The Time I Saw Green.

At first, it felt like it happened quickly – almost like smacking into a large rock, face first.  It was abrasive, jarring and seemed to come out of nowhere.  Suddenly, I was surrounded and I couldn’t shake it off.  I felt tattooed and no amount of scrubbing would take away the green stain.

I walked around, feeling green seeping into my skin; lounging on my hair, making home in my clothes.  It creeped behind me, in front of me, and next to me.  Everywhere I turned, there green was.  I was it and it was me – there was no more separation.

As I attempted to awkwardly walk along suddenly aware of the green at all times, I realized that it wasn’t a rock I hit – it was a wall made of multiple little rocks all stacked neatly on top of one another.  A wall that, if I really cared to notice, had been there all along – looming not so secretly in the distance.  But if you close one eye long enough, you can’t always see what’s right in front of your face.

As I walked on, it clinging to my legs like a ball and chain, the fog gave way and the wall wasn’t really a wall at all – it was a mountain.  Large.  Daunting.  Demanding.

I couldn’t find my way around the mountain.  Finding it hard to breath, I was surrounded by a suffocating vice grip that refused to let go.  Stealing each of my breathes for its own, green was feeding on me.

I shook in my skin.  I couldn’t get it off.  There was no fighting the green.  How had I never noticed this giant green mountain leering at me from every angle?  How had I not seen the individual rocks forming to make one giant obstacle all while I watched on, oblivious to its formation?  As I looked at the rocks, I saw each time the green had entered my soul, took hostage of my mind, parted my lips, and moved its way into existence.    I scrubbed my arms until they bled (because how do you scrub a soul?). I screamed and cried, “NO! This can’t be!  GET IT OFF OF ME.”

But the truth doesn’t wipe off easily.  The mountain made of individual green rocks of truth isn’t one that was built in a day and it certainly isn’t going to move any time soon.  I had put the rocks there – carefully, one by one over the years.  My eyes had been forced open abruptly to something that had been growing in minuscule ways for years.  Each rock, another truth that I had built into a mountain I could no longer ignore.

The mountain was green.  The mountain was ugly.  The mountain was no longer willing to hid in the shadows – it demanded the brightness of the sun.  It demanded to be climbed – to be conquered.  It would not sit and swell any longer.  The green had to be defeated.

Sometimes, we have to break down to the smallest parts of ourselves to really see how sharp and jarring the edges of the journey we are about to embark upon will actually be.  Pointed rock formations that are sharp like needles announce themselves like newborn babies’ teeth in the near distance.  There is no way to make this journey without feeling the cut or the pain.

But, at the smallest part of ourselves, we find that we can slip between the needles, only grazing the skin.  We find that we can be kind to ourselves because, suddenly, we seem less intimidating when we’re so small.  We put on the band-aids and sing soothing songs as we journey through the mountain.  Because after all, how can you be so mad, so angry, so hateful to something so small?  Breaking down to the smallest part of ourselves is the only way to make the journey.

Because when I am small, I can bear the green mountain at its worst.  Because when I am small, I am free of the green.  When I am small, all I can concentrate on is me.  And when I’m concentrating, not comparing, I no longer can see the green.

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The Time I Became a Master

There is beauty in routine.  It doesn’t always seem like it, but there is comfort in understanding the order of things; the rules and the way things work.  Routine often gets a bad rep – like traffic and taxes.  It seems to point to a boring life – a life of contentment and lacking adventure.  Where’s the spontaneity in routines?  How can I live my life hidden between the breathes of the comings and goings of every day monotony?  Routine is the death of the creative spirit – the place where old age warmly settles in – where creaks and crevices fill themselves lazily with the sands of time.

I love routine.

To me, routine is the ability to compartmentalize all the little things into their neat and organized boxes. shelved away on beautiful shelves, brimming with sunlight and possibility.  Pulling out the exact drawer that encases exactly what I need at the exact time I need it has become a mixture of art and science.  I know how to work within routine.  I know how to balance my time, finding nooks and crannies that stored unused time like treasure boxes waiting to be opened.

