Category Archives: Uncategorized

Walk on, walk on, walk on

You’re doing it wrong.

This is the message I keep hearing. From my friends, who I assure you are not saying that, even if it’s what my brain hears, and from the voice in my head.

It’s amazing how persistent that message feels right now.When I fall into the cycle of these messages, I tend to feel even more stuck. Stuck. I use that word lot in my life.

When uncertainty meets me face on.

When I feel like I’ve made a mistake.

When the critical voice in my head decides to speak up.

This week, a friend brought me camping in Burlington. She’s been wanting me to travel with her for a while now, but my finances have felt constricting.

Stuck.

IMG_20170704_144407_892I agreed to come up here, as a tent felt like a modest way to explore a new place. “Maybe you’ll like it there,” she had encouraged. “You could move there.” While here, we’ve been exploring the city, tasting maple cremees, and watching the signs of Americana (this is the week of July 4th after all). And each time my friend has suggested I talk to someone or consider something new, something has pushed back, “don’t tell me what to do.”

Stuck.

On Monday, my friend and I went to a donation-based yoga class. As always, I appreciated the chance to be in my body. To slow down, breathe, and remember the lessons yoga brings me. As I bent and stretched, reached up and grounded down, I faced a window. Framed in the window was the flowing river and a metal statue of a woman’s form. She stood in dancer’s pose, one bent leg raised behind her, held by one hand, the other hand reaching in front of her. Beautiful in her complex simplicity. I felt calm. I’m realizing that despite the fact that I’ve had more open time these past two years, I haven’t allowed much space for myself.

As I folded forward, the teacher came over and asked if I had any more room in my neck. I wiggled my head and felt my neck elongate. “There,” she said. “Sometimes you think there is no more room; you’ve gone as far as you can go, and moving just a little can free you up.”

Stuck… move… unstuck. The process and the solution appear to be one and the same.

Two days later, I walked up a mountain, and I remembered how good it felt to move.

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All of These Lines Across my Face, Tell You the Story of Who I am

I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of story and narrative these past several weeks. I’ve heard stories people tell themselves about who they are and who others are. I’ve heard how easy it can become to hear what one wants to hear. I’ve heard how a viewpoint can totally shape an experience, and how that can impact people deeply.

I was recently talking to my therapist, who commented that I am brave. “Really?” I responded. At this point in my life, I’m having trouble seeing it. I feel like I’ve spent the last year wasting away time, living as a shadow of my best self. As I write that, it feels extreme to say, but I know that this is the story I have been telling myself. I’ve been doing a much better job of telling myself that I can’t do things than telling myself that I can.

I have barely traveled. I’ve struggled to figure out my next steps. I’ve used up savings accounts. I have felt discouraged and disheartened, as I have felt the best parts of me slip into hiding. While there have been beautiful experiences, such as spending extra time with my sister-in-law just after my nephew’s birth, I find myself hearing the story of a failed year (which I sometimes forget is not the same as me being a failure).

That said, as my therapist challenged me, she reminded me of the other parts of myself that I tend to discount with speed.

“You went to Africa and climbed Kilimanjaro,” she commented.

“You’ve traveled the world,” she continued.

“You quit your job and moved to the Caribbean! I wouldn’t have done that.”

“Yes,” I find myself thinking. “These are all parts of me.” Somehow, I’ve let myself believe that this past year of uncertainty negates all the other things I’ve accomplished in my life. My narrative has become quite limited in its scope. I find myself wondering how I can shine a bigger focus on the moments of pride and joy. How can I let these points in my life carry equal weight in my personal narrative? And perhaps more importantly, why don’t I give them that measured weight naturally?

It’s fascinating to me how my mind creates this story around who I am, and how often it doesn’t account for the parts of myself that I most value.

In another conversation with my therapist, I mentioned qualities in others that I so much admire. I find myself drawn to people who have broken from the stereo-typically straight path in life. I find myself drawn to people who follow their inner voices. I tend to admire those who are brave enough to step out of their comfort zone. As I talked about all of these traits with my therapist, she commented that when we are inspired by others, we are recognizing traits within ourselves that have yet to emerge. This idea totally shifted my mind. I was immediately drawn into and in love with this idea. I went home and wrote out a list of traits I admire in others:

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Exploration.

Telling untold stories.

Taking risks.

Following a passion.

Creating something new.

Taking the unusual path.

Listening to your heart.

Is it possible that all of the things on this list are actually descriptors of me? I hope to think so. And I hope that I can continue to weave them into my story. That’s a personal narrative I would feel proud to live.

Open Your Heart to Me

About a week ago, I had the feeling that I was in line with the universe. Somehow, I felt open to what it had to offer, and I found the universe seemed to understand and reciprocate in turn.

As I walked through the park, I ran into a former colleague, and was able to express some percolating ideas for the first time. She gave me positive feedback, and I was grateful for the opportunity to articulate my thoughts in that manner.

I texted a friend to say I was thinking of her, and she responded that she was a mere block away. It led to an unexpected meeting with a friend I rarely see.

