consult, researched the artist and was drawn to his work. But I didn’t feel a connection with him. I tried to justify it, that maybe I shouldn’t need a relationship with the artist since this was my tattoo, but still something was just a little off. Whatever it was, it was in me.

So I listened, and canceled the appointment.

Then another tattoo artist came into my life – one who appreciates the cultural and human connection, knowing that a tattoo is part of a healing and growing process.

But, it still didn’t feel right.

Even though I want the tattoo, the timing is off. And although I want to rush it, I know that it just needs to marinate in my heart for a beat longer. Even though I am growing older and feel that I need this now, I know there is still time. I don’t know why, but I trust that I can’t force this. It’s just not right yet. Some things need to sit. And that’s ok, because there is a time for everything.

Driving by the tattoo studio on the day of my canceled appointment, a few hours after I would have had a freshly minted record on my back, I knew that the tattoo would have been beautiful, that he would have made it beautiful.

But I can’t force my own internal dusty rhythms and vivid yelps. I have to trust that when a decision or action needs to be made, it will happen through patience and space, without force.

It will happen effortlessly, in its own time.

Everything Changes, Everything Stays the Same

Last Thanksgiving Day – after the turkey and the stuffing and the rolls and the mashed potatoes and the damn yams – my family took a walk.

The air was chill, the sky cloudy, and the landscape the same as it had been most of my life. But so much had happened – moving and returning from Maui, going to graduate school, traveling to the Middle East – but the day felt the same as all other Thanksgiving Days.

“Everything changes, and everything stays the same,” I told my mom as we rounded the corner to the house.

“Yup, that’s the secret,” she replied.

It’s a dichotomy – a concept that has been rattling around in my mind the last six months.

You can’t have one without the other – yin and yang, perfect and imperfect, full and empty – but they are actually the same thing.

Here is an old school diagram to illustrate:

It is the same circle. It takes two opposite ideas to make it whole, using resistance and the law of attraction to keep it together.

Let’s look at the example of Hope and Fear. If we go far enough to the extreme edge of fear, it loops around into hope. I fear tornadoes so much, I hope I never see one (or, I hope that I do see one).

Here is another old school diagram:

It is the same circle, but our emotions and degree of opposites change proportionately to keep the circle whole. The change depends on multiple variables – the moment, the day, the feeling, the thought etc.

But, what if instead of the straight line of Hope and Fear moving, it’s the whole circle that actually moves. Meaning the line in the circle remains stationary, but the circle spins around – like it sits on a base of wheels.

Like Bubbles and the shopping cart in Trailer Park Boys (Warning: this link is very uncensored with many bad words – in both Canada and America), and the clip has nothing and everything to do with dichotomies.

All we need is already in us. The circle stays the same, it just spins around depending on our chosen perspective.

Because everything changes, and everything stays the same.

 

Fear of the Fear

Severe weather. Isolated tornadoes. Supercell. Funnel. These are all new phrases for me. I can deal with tsunami risks (of which I have experienced two in Hawaii) and living in the Northwest I’m ok with the possibility of volcanic eruptions (once every couple hundred years, right?) but the seemingly frequent possibility of tornado sirens has me irrationally scared as I weather my first tornado season in Kansas.

April, the cruelest month, can also be one of the most extreme months for tornadoes, according to T.S. Elliott and The Weather Channel. Today, intense risk spreads across Iowa, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Right where I am in Topeka.

My new Kansan friends rally together to assuage my fears with a few plans as I wait for the sirens to blare:

1) Get a few beers from the fridge, a tailgating chair from the closet, and sit out on the lawn until it gets really really quiet (as in all the birds have left) or until you see a Finger of God forming in some dark, low-hanging clouds. Then it’s time to go inside. (From what I gather, this is an adaptation of the truest Kansan way).

2) Grab a whiskey bottle, saunter up to the tornado, throw the bottle and give it the finger, Bill Paxton style.

3) Pry a shutter door off the closet and run into the bathtub and put the shutter door on top of the tub so things don’t fall on you. Not sure what keeps you from blowing away though.

4) Belt yourself to the bathroom sink pipes, but not the toilet.

5) Run a few blocks (or probably a few more than that with my poor sense of direction) to friends who graciously offers the use of their basement.

6) If I do end up in Oz, I have messages to deliver to the ‘little people’ and Glenda the Good Witch (who is apparently a plotter).

Realistically, I’ll probably combine a few of the safety plans – grabbing the whiskey bottle and the closet door and a belt and hiding in the bathtub with my boyfriend’s sweetly considerate 140-pound dog belted to me.

But as evening appears, the day has only yielded a partly cloudy spring sky, budding pink flowers, and no wind. So I sit outside, open the whiskey bottle anyway, and patiently allow my gaze to fall upward.

Hmmm. This is actually pretty fun.