For two years, with only a three week break for Christmas, I wrote a paper a week.  My calendar was scheduled around discussion posts; readings on leadership theory, adult behavior, and communications; replies due on Saturdays and papers due on Sundays.  If I wore a watch, I could set my routine to it.  The weeks in and out, as predictable as the waves on the sand.

There were times I fought the routine.  I wished it would just leave me be with my thoughts and my ever growing to-do list.  But that’s the thing about routines, they are annoyingly and wonderfully persistent, all at the same time.  I spent found minutes thinking about all the things I’d do when grad school ended – the books I’d read, the articles i’d get back to, the writing I would finally put onto a page.  A fantasy among a routine – the perfect balance of reality and daydreams.

I graduated in December.  There was no fanfare nor grand, sweeping gestures to mark the day.  I quietly bid adieu to my old friend, who at this point had become comfortable like a sweatshirt passed down from a friend and worn with love till it was threadbare.

My apartment is empty – my brain can’t sit still.  My routine has abandoned me and I’m lost and rambling without it.  I never expected to mourn a gain that feels like a loss.  Time seeps in and out of the walls, bleeding everywhere and going faster than I ever could imagine.  To-do list lie half finished, waiting for a line of determination to slash through them with purpose.  Constant chattering of streaming shows move through the air, adding little value and providing little solace.

My routine; my friend.  You’ve left me wandering, wondering… adrift.  But I have made a decision, a fete that has not been easily won as of late: I will charge ahead with fearless determination, searching for your ever-loving embrace; your warmth offering peace and solace.  But, oh, routine, how many different masks you wear.  Today you dash about, a blur, covered in darkness.  But I shall find the light and shine it upon you as I realize, the light was in me all along.

Shine on.

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The times I forget.

It’s been far too long since I’ve posted!  Life has been, for lack of a better word, insane, and as I finally get my bearings again, I’m able to turn my attention back to writing.

This blog post, however, was actually written about a month ago.  There’s so much feeling here that I actually couldn’t bring myself to post it in real time.  It feels raw, and more vulnerable than other posts I’ve written.

There’s so much more to be told about my battle with weight.   More details surrounding this post will make themselves known at some point I’m sure.  There’s so much beauty buried in the crevices of this memory but they aren’t visible just quite yet.  So for now, I post it as it is – raw.  This moment, a moment that was exceedingly beautiful in so many ways, had a dark side that came tumbling out late at night.  And, this post was born – right in that moment.  Although passionate and makes me feel a bit exposed, I decided to share it because I think some will relate – and to share my story, even the dark parts, is important.

 

I don’t always remember that I’m fat, obese, a problem to be solved.  There are times that I forget.  Every now and then, when I’m driving in the car and the windows are down and the air feels crisp and my sunglasses are on, I forget.  Every now and then, when I’m alone in my apartment and in comfortable sweats, I forget.  When I sleep, I forget.  When I’m laughing, sometimes, I forget.

But, I remember, far too often.  When the make-up girl calls you over for your turn at the salon on you brother’s big day and you’re doing your best to convince yourself that everyone isn’t staring and judging and thinking in their heads “no amount of make-up will hide the rolls and flabs” only to have the voices scream in your head as the sides of the chair digs into your fat.  You barely fit.  You’re uncomfortable.  Everyone must notice you’re pouring out of every crevices, every side of the salon chair and there’s no amount of make-up that can remove the ugliness that is the redness on the skin you hate from being stuffed into a chair.  But you smile and try to talk about mascara instead – but you do not forget.

You remember when you see pictures in which you strategically tried every trick in the book – stand in the middle of a group, arms a certain way, head tilted, legs positioned to give you the best angle – and you still look like the wide side of a barn.  Especially awful when all those next to you now look even daintier and smaller compared to the elephant you seem to be resembling in your gray dress that simple does not hide the bulge.

You remember in every comment and every compliment about how “beautiful” you look.  You remember and you do not believe a word they say.  You know they are just being nice – being polite.  If they could talk about the weather, they would.  And maybe you’d believe them a little bit more.  But, as they slather you in compliments that you know are not true (you have eyes and unfortunately, mirrors, after all), you drip with resentment of the cellulite that clings to you, held in place by double pairs of Spanx.  The synching in your legs and the inability to bend over is also a painful reminder of the extra room you take up.

