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.

The Water’s Always Changing, Always Flowing

It’s been about two weeks since I returned to New York. In many ways, it feels the same as when I left. I’ve been able to reconnect with friends; I’ve seen family; I’ve biked the familiar streets; I’ve gone to the weekly farmer’s market (it seems some of my patterns and loves run true no matter what country I’m in).

People have asked again and again how it feels, if I’m settling in, if I’ve figured out what’s next in my life. The answers to many of those things seem to be a bit of a question mark at the moment.

I haven’t figured out what kind of work I’ll be doing, though some ideas are swirling around me. Interestingly, I’m finding people who haven’t been a part of my life for years are resurfacing and once again becoming regulars in my world. There is a familiarity and comfort that exists in those connections, though as a friend reminded me yesterday, you can’t step in the same river twice. The water is always moving, shifting things about. So while in some ways, this time in my life feels very much like I’m stepping into the same river, shifts and movements have happened. That holds true of the world around me and the world within me. I can’t pretend that I am still the same person I have always been.

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At dinner last night with a former co-worker, she talked about life at the hospital, and then commented, “don’t miss it.” To which I responded, “I don’t.” That doesn’t take away from all of the gifts that the hospital gave me, but it does speak to a shift in me. For so long I have held onto that part of my identity that sat with families as their children navigated difficult medical diagnosis and conditions. Now I don’t do that anymore. I don’t know if I will again.

Put your foot in the water. Notice the texture of the stones beneath your feet.

In another conversation, a friend was asking if I thought my career path was in music therapy now. While I don’t see myself letting go of that completely, I don’t feel it in the same central way that I used to. I imagine a career that is broader than what I used to define it to be.

Feel the water flow around your ankles. Notice the groves that let you place your feet in the path you once knew. Notice where those groves no longer remain. 

I spoke to a friend about how how reminders of past players in my life keep popping into my world right now. She commented that the reminders are not about the person, rather they are pointing me to what my experience was with these people. She pointed to the theme that it seemed my heart was ready for another opening.

Step forward. Move through. Observe. Notice. Discover. Explore.

I continue to be in a world of uncertainty. That said, I don’t feel uncomfortable in that uncertainty right now. I’m sure at some point that will shift, but for now, I’m letting it be. Who knows what awaits, just around the river bend.

Hold Every Memory as You Go

As I looked out the large pane glass windows of the airport, I saw rain pouring down, splashing off of ledges, obstructing the view of what lay beyond the sheets of water. Moments later, the white alarm lights began flashing, as a recorded message informed us that a fire alarm had gone off in the airport and we needed to evacuate. The crowd moved through the door, as we waited for firemen to come reset the alarm and inform everyone that it was a false alarm. We were then once again ushered quickly through security, as we were hoping to board our flight which was now approaching three hours of delay.

These were my last moments in Cayman. My time there felt in many ways like a perpetual exercise in responding to a constant push-pull on my emotional state. While working to let go of expectations, I also had to navigate in what was my reality. Somehow this airport ending felt very fitting.

As I stood there waiting for the firemen, my mind traveled back to my first clinical day of work on the island. In an individual session with a child with autism, the power had gone out. I can still recall the confusion I felt as I tried to navigate this building which now had metal doors blocking off hallways. I remember others telling me that island-wide power outages never happened in Cayman anymore, yet I experienced more than one in my time there. That was the nature of Cayman.

Let go of expectations. Navigate the roller coaster of emotions. Trust that moments of frustrations would be followed by moments of joy, only to once again be followed by frustrations. Life is a state of movement. Trust that discomfort will eventually ease.

My time there still feels too fresh to make sense of all that I experienced there. As I sit in my apartment in New York, I still feel like Cayman was a blip in my life, almost like a special TV mini-series event. It seems surreal that I went to another country and lived that life, especially as I reconnect with friends here and we pick up where we left off, almost as if these nearly six months never happened.

But they happened. I encountered people I never would have met if I had passed on this Cayman opportunity. I spent hours on beaches, watching sunsets, staring out at the water. I laughed and danced and baked and sang. I stepped out of my known world, and was gifted with friendship.

In my last days there, I couldn’t help thinking about this world I had discovered and the fact that I never would have discovered it if I had let this opportunity pass me by. It still seems strange that I would never have known what I was missing if I hadn’t taken this chance in going to Cayman. Now, on the back end of this experience, I’m so glad to know what I did not miss.

Miss You Cake

It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday

Last week, I booked a one way ticket back to New York. Just like any ending, this one comes with a mix of emotions. I will be glad to see my friends in New York again. I will be glad to hop on my bike and ride through Central Park. I will be glad to go camping and to take hikes in the mountains.

I will miss the lazy pace here. I will miss the endless sunshine. I will miss driving by blue expanses of water on a daily basis.

Cayman CalendarIt’s been just over five months since I arrived here. In many ways it feels so much longer. The journey has had many peaks and valleys. Every day was different. I found myself working with a wide variety of clients in various settings. This felt so different from my past life where I went to the hospital every day. I’ve learned I like the chance to change things up a bit. I’ve also learned that no matter the setting, the company you keep has a huge impact. Finding friends here is what made this island special to me. Stingrays are cool, but that pales in comparison to being able to laugh with others.