I saw a play by an amazing playwright, whom I admire greatly, and was reminded that so much of what I admire about him is his ability to give voice to those who don’t always have one in our society. It ignited an ember of passion in me. “This. This is what I want to offer to others,” I thought.

I volunteered to sing at a large mass meditation, and found myself amidst hundreds of people, coming together where the World Trade Center once stood, to connect and foster community. I sat, as the leader elicited images of the ashes that were once there in contrast to what stands there now. The phoenix. Rising from the ashes. How much have I felt this past year that I was that pile of ashes. Could I have faith that I would once again rise?

As I meditated, I found myself sinking into images of gratitude. The eight minutes we sat meditating seemed to fly by, as I thought of all of the people who have touched me in my life. I thought of the fortune I’ve had to see so much of the world. I thought of my family, who has supported me through my less than typical life choices. I felt gratitude. And tears fell down my face.

This past week, I decided to end a connection I had been a part of for several months. The dynamic had felt familiar, but it hadn’t felt healthy. I worked it. I navigated it. And I realized that it was  leaving me exhausted and angry. So I said what I needed to say, and ended that connection. Less than twelve hours later, I felt a new, healthy connection form. It was a such a clear reminder to me that when I’m able to let go of things that aren’t serving me, there is suddenly room for things that will.

So I think about the things that I may still be holding onto- old relationships, ideas of myself, ideas of how my life should play out- and I think about how to let them go.

Open myself up.

Let myself rise.

And continue to feel gratitude for the gifts the universe sends my way.

Don’t Pay No Mind to the Demons, They Fill You With Fear

It’s been a while since I’ve written. I feel a little bit like I’ve lost my way over the past several months. I’ve learned that in many ways, the most challenging part of my return to New York was the voices that live in my head. There has been no distraction from the doubt, insecurity, and judgement that lives there. It makes it hard to move from that place.

I’ve been acutely aware that this week that I hit a year of being back from Grand Cayman. A year since I my international life adventure came to its conclusion. A year since that person, excited, anticipating a new life, returned. And in that year, I’ve felt stuck, uncertain, lost.

One of my favorite podcasts, Radiolab once did a piece discussing the process a caterpillar goes through to become a butterfly. This metaphor, the caterpillar spinning into its cocoon, and emerging into a butterfly feels like a classic tale for change. I’ve been hearing it since I was a child. It always seemed pretty basic to me: caterpillar goes into shell; caterpillar grows wings; caterpillar is now butterfly. What I learned from listening to this podcast, however, was that this process is not how I always believed it. When the caterpillar is enveloped by the cocoon, it actually becomes mush. When a cocoon is cut open, it shows no signs of the caterpillar that once was, nor does it resemble the butterfly it will become. It truly becomes a gooey substance, resembling not much of anything.

That said, they were able to see that the newly emerged butterfly still held some of the memories of the caterpillar. If looking at this process, one might guess that going through this mushy process leaves the butterfly as something completely different. But it still holds a part of itself.

And that’s the image I’m currently carrying with me. This year has felt mushy. I’ve tried various odd jobs, some of which I’ve loved, and some of which I’ve hated. I’ve interacted with people old and new, which have led me down unusual, and sometimes disheartening, sometimes beautiful, paths. One year ago, I didn’t have a vision for where I would be in 365 days. I’m still working to find that vision. Somehow though, marking this year anniversary, a part of me remembered that strength lives within me. While others have assured me of my strength for months, I’ve somehow felt that obvious strength was not so obvious. I’m startingç feel a glimmer of hope that lives within me, and I want to foster it, and let it grow.

img_20160619_094957During this year, I’ve seen a new cast of characters emerge in my life, some offering listening ears, some offering new insights, some inspiring me with their abilities to be true to themselves, and in turn making the world a better place. And seeing that reminds me that that’s what I want for myself. I want to reconnect with my true self, my strongest self, the self that adds to the world, simply by living my truth and touching others along the way.

And with that, I again sit and write. I start to sort through the mush, and hope that with that, I can once again begin the process of growing wings to fly.

 

I’ll Keep Checking the Horizon

It’s strange to me to think that it was just about a year ago that I accepted a position in the Caribbean. I’ve now been back in New York about as long as I was away. The life I led before, waking up daily to go to a hospital to do music therapy sessions with children and their families, feels foreign to me. I shattered that existence when I decided to quit my job to try something that was both figuratively and literally foreign to me. I shook my world up, then returned to New York to start anew. That said, I don’t think I’ve found my new normal.

At some point after my return, I realized that the things that had always grounded me before had shifted. I don’t have a regular job. My relationships have shifted. The identity I had created for myself no longer was. Thinking about this helped me find compassion for myself and the topsy-turvy world I felt myself navigating. And I realized that I would need to shift my focus, instead of looking for grounding to come from my surroundings, I would need to start looking inward, to find grounding from within myself.