You remember as you head to a store because last year’s clothes simply do not fit any longer and you need something to wear.  As you barrel yourself through, positive everyone is staring with every earth-shattering boom your large ass makes next to teeny-boppers and girls you will never live up to, you head towards a section of the store specifically designed to remind you that you’re different: PLUS.  As if it wasn’t all embarrassing enough.  As if I didn’t already know that my size had increased, the large painted sign really helps my self-confidence as you’ve now pointed out my size to every Tom, Dick, and Harry that walks by the store and happens to glance in at the freakshow looking for a pair of denim jeans that will somehow not cut into her ever increasing flab.

You remember when you see the disappointment in others eyes and you quickly try to explain… knowing you’ll just drown your sorrows later as more and more of your dignity, value and any shred of self-respect is stripped away.  “IT WAS THE MEDICATION!” You want to scream.  “IT’S NOT ALL MY FAT FAULT!” You want to yell.  But you can’t in part because it’s too much soul-bearing for others to take and you do like ice cream… and so you make jokes and you try not to look anyone in the eye and you hope you can please others enough that they forget about your shame, your hurt, and your pain attached to your hips, butt and waist for all the world to see.  You carry your problems on the outside.  You don’t forget.

You remember when you see the countless infographics labeling your soul-bearing vessel an epidemic.  A problem.  A serious concern.  Statistics place you into categories and blame the success of communities, of the economy, of health care, of everything on your already shaking and unbearably wide shoulders.  As if you didn’t hate yourself enough – you know have the weight of your community and your state to add to the list.  A weight that at times, is too much to bear.  You’ve become a problem; an other; an issue that is a matter of public safety.  You need to be solved.

But every now and then… you forget.  And for those brief, fleeting, and infrequent moments, the weight is one you can actually bear.

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The Time Grandma Was Cookie Monster

Quiet has never been a word that crossed the lips of those who know me when asked to describe me.  As a child, I was a leader with a social calendar who was more interested in the social aspects of the t-ball game and color of the shirts than actually how to play the darn game.  My imagination knew very few limits and my constant need for chatter knew even fewer.  There are a few moments that stick out to me from my glorious childhood.  There are good memories of playing on the tire swing my dad attached to a tree in the front yard (it was a truck tire, so it was seriously awesome); memories of lilacs in the backyard and the obvious magical powers they held that allowed me to cross through them to a distant land; memories of my mom beautifully singing “rain drops on roses and whiskers on kittens…”  So many great memories dance through my head when I’m feeling nostalgic, smell lilacs or see a kick butt tire swing.

But there’s one memory that specifically jumps out to me.  Oddly, this memory doesn’t actually star me.  As a theatrical child from the word go, I liked to be, well, the star… of everything.  But this memory, this memory comes from a birthday party that wasn’t centered around me!  (It was actually for my brother, but i barely remember him being there…)  Suddenly, as if without warning, amidst the cake and presents (and probably my brother), the balloons (those I may have made up in my head) and the laughter coming from my family, arrived an unexpected guest: It was COOKIE MONSTER.

The next moments are a blur in my mind – going in extreme spurts of laughter, awe and pure wonder at this famous guest in my kitchen.  Swirls of colors, big blue paws and monster hugs, and tons and tons of laughter race through my mind like a carousel blurred in light.  Then, the memory changes – I notice someone is missing.  My grandma!!  My grandma is missing what is, for sure, the most important moment of anyone I know’s life.  We have a guest of honor all the way from Sesame Street and she’s missing it! She will be so sad to know she didn’t get a hug from Cookie himself.  I remember being concerned (or my adult mind is filling in the pieces) for her obvious missed opportunity.  The next moment I remember is seeing Cookie Monster fleeing down the stairs and through the door.  He was gone!  I chased after him, but must have been held back in some way, because he was always a few feet ahead of me.  I never was able to catch him.

