Monday, May 21, 2012

Today Will Do

Today is kind of perfect. The sky is gray, warm cinnamon rolls sit on the kitchen island, there's a new iPad askew on a couch cushion. . . and I'm sitting down to write. Yesterday I was sad, a feeling I often like to chase away with a cupboard raid, but I sat with it. . . sat in it and remembered a quote from Joseph Gordon Levitt, "I think there is something beautiful in reveling in sadness. The proof is how beautiful sad songs can be. So don't think being sad is to be avoided. It's apathy and boredom you want to avoid. But feeling anything is good, I think." Why was I sad? In part, it was because I had been to a reunion of a remarkable retreat we went on a year ago and I was comparing myself to others. How content the others in the circle seemed to be, aglow with feeling at peace.

And isn't that what we all want? To be able to find peace. It's become a quest for me, slowly unfolding. Embarking on a journey toward spirituality; toward a center, a tether for my balloon. I have no idea what I'm doing, nor where it will be found, or if it will be found. . . this centering I seek. Something tells me it involves yoga, everything tells me it involves writing. I was texting with my sister-in-law yesterday, telling her how profoundly disconnected I can feel from myself and from those around me. So, she spoke of running. . . of that being her peace, when she feels her best, connected and serene. She thought my zen might lie in words, and it very well may.

I feel so compartmentalized right now, with work, school, internship, preparing for a big exam. . . a friend of mine wondered aloud, "Is it possible that there isn't an opening right now for the light to get in?" Entirely possible. But I am intent on unclogging the space between my head and my heart.

I am trying not to want what you have, and trying instead to find my own, but it's difficult. . . to be content with this milieu. Something tells me, though, that contentment is exactly the first step. What I do want from you is participation, because I sense you have a lot to share. . . about your own spiritual journey. My mom said the early 30's are a tough time, wrought with identity crises. It was for her and it's shaping up similarly for me. More than anything though, I'm excited. To learn, absorb and engage in exciting new ways of thinking. Excited to find the perfect in every day.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Getting to Know New

There’s a certain rhythm to life. A cadence you get used to hearing in your chest, through your fingers and toes. You are centered and grounded in this routine and then. . . the syncopation stops, life becomes lento and you have to start up again, with a blank sheet.

I am a neophyte. Ain’t it grand. I know I’ll be here a few more times in life, or several if I’m doing it right, but it’s been awhile. And I’m wearing the aches and pains of working muscles long dormant. Fear, anxiety, uncertainty, ineptness. . . that last one stings particularly raw. I am Emily, right? I have answers, or I find them. But now I have to ask questions.

I am interning as a counselor at a statewide agency. This is it. I went through hell three years ago, recovered, decided on a path and began. And now I’m at the pinnacle, what I’ve worked for, and I couldn’t be more scared. The questions I ask run the gamut, from a practical inquiry, “How should I counsel a five-year-old?” to a deeply-seeded, raw, “Will I fail?” That inquiry is answered differently everyday, as I try to grow a pebble of confidence into a boulder that can squash negativity and stand for strength leaning toward excitement.

The truth is, I want to feel at home. I liked feeling at home. But transitions are a funny thing.

I read recently that when times are challenging, you know life is getting good, that you’re about to learn something. . . that it will hurt and then heal, making you that much stronger. I keep this with me when my heart is pounding, my eyes are wide awake at midnight or my newly-minted mantra (Be Here. Right Now.) fails me. I am pushing myself to be good at this new profession, the one I started toward years ago. Making my body stand halfway along the bridge in front of me and choosing to run the other way or charge ahead is a constant battle.

I just want to be a good counselor. I just want to know how to do this; be this new professional. But I feel like a toddler out on the dance floor; wobbling and teetering as others strut in time to the beat. My beat is off. Ba dum dum ba dum dum ba ba. It’s hard to listen to and hard to feel.

For now, I know I have to work on being a good toddler, a good newbie and defining what that means, accepting this transition and my panic-prone acknowledging what it is and forging ahead. After all, this is the path toward vibrancy I mention in a previous entry. This is the challenge. This is leaning into or lying down in the fear. Covering myself in it and staying right there, to experience being the most uncomfortable I have ever been.

Monday, August 8, 2011

In Living Color

In my coursework and in the course of my own therapy, there's a lot of talk about leaning into the fear. That somehow, the lean, albeit painful, produces the most color and vibrancy all while adrenaline runs strong and you resist the temptation to backpedal.

