Saturday, September 7, 2013

The courage to be

Cup of coffee in hand and breeze forming around me as I sit on the fire escape, I pick up the first book on my windowsill, "The courage to be." I thought twice about flipping through pages that may spur me to think too deeply on a light Saturday morning. Remembering that I've already read the first few chapters, I browsed through the sections that had previously grabbed me and were marked with pencil.

Of course, what I ended up reading was exactly what I needed to read:

Epictetus says, "For it is not death or hardship that is a fearful thing, but the fear of death and hardship." Our anxiety puts frightening masks over all men and things. [Paul Tillich] p. 13

"The mask" is a powerful metaphor that resonates with the anxiety and fear I sometimes place over others and experiences. It strips away reality and in its places lies a wild imagination that distorts the true nature of others and heightens our fear. Tillich says that those horrors connected with imagination, which is true even of death, (i.e. the final hour merely completes the death process, as we are dying every day) vanish once the "mask is taken away from the image of death."

I realize that both death and fear are heavy subjects, but at this point, I still remain light. It is always easier for me to process these matters in hindsight, when I can remain more objective. I called a friend to ruminate on the subject, and dug deeper into the masks I place on others. The anxiety that I had been building created a false sense of security; if I feel anxious or guilty over things, it legitimizes the own mask I place on myself. It shows that I have a conscious.

I'm realizing more and more that it does nothing of the sort. It has only limited my freedom and my relationships with those I place masks on. I came away with the affirmation that I would begin to show more of myself, in effort to also give others the chance to be who they really are. While it's become a normality to shift identities around different people and environments, my shape shifting has become less fluid and requires more energy between "changes." I now question if that's how I want to spend my energy.

With that, I hope that I can truly find the courage to be.

Friday, March 22, 2013

on getting lost


Imagine that you are new to a city, whether by travel or new home.

When you seek out a destination, whether by foot, car, or subway, there is a lot that can happen from the first moment to the last.

The first moments may look different for everyone. I typically have a plan of action before stepping a foot out of the door. If I need to be on time, I look up the train schedule and google map reverently. I don’t know east from west and will constantly refer to the map for walking directions if I don’t know where I am. It reassures me and at the same time causes anxiety if things don’t go as expected.

Otherwise, I check directions on my phone and head the door on my own time. Some may not bother with a map at all.

But, If you’re anything like me, a lot of those moments I mentioned earlier will be ones where you’re lost- even if you had a plan in place.

Or, depending on how you look at it, you’re not lost but on an adventure.

Being “lost” has led to some of the most amazing and unexpected experiences- discovering a new area , meeting new people, or trying new food among them. While traveling, this has been my general go to way of experiencing a new city.

But as of late, being lost or unsure of how to get from point A to B has led to frustration and stress. Namely because I feel like after seventh months, I should adeptly know my way around the city, never mind that it is completely different than the one I grew up with.

Thinking over my reaction, I realized that home feels more like home when you know it like the back of your hand. Impatiently, I want to not have to look at my phone to navigate the city (This is bringing back a lot of feelings as a 16 year old learning to drive).
I just want to know. Better yet, I want to not care that I don’t know and accept that these things take time. That maybe this is just an extended adventure and if I get frustrated I may miss out on it.

As I head home now (I am writing this post on the train), I am also trying to appreciate the small victories- finding my “home” coffee shop, moments where I find myself walking towards the right destination without a second thought, and the realization that I shouldn’t box myself as someone who is “bad” at directions.

Just like anything else in life, I will only grow and learn with time, practice, and getting lost.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

some days

some days like today, i feel pangs of homesickness. i want to be able to pop on this train and wake up in my other home. better yet, wake up inside that self that was. it’s not that i want to leave, it’s that i miss the familiar. it’s maybe that, i want both worlds when in reality i just live in one, the now, this minute. it’s easy to think what you had before was better. but that’s not always true.
either way, i don’t think i adequately express how much i love, appreciate, and miss my people back home. i think people have a false impression that i’ve moved on, that everything is always great, or I don’t need them as much, but it’s far from true. I think that’s why I tend to be open with others about  my struggles, because I want them to know I’m human and that it’s okay for them to be too. and so- sometimes it’s hard. sometimes it’s lonely. sometimes all i need is sisters on a couch. but there’s good too. there’s laughter, and newness that’s starting to become familiar, there’s the adventure and the courage it takes to try again each day. 
with that, i take a few deep breaths and will just be.some days like today, i feel pangs of homesickness. i want to be able to pop on this train and wake up in my other home. better yet, wake up inside that self that was. it’s not that i want to leave, it’s that i miss the familiar. it’s maybe that, i want both worlds when in reality i just live in one, the now, this minute. it’s easy to think what you had before was better. but that’s not always true.

either way, i don’t think i adequately express how much i love, appreciate, and miss my people back home. i think people have a false impression that i’ve moved on, that everything is always great, or I don’t need them as much, but it’s far from true. 
I think that’s why I tend to be open with others about my struggles, because I want them to know I’m human and that it’s okay for them to be too. and so- sometimes it’s hard. sometimes it’s lonely. sometimes all i need is sisters on a couch. but there’s good too. there’s laughter, and newness that’s starting to become familiar, there’s the adventure and the courage it takes to try again each day.

 with that, i take a few deep breaths and will just be

Sunday, February 3, 2013

antidote to _________________.