I remember years ago, I had a really difficult time with endings. I found myself clinging on, trying to squeeze tighter, making time last forever. As I began working with children in the hospital, I found myself viewing endings differently. I have now known dozens of children who have died, and I believe that has made a huge impact on me. My need to hang on, in hopes of making a moment last forever, shifted. While I look at the waters for my last days here, I worry that I didn’t appreciate it enough while I was here. Then I remember that endings are beautiful reminders that make beginnings and middles all that much sweeter. I have learned that what becomes important is being fully present in the moment. I began to understand that endings are an unavoidable part of life. It helps me to remember what is important in the here and now.

CaiboSo as I gear up to say goodbye to this island, I think about the happy hour laughter; I think about trying new foods at the farmer’s market; I think about meals by the water; I think about sitting on my flooded car as nearby good Samaritans pushed me out of the water. I think about breakfast with chickens, and long walks on Seven Mile Beach. I think about friends relaying stories about “Chicken drama,” and impromptu flamenco dancing in a coffee shop.

I think about this opportunity giving me the chance to shake up my life. I don’t feel fully resolved; as a dear person in my life reminded me, when you break apart your life, you have to work to pick up the pieces. That said, I was due for a good shedding of the skin. I sense that the journey will carry more twists and turns. I hope to be present for each one.

I lived it all

These past couple of weeks have felt like busy ones, with running a special needs camp, followed by some personal travels. I’ve now been on this island for four and half months, and yet it feels like so much longer in so many ways. Trying to imagine my life as it was in February, before any of this happened feels like another lifetime. My days have a different rhythm, and my world has opened up in ways big and small on this journey.

Last week, I did some exploring on a nearby island. I realized that it has been since November of last year that I took a journey for personal travel. I loved the hiking, being in a new culture, and trying new things. It reminded me about the beauty of travel all over again. It reminded me that there is an explorer in me. I tend to think of myself who has played my life in something of a safe manner; go to school, get a job, pay the bills, etc. That said, others have been calling me brave, and yes, sometimes crazy, for years, as I do things like spend the night in a desert, or go hiking on mountains for days on end.

I suppose that this jaunt in my life is about pulling  the safe, logical me a little closer to the daring, adventurous me.

My mom told me that she had recently discovered a note I had written as I got ready to head to college. On it, I had written something to the effect that I would go off to college, and then most likely come home, and that would be the last adventure I would ever have. Eighteen year old me obviously had no idea.

And isn’t that a beautiful thing, that a once timid, and possibly a little hopeless, eighteen year old, can now look at her life and see how far she has come and all that she has accomplished. Exactly 18 years later, I can know that the adventures are still out there to be had. I can know that I am able to explore. I’ve found that even though I haven’t necessarily lived my life perfectly, I’ve lived it richly.

Now, four and a half months after moving here, I’m hearing a voice that wants to come home. I’m nearing the end of this journey. It’s probably a good thing that I’ve been here long enough that I’m starting to miss my world in New York. It will give me a new appreciation as I walk back into that life. When I left, I had been living in a world where days ran into each other. I didn’t know what direction to take. Now, I still don’t have the exact sense of my direction, but I feel that in a more hopeful way. Not having a pointed arrow towards my next step means that there is possibility, opportunity. I can cast the net a little wider.

A client recently gave me this quote: “Life can only be lived forward, and understood backward.” I’ll keep living forward, and trust that all of the ups and downs, the frustrations and the joys that have come with this island will be understood with time. And I’ll appreciate that I was lucky enough to have lived it all.

Accentuate the Positive

I’ve noticed that my brain is filling itself up with negative thoughts of late. I’m sure it’s a result of numerous things, including another recent bout of sickness, concern about rocky finances, preparing to say goodbye to this Caribbean adventure and working on the next steps as I make my way back to New York City.

In yoga yesterday, the leader spoke about the importance of putting out positive thoughts and energy. She spoke about imprinting positive ideas on the world, and letting the positivity come back. I do believe that what you put out in the world, you tend to get back. So how do I shift my current brain patterns? How do I find that voice of strength that I know lives inside of me, and let that voice ring out more loudly?

I suppose I can’t expect the climb to be steady. Every hike has ups and downs. After I returned from my time on Kilimanjaro, I wrote these words to myself:

Despite the doubt in which I live, the woman who continued to climb is me. That story is a part of my story now. I carry the knowledge that continuing the journey leads me beyond the expected. Beyond what I imagine. Beyond what I believe I deserve- to what I do deserve.

I deserve to live my life to its fullest.

I deserve to be loved, for who I am, every part of me.

I deserve to stand in the fullness of who I am. Unapologetic.

I deserve to let myself achieve.

Not because of what I’ve done. Because of who I am. A fully realized, divine being.

Remember:

  • The path ahead may look steep, but if you move sure and steady, you will reach the top
  • Never forget to look back at how far you’ve come

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