Suddenly, my grandma reappeared.  I couldn’t wait to tell her what had happened while she stepped away.  Being the great grandma that she is, she played into my devastation of her missing the guest of a lifetime.  “You’re kidding!” she exclaimed.  “Oh, I can’t believe it!” Her voice is as clear as if she were sitting next to me.  My grandma has a tone about her, a laugh-like response that accompanies many of her phrases.  I can’t explain it – it’s a speech pattern that only my German grandma can posses.  But it speaks to my heart in a way that words cannot explain.

Today, years and year later, I hear less of her phrases that I’ve come to associate with her.  Instead, I hear the same question repeated over and over again, as if it’s a brand new thought.  I hear confusion, and see a lack of understanding as I watch my family explain to her something for the umpteenth time.  I see patience be tested as words are repeated and answers are given again and again in hopes that one will stick.  It isn’t a surprise – the signs have been there for years.  Dementia is a slow serpent that steals away bits and pieces when you’re not looking – or even when you are.  What’s happening is not unusual for those who are lucky enough to age, but it breaks my heart.  I am not equipped to understand what comes next – how to adjust to the idea that normal is, in fact, now and not what used to be.

My grandma will not remember the day she was my Cookie Monster hero.  She will not remember the races (I use that word lightly – she always won) up and down the steps at Blackhawk State Park or the games of German Sorry we played in her basement.  My grandma’s mind, so much of what makes her, her, is fleeting, just down the stairs, and through the door – and none of us seem to be able to catch her.

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The Great Battle: Convenience vs. Sacrifice

I don’t often listen to radio interviews.  I don’t usually relate well to bands or musicians telling about their lives on the road, how they fit the perfect amount of exercise in on the tour bus at 3:30am between shows, or how they manage to always down that green smoothie made with things that should never be blended together and claimed to be good.  So, when interviews come on, I tend to turn the dial or turn off the radio all together and enjoy the quiet.

But, for some reason, I was drawn in to the interview with Christian band, Tenth Avenue North on Air1 (my all time favorite radio station).  The band seemed extremely down to earth and were, honestly, hilarious, so I listened in.  It was somewhere along my 15 minute ride to work, however, that a band member (no idea which one) said something that hit me like a ton of bricks and made me think… for weeks.

The band member said something along the line of “Are we living our lives out of convenience or out of sacrifice?”   Perhaps that isn’t as life-altering for you as it was for me, but at that exact moment, that hit my heart, my soul, and my mind in all the right places.  Being that Tenth Avenue North is a Christian band and they were talking on a Christian radio station, the intent was obviously religious.  But, upon thinking over the comment (which was honestly, made very nonchalantly), I realized that it has so much to offer – religious or not.

Now, I am of the Christian persuasion.  I love God and Jesus Christ and I try to live my life in a way that honors Him.  I am a practicing Catholic, however, I’m extremely open minded when it comes to religion.  I tend to believe that your relationship with God is extremely personal and can mean a million different things to a million different people.  In my mind, to think otherwise, is to really put God in a box and that just seems a bit too neat and tidy for a all-mighty being.  I love being Catholic because I find comfort, peace and God amongst the traditions.  But, I respect all religious beliefs and find personal value and interest in all sorts of opinions and beliefs.

So, back to the phrase… The idea of convenience versus sacrifice really stuck in my.  I literally feel like the idea was a shard that was lodged in my side as I walked through life.  Suddenly, every decision I made had another layer to filter through.  In my analytic and data loving mind, each decision is already wrung through a myriad of filters, to the point where the decision is as flat as a the perfect pie crust or freshly laundered sheets.  There is no crevice left unturned, no corner left un-flutted.  But this idea was a completely new way to look at things.  Suddenly, everything had more meaning:

Was I eating this treat out of sacrifice (honoring my body and my desire to be thinner) or convenience (giving in to temptations and wants that I had RIGHT NOW)?

Was I sleeping in and skipping Mass out of convenience (it had been a long week – I deserved this!) or sacrifice (I’m pretty sure God deserves far more than an hour of my time weekly…)?

Was I filling my life with meetings, events, commitments, and such as a convenience (I wouldn’t have time to take care of myself and I couldn’t be blamed for what would happened because of my busyness) or sacrifice (I was working towards accomplishing a greater goal and needed to put in the time)?

Sadly, more often than not, my answers were frequently the same: convenience.

