A Diary

“It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

Anne Frank

 

For some reason, I never had to read Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank, for English class. I recently picked it up, in hopes of putting some perspective on my own life and remembering what is more important than myself.

Little did I know, how much it would take me into myself.

 

“I don’t think then of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.”

 

Anne records “all the kinds of things that lie buried deep in my heart,” including “extraordinary things [that] can happen when people go into hiding.” Her Jewish family and a handful of others were secluded in a secret annex during the Holocaust of WWII. She questions, “I wonder whether you can tell me why it is that people always try so hard to hide their real feelings? … Why do we trust one another so little?”

 

She writes of difficulties with her parents, falling in love, hopes for the future, fears of the present, air raids, burglars, and politics they hear on the radio

Near the end, she talks about how she has two sides to her, how she is a “little bundle of contradictions.” Her “dual personality” is jovial and cheerful on the outside, and deep and introspective on the inside.

This has been on my mind too of late – reconciling my “happy” and “sad” sides, my “good” and “bad” sides, my “wanting” and “trusting” sides.

I recently learned that suffering happens when we are on one side or the other – when we think in sides. I am happy right now, and I am afraid of losing this happiness. Or, I am sad right now, and I want to be happy and afraid I won’t get what I want. When we live in these extremes and sides, in this dualism, there is always somewhere to get or stay, so we are continually striving and living in fear instead of just being where we are.

The two sides are one: yin and yang, polarities, a duality. There must be a whole in order to have opposites.

When I live in the whole, knowing both sides are in me and there is nowhere to get to because they will always be there, it somehow appears less stressful. It sometimes feels more real, more me, more loving.

But, this often seems easier when I am by myself.

Living in sides is frequently activated when we are in relationship with others. For a host of reasons, which I am only beginning to understand.

 

Anne’s last entry:

“A voice sobs within me: “There you are, that’s what’s become of you: you’re uncharitable, you look supercilious and peevish, people dislike you and all because you won’t listen to the advice given you by your own better half.” Oh, I would like to listen, but it doesn’t work; if I’m quiet and serious, everyone thinks it’s a new comedy and then I have to get out of it by turning it into a joke, not to mention my own family, who are sure to think I’m ill, make me swallow pills for headaches and nerves, feel my neck and my head to see whether I’m running a temperature, ask if I’m constipated and criticize me for being in a bad mood. I can’t keep that up: if I’m watched to that extent, I start by getting snappy, then unhappy, and finally I twist my heart round again, so that the bad is on the outside and the good is on the inside and keep on trying to find a way of becoming what I would so like to be, and what I could be, if … there wasn’t any other people living in the world.”

On Being Human

My thinking has been hard on myself lately: Looking unsuccessfully for a job, living at my parents, grateful for what I have yet still wishing it could be different. Thinking that I am not good at the practicalities of being human.

In my less compassionate moments I get lost in thinking “I can always do something better, to be better.”

Then, I start noticing how I am human. I eat (sometimes too much), I cry (sometimes too much), I sleep (sometimes too much), I love (sometimes too much), I try (sometimes too much). I laugh and swear when I hit my funny bone, I check my facebook page more than appropriate, I get rejected, I don’t get everything done on my mental to-do list, my plans don’t work out, I keep living, I wake up in the morning and go to bed at night.

Wait a tick…

I am so good at being human. I am SO good at being human.

 

I do my best with what I have and who I am at any given moment.

We all do.

We are SO good at being human. Our existence is enough.

 


 

 

We Always Become

I recently discovered that I am the woman of my dreams; that I am my own outcome. What a relief, for me and everyone else involved, too.

I invite you to tally your day and make a list of how you are the man/woman of your dreams. Just today. Only include the things you did, or thought, or noticed – not the things you didn’t. You can forgive those ‘what ifs’ or those ‘should haves’ to simply being human. I promise you. The day could not have gone any other way than how it did.

So, tally up.

Here is how I was the woman of my dreams today:

 

I saw a movie with my mother. We shared popcorn, and a smile.

I wrote a kick-ass cover letter for a job application – straight from the heart.

I sang loudly in my car.*

I cried inside my open heart.

I took a walk along the river and paused: to watch without expecting to see. I bore witness to ducks chortling, and the sky changing.

The kick-ass cover letter I wrote was lost somewhere in Word, and I messed up the online application so I am locked out from applying for a dream job. I acknowledged that I am doing the best that I can. And that I will continue to, trusting that what comes back is exactly what needs to. Thank you.

I have my 12-gauge shotgun (Amelia), my yoga mat, and a pink hand-knit sweater in the backseat of my car.

In meditation, I felt that I am enough, right now. That despite popular opinion, there is nothing else to achieve, because then there would always be more (which is less).

I heard raw guitar, and saw hair dance, at my first metal show. I danced, and stomped (I’m not sure that is metal-dancing-etiquette), and felt soul. I felt how we are still one.

 

Bow-bom-wow.

 

This moment is the outcome. How full and how perfect –

 

yes, and thank you.

 

 

*(See Gaslight Anthem, 1,000 Years; or really the entire Get Hurt album)

Belonging

 

Holy shit, snow is white.

Snow is white.

This is where my more logical friends, who call my Pollyanna, will say that I’m going a little crazy.

 

Why didn’t the coast guard save the hippie?

He was too far out, maan.

 

Come, take a swim with me.

**

Trees are rooted. They dance, they bleed, some of their wounds never heal, rings of age define their growth. They are life, and life happens around them, and through and on them, too.