During my 31st year, I did a lot of standing upright. Definitely skipped around with the wind and danced with the sun here and there, but there wasn't much leaning. In reading through my journals of the past year, I noticed this. . . noticed the entry from March 3 looking an awful lot like the entry from November 21. Same complaints, same despondency, same hopes and freckled promises. ("I will lose more weight." "I will spend less time online.") By the time I got through the first month, I was tired. It was like reading an dictionary with the etymology of boring on repeat. . . read over and over again.

I am not being hard on myself. I think 31 was a hiatus for me. A dangerous one for sure, but led me to the desire to shake things up. Add color, read my journal like it was a novel of more newness than stagnation. Lean into the fear; of not being able to do it well enough, of failing completely, of hopelessness that things really can change.

So adding color becomes the focus, be it a new painting in our dining room or a new bike route. I want to kayak, and ride horses again. I want to visit the Chicago Botanic Gardens and spend all day taking photos, finally visit the Buddhist Temple on our block and buy produce at Farmer's Markets. I have a cooking class scheduled and write everyday. I told my friend Nikki, "I blog so infrequently because it's important to me that the writing is good." She must have giggled on the other side of the text and replied, "If I waited for that, I would never blog."

All of these wants are low-risk leans but they add up to the biggest lean of them all: regaining confidence, or adding to what exists. It comes from trying and succeeding or trying and at least having tried.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I Want to Be a Mentee

I switched careers officially in April 2009. I felt like a pioneer, shedding the comforts of living in one place to traverse a great landscape; enduring a chuckwagon wheel breaking and going without - food, water, even strength. I took a risk, and I've done the best I can to adapt - until recently. . . where I realized I need something new now. I need support, a number to call, a friendly face that has been through these trenches and can say that the turns I took were right or maybe too cavalier; too reckless. What would my mentor do differently next time?

Where is my mentor?

It's not just reassurance I need, though positive feedback makes me stand tall and feel capable to not only hit the road on an adventure but have the courage to make the return trip too. I crave a critical eye; someone who cares enough about me to be honest. Someone who has been there before and understands the challenge of self-preservation when you're sitting in front of a young woman who has been raped and is recounting her story from last night, still fresh and open. After hearing about trauma, poverty and crisis, I don't intuitively know how to go home at the end of the day and take care of myself. Even in my sleep, I'm still taking care of these beautiful young people.

I feel trapped many days, working under the weight of what feels like a great and global responsibility. How do I continue to admire a client's journey when I resent, at times, his presence in my doorway? Because it will be another crisis, and I'm already brimming with the residue from the last one. How do I not feel that their problems are all the same, and become blasé to what a conversation with me means to them? I realize that all professionals go through this, but being removed from someone's admission that they are homeless feels downright inhumane.

I love my job. I love the challenge, but I need someone to teach me the power (the necessity) of a deep breath and to not neglect my long-term goals, in and amongst holding back the dam for clients. I know part of it is relinquishing: responsibility, onus and the need to be vigilant no matter what. I am entitled to days where my performance isn't profound, this much I know. It's impossible to be present and to take action for every hand reaching out of the sand.

I guess I need someone to tell me that it's ok. That they have done it before and that my sanity and self-care is the most important task I have every day.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

So long, $hame

Most recent, and one of the first. . . photos of us.

This weekend, we stayed home. We met deadlines, ate sandwiches on fresh bread, spackled, scanned and laughed at old photos, grilled and talked. Normally, we would not choose to be "confined", rather meet friends for sushi or spirits. But truth be told, we can't afford it. We can't afford much of anything. My new career, school and some changes at our jobs make it impossible. And while we know it's not forever, it's in view for some time to come.

We made good choices (my career switch) and bad choices (charging a trip to Jamaica). We know how we got here and you know what? I'm happier now that I've been in years. Right now. Right this minute on our sofa with the sun streaming in through slatted blinds and hearing quiet in the city. Anticipating Marc's rousing and awaiting a walk on the Lake.

I refuse to be ashamed of my story. The "How I Got Here" to this place where I can't buy a cardigan when I want to. Where I buy mascara at Walgreens and not Macy's. Where I have to get creative with blips of boredom and plant seeds in every sense of the word. It's Father's Day, and I came across more photos of my dad and I when I was small; where I can see the love zipping in between us in sparks and flashes. To dig out that box from under the stairs, and spend time to thumb through old prints, scan them and watch them dance across the screen; that happened because I am broke.