In a world of microwave everything, instant whatevers, and quick fixes, it is so easy to jump into the convenience line and party-harty there for awhile.  It’s easier to go on dates with the wrong guy because he’s interested than value myself enough to say “this isn’t what I want and I can spend my time better elsewhere”.  It’s easier to eat the PB&J than plan ahead and have a healthy dinner in the crockpot waiting for me when I get home.  It’s easier to buy new clothes than hem or take better care of the ones I have.  It’s easier to skip the workout, eat the ice cream and really just bum it out after a long week than push myself to live a healthier life style.

Convenience is just that: convenient.  But when in life was convenient really what mattered?  Have we gotten so busy that if everything isn’t tucked away neatly into a pre-packaged microwavable container that we really can’t stomach the opportunity to take it on?  The joys in life come from the sacrifice – from the improved ability from toughing it out and practicing through the rough spots; the weight loss achieved through diet and exercise versus diet pills or shots; the times we look ourselves straight in the heart and do something that’s difficult – break up, say no, or admit we need help – because in the end, it’s better for our mental, emotional and physical health.  These moments cannot be microwaved – these are full-on, preheat the oven to 375 degree moments but the joy that we find when pulling them out of the oven cannot be beat.

It’s time to start pre-heating some decisions and focus far more on sacrifice than convenience.  Let the battle begin.

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A Letter To My Children

I often think about the children that I do not yet have.  These children of mine are years and years away from even becoming a spark of existence, and yet, I pray for them, as their souls dance about in the beyond, waiting for the right time for God to put them into my life (which is well into my 30s if I have anything to say about it).  I think about the singing to them in the backseat of the car as I drive them about town.  I think about hugging them for a second longer than necessary as I dry them off from their bathes, squirming to run and play, carefree and happy.  I think about what to say to them when their hearts are broken, their disappointments realized, or their understanding of the world is a little dark than the day before.

And so, a letter to my children…

Dear Little Ones,

I have no idea who you are, and yet you are so familiar to me, I can sense the scent from the top of your head and the feel of the skin of your little fingers.  I have never been a person to gravitate towards children.  Even as a child myself, I had far better things to do than concern myself with the crying likes of you.  On a whole, children confound me, make me panic and quite frankly, annoy the living daylights out of me (except for the select few).  But you, my little ones, you are slightly less annoying than the rest.

There are so many times through my journey in life that I stop to think of you.  I have so many words of wisdom to share with you that I can barely contain my pure joy!  Do you know how long it took me to realize I could clean my garbage can in the shower?  (Not while you’re in the shower – that’s a gross kind of multitasking)  Years from now, as you get ready to move out on your own, I will teach you my ways and buy you extra towels because cleaning garbage cans is drippy business.

I will hold your hand as you venture through love, and run my fingers through your hair as you cry that you don’t understand.  I will try to avoid telling you I know, because even though I do, your heartache is all your own and seems so deep that it can’t possible be felt by anyone else.  But know, my heart breaks for you too, and you do not hold your pain alone.  As I journey through my own messy and scatterplot love life, I think of you and know that each dating decision I make determines more than just my life – but yours as well.  You’re awfully demanding for not yet existing…. How high of standards you have for someone who is not yet even of this world.

I will let you kick your door instead of cleaning your room because I know eventually your heels will hurt, you’ll realize you’re doing no one any good and you’ll pick up your room anyways (been there).  I’ll let you pack your suitcase to run away from home and give you $5 to help get you started… and then, I will leave the light on and the door unlocked so that when you get to the end of the driveway, you’ll know you can come back in.  I won’t say much more than a “welcome back” and let you go on your way as if this was your plan all along.  Your adventures will be many, but running away will never work.  You will have too many shoes for such a silly undertaking and never enough luggage for it all.  Sooner rather than later, you will understand that churning through the muck is sometimes the only way through, but as you come out on the other side, you will never again undervalue the beauty of a clean pair of shoes and a freshly scrubbed soul.

I pray that you have small heads because big headed babies completely weird me out.  I pray that you never see the point in soccer and gravitate towards indoor sports (and by sports, I mean theatre or piano lessons) where mommy can avoid the rain and the cold and have a decent bathroom.  I pray that you’re greatest gift is the gift of laughter and that you never, ever have to eat beets, but can’t get enough of green olives. I pray that your art is hilarious, your eyes sparkle with imagination, and you love Rod Stewart as much as I do.