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I’m guessing that seems obvious to many people. I, however, have always felt myself susceptible to the people and things that surround me. I pick up others’ emotions easily. While that’s a helpful tool as a therapist, it can also lead to feeling a loss of self, which takes some practice to find again.

And listening to myself feels like the most important lesson I want to get out of this adventure. As I resist applying for jobs in institutions, I hear my being telling me that I want to be creative, following my own path. As I think about the regularity of going to one place, day in and day out, I find myself fantasizing about continuing to travel. In my days at the hospital, I felt the days mold together, one into another. Now, as I lead music classes, do yoga, spend time with family, my time feels richer, fuller, more fulfilling.

So I look to myself, listening intently. In a recent yoga class, the teacher reminded us that 85% of the practice is simply showing up. So I continue to ask myself to show up. Be present. Try to trust not only the journey, but to trust myself. I look forward to seeing where it takes me.

I’m Not Lost, Just Looking For Footprints

It feels like it’s been a little while since I’ve put my fingers on a keyboard to place my words in the world. I know that’s been because I’ve been feeling a little lost. I feared that if I sat and wrote, all that would come out was, “I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m feeling lost. I’m afraid I’ve made bad decisions.”

When I’m feeling this way, I tend to go into hibernation, hiding away in myself. Immobile. I find myself reading books of others who are exploring, the worlds, themselves. I see the seeds of longing I have, to connect to communities beyond my own; I’m just not sure where to plant them.

So here I am, sinking in. Trying to feel all of those feelings that aren’t so comfortable right now. Sitting into the uncertainty.

Since I’ve been back in New York, I’ve been looking to find some different outlets for myself. I’ve come upon a free Sunday yoga class, where I’ve been able to let my body move through some of this discomfort. Trying to remember that there are muscles there that have been forgotten. That holds true for my physical, as well as my emotional and spiritual body right now.

I look for the memory of that strength I once felt so strongly. That spirit that soared. I carry those muscles in me; they just need some stretching. Movement to remind me how to use them again. This may mean I’m stretching in some new ways for a bit. One teacher, as he moved us through our morning asanas, asked us to find that sweet spot between effort and ease. I’m not quite there yet, but as words from a book I just completed suggested, “just because you’re lost, doesn’t mean you can’t go exploring.”

 

Every New Beginning Comes from Some Other Beginning’s End

“End, begin, all the same. Big change. Sometimes good. Sometimes bad.”

I was watching “The Dark Crystal” yesterday, which is one of my favorite children’s movies. It’s a fantastical story that Jim Henson was behind, which introduces a new world. One creature is tasked with putting the world right again by healing the dark crystal.

It’s probably been over a decade since I’ve watched it, but the messages it shares still hold truths for me. I’ve always heard the biggest message from the movie to be that good and bad must exist together to hold the world in balance. It’s amazing to me to see that this message that was given to me as a child still lives strongly within me. It’s a sign that despite the changes that we encounter in our lives, the core part of us lives on.

Which brings me to the quote above. It is spoken by Aughra, who feels to me like something of a spiritual leader, even as she carries herself gruffly through the world. Beginnings. Endings. They are the same. They carry change. Sometimes they are good. Sometimes they are bad. And I would add, sometimes they are neither or both. Sometimes you can’t imagine how such pain can be good, but you find in the big picture, the change that came with it carried gifts.

As the year comes to an end, I can’t help but think about beginnings, endings, and changes that come along the way. This year has carried numerous endings for me. It has also carried numerous beginnings. Change has come. And I’ve had to look to myself again and again to find my own truths.

 

This year, I left a job I’d had for over five years. This year, I moved to a new country. This year, I met new people who I now carry in my heart. This year, I’ve said goodbye to people who have touched me deeply. This year I welcomed new family members, in the form of a sister-in-law, her family, and now just a few days ago, a new nephew.

This year I asked for help in new ways, and was reminded what infinite treasures I have in the family and friends who surround me.

This year, I let go of fear a little bit more, and with that, I let go of the role I thought I was meant to play in life, looking for the role that is waiting to be expressed.

This year, I opened my mind a bit more. I opened my heart a bit more.

This year, I shed tears and I laughed for hours. I danced. I sang. I swam. I watched the sun set in a palate of pastels.

Each of the changes I encountered this year has carried with it a flush of emotions. Sometimes they held sadness, sometimes joy. Sometimes they carried the most intense fear I can remember feeling in my life.

And with these changes came lessons. I learned that I am strong. I learned that when I’m taken out of my comfort zone, I can still find connection to others. I’ve learned that sometimes a person sharing her understanding of you is a true gift, and can open your eyes in a new way. I learned that sharing my story has meaning for others. I learned that love comes in many ways and many forms.

For each of those changes, I cannot help but express gratitude. I am grateful for these ends that are truly beginnings, and that I’ve been given the opportunity to live them. In my last week of this year, I find myself tearful as I think of some of the goodbyes that came with this year, yet with each tear, I know there is a truth that this is a sign I am lucky enough to live a life with meaning.

Happy New Year~

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