Fill in your own blank. Is it lethargy? Change? Wallowing?

get UP. get out. move. take a walk to anywhere.
go to the movies. anywhere that's not your couch.
stop sinking in. pull those covers off.
remote down.
breathe in the fresh air instead of rushing through it.

get off your computer. text later.
change your routine.
grab coffee and enjoy every sip. 
finish a book. people watch. say hi to a stranger. 
cook dinner. a new recipe. grocery shop (first).
pick your fruit thoughtfully. 

bake. do your laundry. watch the clothes as they spin,
they clean and revive in cycles just as you do.

pay your bills. clean. 
call a friend you've meaning to catch up with. 
write. exercise. even if it's for 10 minutes. 
go to the bookstore. sit in aisles as your browse.
listen to (new) music. dance.
stretch. just move. it's not distraction, it's not forgetting,
it's living and breathing and moving on. 
and on that note- pay attention to your breathing. too often, we are holding our breath.

it will be the hardest thing in the moment to get up,
but say yes
once you do, you'll be happy you did.
most of all-- 
don't wait on anyone to "rescue you,"
be the rescuer of yourself. 

an open letter to anyone who tells me not to be sad:


an open letter to anyone who tells me not to be sad,

first of all, thank you. most people who say this have a positive intention. they don’t like to see loved ones in pain and their words are meant to be comforting. i know the feeling all too well.

but what i really want you to know is that sometimes the best thing you can do to help me is give me space to be sad. more often than not, i am not only squashing my own inclination to feel my sadness, but also from sharing with you that i’m feeling this way.

therefore, when i finally give myself permission to do either, i am actually taking a great leap into vulnerability, into exposing a raw nerve that offers up a chance for more hurt. it takes a lot for me to get to this place, and i’m sure you can see why.

so when you tell me not to be sad, deep down i know you mean well. but in the moment what i’m really hearing is this: you’re not allowed to be sad. be strong. only show your happiness. i can’t handle your emotions, this isn’t the time. i’m uncomfortable.

and so i shut down. i wipe away my tears and as quickly as i showed my feelings, i hide them. they are tucked away with the stresses of the day, the pangs of grief, the mines of loneliness, and even lost beautiful memories. they pile up and pile up.

one day it will all crash down, because you can only “not be sad” for so long.

personally, i’d rather feel a little or a lot sad here and there rather than have it hit me all at once. and so, my friend, when i’m sad, i ask you to just sit with me. sometimes your company and silent empathy means more to me than the “perfect words” or advice. i promise that if i just sit in these feelings instead of running from them, i will feel better much more quickly.

yours,

Monday, January 21, 2013

we each possess a guiding self. like a star pointing us in the right direction, it gently steers us towards doing what we love. i have been neglecting mine as of late. it's easy to get burrowed under a million things, in "busyness," and trying to get by through each day. 

today a few things came my way that reminded me of a part of me that i was starting to lose- being part of a bigger community i now live in a place that is hugely diverse and there is so much to do. yet, working full time takes enough energy that i have not been reaching out or exploring as much as i should and need to.

i randomly found an opportunity and just reading about it gave me a surge of energy. it reminded me of something i was passionate about and it's a feeling not to ignore.  

today is a reminder that walking outside of my comfort zone is the first step towards positive movement. i have all these ideas of how i should engage in a healthier lifestyle as a new person in a huge city, but being proactive is not as easy it as sounds. step one: gather ideas. step two: pick one realistic option. step three: show up!

Friday, December 28, 2012

brief wondrous life

i had two hours of time to just think on the flight back home from kentucky. thoughts flitted between light and shadow, between peace and tension. i was literally in the space in between and felt caught between two worlds. i can't possibly have both at once, not if i tried. nothing will replace your childhood home, your family, and the familiar roads. and yet, it is only by leaving it all behind that you can know this for certain.

i felt comfort in my family, in that i could slip right back into the jokes and the bickering. it was like i never left. but, i never doubted that it was the right time for me to have moved. sameness is safety, but it is not growth. at least for me. i knew that i would just fall back into old patterns and into the same supporting role i had started to lock myself into.

words and coffee with siblings
now, my new home is a little more settled in and it was mine to come back to as never before (i've never left on a visit and had a home away from home to return to). just as quickly as nyc seemed to vanish in my mind when i was in kentucky, the city lights sprawl out before me and beckon the part of me that never left. it's startling, almost. how suddenly newness wears off-- the routine settles me in and my footsteps seem to know the way. but still, i get lost and trip up. then i remember, it's only been five months, and the shine of the "new" brightens.