My dear little ones, I am in no rush for you.  Years down the line, I will finally meet you, I will look  you in the eyes, and say, “well, hello, dear one.”  For I have known you always, and will love you for just as long.  Please know, that so much of what I do now, you’ll high-five me for later.  The journey ebbs and flows in all different ways – most of which I couldn’t anticipate.  But you, you I know I will meet some day.  I already know you, can sense your smell, and feel you in my heart; someday, our journeys will intertwine.

Oh, dear little ones of mine…

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The Time I Figured Out How To Save The World

I have a confession to make: I don’t keep up on world news.  I barely keep up on what’s happening locally, let alone what’s going on across the country or around the globe.  (If it’s any consolation, I also have no idea what’s going on in the world of sports… or entertainment)  While in theory, I want to be an educated citizen of this crazy place we call Earth, I just can’t bring myself to fill my mind with terrors, wars, and tortures happening in places I can barely pronounce or locate on a map let alone do anything about.  I realize that my “ignorance is bliss” attitude is really getting the world no where and in my own ways, I’m contributing to the problems.  But, my heart can only handle so much and hearing about a 27 year old women (only a year younger than myself) being stoned to death for supposed adultery is more than I can take.

But I can’t help but think that even though I can’t stomach reading about the terrors of this world and coming to terms with the fact that I am helpless in most circumstances, I do think I have a solution that really would solve all of the world’s problem.  Enter: vulnerability… Enter: Brene Brown.

For those who aren’t familiar with her work, I am a HUGE Brene Brown fan.  I stumbled upon her work in a way that I don’t quite remember, but I was instantly taken with her.  Her humor, her openness and her downright brilliance shook my inner core.  I felt like she was saying, “Hey you!  Listen up!”  And listen I did.

Brene is a shame researcher who focuses on the importance of vulnerability.  While the topic may not sound super sexy right off the bat, I don’t think there’s much that’s more worthwhile to study.  Brene focuses on the difference between shame and guilt, how to live a wholehearted life and points out that all of this begins with vulnerability.

I think the world could use a little more Brene.  My entire world was shifted upon hearing her research presented and reading her books.  I realized that my dancing partner at the homecoming dance we all call “dating” was nothing more than shame.  I was ashamed to say I was single at age 28.  I was ashamed to say that another relationship had failed.  I was ashamed to say I just couldn’t seem to find a decent partner who made me feel whole, supported, valued and alive all at the same time.  With each failed date, with each online dating profile I completed, and each relationship status changed on Facebook, shame ate a little bit more of my soul.

Brene opened up my eyes to see that I had been approaching life from a place of shame.  When looking in the mirror, I shamed myself constantly for not being thin enough, not being pretty enough, not having the right hair, small eyes, and the ability of a 5 year old when it came to eye shadow.  Shame filled every corner of every crevice.  Shame was everywhere.

But this isn’t about me.  This is about the world.

As I read about more terrorist attacks, more suicides, more senseless shootings, I can’t help but think that perhaps shame is the driving force behind it all.  We are so consumed with protecting ourselves from the dark sinister monster called “shame” that we put up mounds of armor and can no longer feel who we are inside.  Without vulnerability, we can’t have the ability to make and sustain peace.  Without the opportunity to whisper, “I’m hurting” and have someone, anyone, hear us, we can’t find the way out of the darkness of shame and the light of vulnerability.

Oh, but all too often, vulnerability makes us uncomfortable.  If you show me yours, I’ll have to show you mine. All too often we are taught to hide away our scars, put on a happy face and pretend like it’s all fine.  Our lives are run by news feeds and Photoshop when our hearts and our souls are cracking from the burden of real life and the lack of opportunity to connect and be vulnerable.  To only be able to say, “I need help,” “I can’t do it on my own,” or “Help me understand…” These are magical words that open up a safe place for understanding.  To hold our fears, our shames, and our hurts together, in the palm of each other’s hands and say “I’ve been there, too.”

