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.

 

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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.

Ecuador

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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Too Many Unanswered Questions That We Hold Onto

This morning I was listening to a talk by Elizabeth Gilbert. Many know her as the author of Eat, Pray, Love. I’ve found that when I’ve heard her speak, I like hearing what she has to say. I think it’s tied to the fact that I’m inspired by the stories of great risk, of great change, of people who take the time to look at who they are, and how to live the fullest life they can.

Since writing her book, she’s spoken a lot about following your passion. In this speech, however, she spoke about her recent change in perspective, when she realized that not everyone has one single passion that he or she has known from childhood and is able to follow like a dagger. She spoke about the people who move about, following their curiosities. She spoke about people who have bounced through careers, homes, life paths, and the rich life that emerges from such a life. I loved that.

There is a voice in my head that says that I should know where I’m supposed to be focused right now. The voice says that I should know my next steps, what I’m meant to be doing. I was saying to a friend that at this point in my life, as a woman in my mid-thirties, it doesn’t seem right that I don’t know what I want to do with my life. So I added the word “now.”

I don’t know what I want to do with my life, now.

My career as a music therapist in a hospital made perfect sense for me. I walked into that role because it felt right. And it was right.

Until it wasn’t.

Obviously, the part of me that knew this is the part of me that said yes to my recent adventures, leaving my job and my country, in one of the biggest jumps I can remember taking. And now, I get the chance to follow my curiosity a bit. I have the room to explore a few more parts of myself.

I get to do yoga, and find joy in its lessons.

I get to introduce music to preschool children, and find the joy in the play, all while knowing my years as a therapist lets me see and adapt how I work with them.

I get to work with old friends, trying out new ideas, like mindfulness groups for parents.

I get to bike through the New York City Streets.

I get to give space to my being, something that was so challenging when being an emotional support to families in the hospital. It was important work. It was work that requires the giving of humanity. While I received gifts from that work, the space to be with myself feels healing.

I’m starting to feel a bit of an internal push to figure out some of my next steps. That said, the idea that I don’t need to have everything figured out is reassuring to me. It is OK to take time to follow my curiosities, and I imagine that I’ll encounter some passions along the way. It may be a bit messy for a bit longer. But who said being messy is a bad thing? I’ll take the messiness of a life I truly desire living any day of the week. IMG-20151026-WA0000

Inside the Absence of Fear

Sometimes it can be really challenging to decide not to move from a place of fear. This has been the thought that has been living in my head for the past several days. I know it is in response both to the inner monologue that is ever present in my head, as well as the events of the world today and the chain reactions that are occurring as a result.

As I continue on my path, I’m hearing little murmurings of fear starting to rear their heads. I’m hearing little doubts creep up. I’m hearing that pesky inner critic mumbling in the back of my head, questioning my choices and telling me that my future is too unstable. I try to run a group, and no one shows up. The critic tells me that no one ever will.

And I’m watching voices that are emerging in response to the recent acts of violence that are occurring around the world. I see the hurt that continues to be enacted on humanity. And I see people judging many based on the acts of a few.

I understand the hurt. I understand the fear. I continue to believe that humans have the capacity to do better. I continue to look for the moments of good. I continue to search for hope.

As I think about the role of fear in my life, what I find most striking is the fact that my moments of strength have left much stronger imprints on my life. The moments that stand out are the times I’ve reached the summits of mountains, the times I’ve worked in different countries, the times I’ve walked into hospital rooms where families were experiencing the most difficult moments of their lives. The times that stand out are the times when people have loved, despite all the reasons they shouldn’t have.

There is so much more power in moving from the best parts of ourselves. I want to live a life honoring the best parts of myself. Even though my finances feel unsure. Even though I left a secure job. Even though I have not yet found the perfect path. I want to come from a place of freedom.

fall

The beauty of fall is not lost on me right now. I see that letting go of the parts of ourselves that are not working can actually create something even more striking than what existed before. In these moments, I try to let go of the critic; I try to let go of the fear. And I look to hope.

I Wanna See You Be Brave

I was talking with someone the other day who was saying that it was amazing that I had made this big shift in my life. I acknowledge that quitting my job for an uncertain position in another country does seem bold and daring. At the same time, after doing it, taking this leap just feels like something I did. It’s interesting to note this shift, as I can still remember being gripped with fear after making the decision to do it. I can still remember the sleepless nights, the tears, the panicked phone calls to friends and family.

And now I’m in a different place.

It’s a good lesson to remember as I take risks in the future. The fear is malleable. What starts as terrifying might become just another piece to the fabric of a life, neither horrific, nor amazing. It gradually just becomes.

I’ve been back in New York for a month now, and I continue to lay low, feeling a bit like I’m hibernating. I can’t help but wonder if part of it is letting my soul recover after working in the intense emotions that lived around me every day at the hospital. I find myself feeling a bit more able to feel calm these days. I feel less need to hide from conversations. I feel more balanced in my day to day.

And I continue to live in this uncertain world. I continue to be unsure what the next chapters are. I wonder what I’m supposed to be. Then I wonder if that lines up with what I want to be. And I try to remember that no matter what I choose, I can walk through the fear of the unknown to a different place.

hiking

A good friend who has traveled the world with me emailed me this morning. She commented that seeing where I am now reminds me of the person she sees when we’re exploring the world. She commented that its the best version of me that she’s been privy to. How beautiful if I can hold on to that part of myself, letting it grow, embodying it. Redefining strength. Catching glimmers of that bravery that people have seen exist in me for years, and letting those glimmers shine more brightly.