more than anything, i know home is where your people are. and you can have many homes. you could be anywhere in the world, but still be lonely without those people to count on (whether present physically or emotionally). i always remember less of what i did or where i was and more about the relationships and memories that were formed. i am lucky to have a good start to a support network here in nyc on top of what already exists elsewhere.

and so to the new year, i say that i am ready for whatever it may bring. however daunting life can sometimes be, i both have the strength within and people beside me to help me through. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

grief, a year later


Over a year ago, I experienced the greatest loss of my life when my cousin and dear friend suddenly passed away. Since then, I have had a new opinion and perspective on grief. I distinctly recall sitting in psychology class years ago in college and being taught that one of the most important ways to support someone grieving is to allow them to share their story over and over, as much as they need to. I also learned there’s no timeline on grief and that every story looks different. As of late, I’ve been experiencing several bouts of re-experiencing the raw moments, unexpected sorrow, and the strong realization that the process will never have a true “end.”  Therefore, I decided to share some writing of mine that helped me through her “one-year” a few months ago for two reasons- to once again, share my story. And so that those who can relate can connect, and those that can’t relate, can try to understand.

One year later.
One year ago I learned that your life can come to a screeching halt. You could be laying on your friend’s couch, basking in the sunlight streaming from the window and onto your arms. You could be ignoring phone calls, because it never occurred to you that it could be something that you could just deal with later.Once, twice, the phone rings, but you’re too lazy to reach over and grab the phone. A few seconds later, your best friend’s phone rings, and it’s your sister calling. You sit up, answer the phone, and that perfect moment vanishes. Sobs break out through the phone and you realize it’s not just you crying. You shout, “no, no!” You stand up,  shaking, keep moving, and are lucky enough to have a friend drive you to the hospital.

You fall into your sister’s arm, your cousin’s arms, your cousin’s mom, her had. You hold them, and they hold you. You wait, and you wait, and you wait. You stare at the walls in disbelief, that the person in the car accident was someone you hold dear. You stare at the ground in shock, that this is a waiting room, in a hospital, and it is because you do not know if your friend will wake up from her coma.

You remember the last time few times you saw her, how lucky it was that you saw her three times this past week. You visualize her face and how you randomly hugged her in the kitchen and told her you loved her, and how she gave you that special back rub she always gives. You think about her walking to her car the night before and looking over her shoulder to say goodbye, casually, because of course, we would see each other again. You go home, you sleep, and you wake up thinking that everything will be the same.

Her parents walk in.

She’s gone.

You call your mom, your brother, her friends and have to tell them the news. Each phone call is a fresh stabbing pain and you don’t know how you will continue. Strangers hold you. You sit on the hallway floor, silently crying.

From that day, you never count on making it to the next day. From that day, you don’t know if you will ever want to get out of your bed in that morning. From that day, you alternate between feeling numb and having literal heartache. The darkness that visits is one that is unparalleled to any darkness you have had before. Every instance is a moment of grief. Everything is a reminder that it’s all different now, because she’s gone. You are a new person, one that your friends may no longer recognize. The brightness in your face is dim, and laughing feels strange, because you thought you were not supposed to laugh. Talking to people takes too much energy, and it feels like so few people understand. Nothing feels real. Nothing makes sense. You go through the motions. And even though you think this feeling will never go away, somehow you get through each day.

One year later, tears stream down my face as I write this. I have thought about my cousin every single day. I have wanted to call her, text her, and facebook her forgetting that she’s not just in another city, but gone. Because sometimes the only way of coping was tricking myself into thinking it was not real. You know death is real, and that it could happen to you or anyone else at any time. But to know and to experience it are two different things.

Since that day, I have cried and I have laughed. I have traveled and I have changed. I have had days where I was alive, but not lived. And other days where the loss inexplicably charged me with a greater love of life, because I would do it for her. I would smile in her memory, and imagine telling her about my adventures. At times, it felt unbearable that she was not physically present. Randomly triggered by being on the road, a song, or a thought, it felt like I could easily fall to pieces and go back to the beginning. Gasping for breath, I remember the fragility of life and wish I didn’t have to learn it the hard way. I wished the sun wasn’t more beautiful because it didn’t remind me of her. I wished that I didn’t analyze every goodbye in worry that it would be my last time with someone.

But I can’t change it.  I can only keep going, because the hard truth is that life does not stop, even if you want to. And as guilty as it’s made me feel sometimes, I’ve had good days. Slowly, but surely, I woke up. I learned small ways to heal. Albeit with growing pains, I stretched. Old fragments of myself returned, awkward and shy at first. They learned to get along with new pieces of self. My friends welcomed me back with open arms, patient and forgiving. And I found within myself a new home, where my cousin will always live.  

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