**

Snow falls on them, like it falls on the wild brown grass and the stocky sagebrush. Like it falls on the road, and the person walking on the side of the street, and the car driving through time.

It is white.

I hate winter. I started hating winter my freshman year of college in Vermont. When my first boyfriend dumped me for another girl, and I was trying to fit in, and it was -20 every day for a month, and the cold air seeped through my dorm room windows every day, and I couldn’t find belonging no matter where I reached – not at the kegger parties, nor singing to Disturbed with my roommate, nor the snowshoeing excursions, nor the classrooms where everyone had a hand up – not in any places where I thought I belonged.

**

White is my favorite color.

I stood on a bridge arching over a river a few weeks ago. There was ice, and snow, and a searingly cold breeze. I felt my skin prickle and – look at that – I felt. It wasn’t cold or unbearable or painful or thought. It was, just, … felt.

I love white because it is empty and full. It is a duality. It contains everything and nothing.

It is any possibility; it is no different than this moment; it is reality.

**

Every (this) moment is different.

Every (this) moment is beautiful.

Every (this) moment is infinite.

**

Look at that: Today, I love winter. 

**

Holy shit,

snow is white.

 

Snow is white.

 

 

A Thought

I was walking across the parking lot the other day, toward a Whole Foods. A bald man with a Dakine hoodie walked the other way toward me, holding a sandwich and laughing.

The distance between us collapsed and he looked at me, still grinning and amused. When we passed, I smiled and asked:

“What’s funny?”

He responded: “You must be thinking that I’m really hungry, to start eating my sandwich while walking to my car.”

The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind.

So, I had to laugh with him.

Border Crossings

Crossing borders can be uncertain. You might find a used condom under a bed in a hotel on the Ethiopia/Kenya border, or you might not almost be let into Syria because you put ‘news assistant’ on the customs form (thank you, stranger, who somehow convinced the custom officials to let me in after an hour of discussion. The official ripped up the form and instructed me to put “secretary” on it instead).

Or, it might be reaching your hands to the windshield and yelling “First to Missouri!” or “First to Washington!” in triumph as the car passes over an invisible line.

There are liminal periods and transitioning places and collaboration around borders too, such as the town Kanorado on the edge of Kansas and Colorado, or Calexico near California and Mexico.

We all know borders are arbitrary, constructed to create order over open lands and along rivers.

Our internal borders are arbitrary too, ones that we build from our past to identify ourselves and categorize our lives.

But, they are there for a reason. Perhaps it is so we can cross them.

Just Today, Just Now

My name is Kimberly Jane Bowker. I am 31-years-old. This is who I am:

Sitting on top of big-ass sand dune, on a log, my feet stuck into the sand and jean cuffs rolled up. Lake Michigan stretches before me – a lake that looks like an ocean.

I climbed the dune under clouds. Light beams through holes onto the water

A woman in a vacant parking lot below feeds bags of cheap white bread to seagulls. The grey gulls flock around her, their voices contending to be noticed.

It’s like the people who feed pigeons at Trafalgar Square.

I want to feed them too. To be in the middle of it, to be in that.

I descend the sand dune in deep strides, and ask if I can join her.

She hands me half loaves of the bread. I tear the slices into pieces and throw them. Some are thrown closer – to the patient and quiet gulls – and then high to the ones who are flying and who catch the crumbs mid-air.

The woman feeding the seagulls wears a shiny necklace, black slacks, and a nice purple shirt. Her thoughts do not come out conventionally: the policemen are damn assholes. They took her car. She wants to sell antiques. The man she married (whom she shouldn’t have married), cut her head. That’s shit.

I don’t know why she feeds the seagulls. She didn’t tell me, or maybe she did and I didn’t hear.

But I am here. Someone, just now. Here, in the middle of it. With someone else.

“A Place in the Universe, At a Moment in Time”

Not far from my parents’ house, there is a bench overlooking the river. I have passed by it for a lifetime, taking little notice.

Until, on a whim, I stop and sit. The green willows shudder into a moving painting, there is the sky, a duck laughs loudly at something, somewhere.

I turn around and read the plaque, like one that is on so many benches.

“A Place in the Universe, At a Moment in Time. L and L Read.”

And this is the view. It was maybe a space of pause for a couple during evening walks, or perhaps it was the favorite spot of someone who died, or maybe one day something big happened here, or not.

But – looking at the view – I knew it to be true.

A place in the universe, at a moment in time. That is the only thing that is real. It connects us all, beautifully and effortlessly.

 

A place in the universe

At a moment in time

Running

At half time, during a college football game, a jewelry store sponsored a competition for a free ring. Two couples competed. The man would run to the woman with a large cardboard ring around his waist. When he approached his mate, he was supposed to take off the ring, put it around her, and don another round cardboard ring around himself. Then they would run to the finish line together in their large cardboard rings.

One man booked it across the field. When he reached his partner, he flung the ring off him. It flew away and she had to run to catch it and put it on. He took off without her. When he realized she was not by his side, he reached out and pulled her to him. Her ring fell off, but they kept running, his eye hard on the finish line.

The other couple was slower. They stayed together, helped each other, and ran across the finish line, second, but both complete.

The couple that came in second won the actual ring, because they both crossed the finish line wearing the cardboard representations. The man that wanted to get there first, who wanted a specific result so badly that he sacrificed the experience, did not get what he wanted so desperately.

What a lesson in relationships for me:

It’s not about speed or reaching an outcome quickly.

It’s about slowing down, being mindful, and taking care of each other. It’s about enjoying the run – together.