The bedroom fan works because we are broke, and my husband is determined and capable. We eat healthy, al fresco, on our deck because we have to and look what happens? My skin begins to freckle and we see fireworks miles away.

I know there is kinship in this admission because I've surveyed a small sampling of my friends who are struggling. To say "no" to invitations, is to admit that maybe you made bad choices. . . but now you're making good ones. It is to accept your story and then begin to change it to where you want it to go; where you want it to end. It's a beautiful thing that lessons can be learned and reality can be shifted all because of your own will.

I love my home. I love my husband. Being broke, I'm loving me more. Resiliency is such a sexy thing.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Chosen Ones

On a day to day basis, I don't think about being without brothers and sisters. Born to two parents who had already been through a world of shit and contemplated long and hard about having me. . . just one. . . I really learned how to be among adults as a little person, and adapt to what was expected: don't act out, be pleasant and appropriate, or else.

My parents weren't corporal or demanding. Not by any stretch, but being an only child led me to a realization of grief I never thought to process and experience. I didn't have a place, with my peers, to be myself in all of its occasional ugliness. To express and sit in it and know that a brother or sister, no matter how scorned, would come back to love me. Completely. In thinking about vulnerability, it makes a lot of sense why several folks get the crust but so very few get the core.

And those few are my siblings. My chosen family. Tears come to my eyes thinking how lonely it can be to be "strong" and "exceptional", because it's not my (whole) truth. I am a myriad of wonderful things, and working on finding even more to adore but it's like my basal region is held prisoner. I always wondered why relating was so exhausting, and I was so good at playing the part with those I knew I loved but was gasping for air to love fully.

I stand firmly beside those I have picked to be the ones who see me angry, frustrated, silent, weepy and scorned. They are holding all of my heart and I'm terrified, but I will invest in them buckets of trust and love and know, even if I stomp my feet and pound my fists, that they will say, "Enough" and then love up on me, muscles relaxing and receiving that type of love that I am so ready to take in.

I always said being an only made me work harder to find friends. That is a truth as clear as crystal. I worked at it until I was no longer a tree; instead shaved down to a stick. I made wonderful connections that I still have today. Dozens even. But experiencing those relationships with the lightness of being myself is the difference between flying on an airplane and flying with wings. It's light, natural. . . right. It's where I go from here.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Acupunc? Sure!

I've never done anything prehistoric. I haven't even eaten a barbecued turkey leg at Taste of Chicago. My husband looks like a wooly mammoth right now (preparing to be an extra in a civil war documentary), but truly, that's as close to pre I get. So when Facebook tells me my high school friend is opening a clinic offering acupuncture, I decided to jump into the unknown and get it in with some needles.

I knew acupuncture helped my aunt quit smoking, and if it's been around since BCE (forget BC) then, shit. . . traditional chinese medicine could help me discover some yin or yang.

I didn't know what to expect from the treatment offered my first night (ear acupuncture). I also didn't know what to expect from the focus group beforehand. Needless to say, both elements kept it 100. And I walked away not only proud that I took the plunge but feeling more connected to my community. Who knew?

The focus group was intended to help my friend's fledgling practice get some grounding on marketing, messaging and overall vibe of their delicious loft location. The question was posed to a decidedly HOTTIE HOT HOT group of people (damn you, yogis!), "What does it mean to be healthy?"

I see your wheels turning. Mine did too and then got stuck in the divot of "diet and exercise, of course!" You can imagine how much path was left to traverse in this discussion: a lot. It came around to a discussion of sex, rest, solitude, curiosity, giving, trust and many other illustrative words and phrases that painted health as more than a stick figure. Rather a voluptuous, radiant woman from a Peter Rubens painting, folds, dimples, curves and all. It was refreshing to realize that being defined by the D&E mantra is hardly enough to be healthy. It's simply a fraction of how our building blocks stack up. Divine.

You must have sex.
Be able to trust people and have them trust you.
Have curiosity about what you don't know.
Go to sleep. Take a nap. Relax into daydreaming.
And don't forget to give with passion and receive with grace.

Redefining health feels like taking back all the fashion ads, diet commercials, fat-bashing op-ed pieces and everything inbetween and holding a mirror up for those who judge and confine others (all of us) to look into. I'd hate to think what they would say if they saw me with needles in my head, other than, "That's awesome."