Vulnerability transcends borders, both physical and emotional.  Vulnerability breaks down the differences, if only we are brave enough to let it do so, and put us all on equal playing ground.  To be so trusting as to put your heart on the line is to be truly brave.  How many lives could be saved, how many wars could be avoided, simply by having the courage to be vulnerable with one another and to hold that vulnerability with the deepest respect and gentlest of hands.  To be able to actual listen to one another and use our words rather than our weapons; our voices rather than our bombs; our feelings rather than our armor.

How much different would the world be?

 

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Homeostasis

Lately, my thoughts have been consumed with a plethora of things (aren’t they always), but I’ve found them to be a bit deeper than normal thoughts suitable for a Wednesday in early August during the midst of regular life filled with so-and-sos of every day and who’s-and-whats of normality.  The tides of my life represented by the throwing back of my duvet in exhaustion and, as quite the opposite, grasping the duvet tightly in my fists as I swirl myself into a ball of covers, safe in a cocoon of sleep are quickly rushing in and out without so much as a glance or even pause of wonderment.

Life is normal.

I say that very tongue in cheek.  Right now, at this exact moment, life is normal.  No large and unwanted dramas are battling for prime real estate within my soul, no deadlines loom over me, no problems need solving, no feelings are hurt, no cause needs advocating.  At this very moment in time… life is normal.

But it hasn’t always been that way and it certainly won’t stay that way for long.  Through the strange mention of argyle socks, I’ve found myself happily in a relationship with a man who is kind and wonderful in so many ways, but, perhaps most importantly, accepts me for exactly who I am – a myriad of new territories for my romantic journeys.  My weight, while still annoyingly and frustratingly high, is lower than it was yesterday, so today is a win.  My complexion is relatively clear and my dishes are all stacked neatly in the dishwasher.  At this very moment, I am content.

But morning will come, illness will strike, weight will fluctuate, toes will be stubbed, feelings will wither and crumble, and the homeostasis of this very moment will be nothing more than a distant memory that I have very little recollection of.  At some point, as I race through the tides of my life, I have to stop and realize that while I may consciously change the colors of my duvet of which I mark my tides, there are thousands of other small, seemingly insignificant markers that make up this ocean of a journey.  How quickly I rush through; how easily I buy into the drama and politics of the chattering everyday ridiculousness.

How very little time I spend floating, completely at peace with the exact moment of my existence – the only real moment I have – in my ocean of a journey.  I have dissected, researched, analyzed, poured over and prayed over so many parts of who I am.  Am I Type A? Do I delegate well?  Am I a people pleaser? Where are my weaknesses?  How do I improve?  Are my cookies worthy?  Do I look decent enough in these pants that I won’t attract looming stares and thoughts of judgement radiating from pupils like darts in a late night bar?  Are my actions worthy?  Are my feelings worthy? Does my age, level of experience, and overwhelming desire to live a vulnerable and transparent life degrade my professionalism?  At this weight, am I worthy?  In my own life, am I worthy?

In this spirit of the chaos – the knowing that this homeostasis is more fragile than my heart after blurting out “I love you!” for the first time – I honor this very moment to give myself permission to float.

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Plans: Death’s breakfast of choice.

Upon my return from Atlanta, my life went into whirlwind mode.  Coming back from a week long intense conference left not only my brain exhausted, but my head spinning and my inbox overflowing.  As I shuffled through catch up work and made plans for the next week, I felt like life was finally getting back to a routine.  If I’ve learned anything about myself on this journey of self-exploration, it’s that I crave a plan and routine like smokers crave that sweet, toxic stick of death.

As I moved through life, knocking things off my to-do list, planning ahead for the week, and figuring out all the knicks and knacks that had to be done, my life came to a screeching and jarring halt.  As I flipped through my Facebook news feed, I noticed quite a few pictures of my friend, Todd.  Thinking perhaps it was his birthday or there was a get-together that took place while I was out of town, I brushed it off as a joke between friends that I wasn’t in on.  But suddenly, Todd’s name started showing up in other ways, in ways I never thought I would read.

My friend was murdered.

As my back thumped into the cold back of my suddenly extremely uncomfortable chair, my face flushed and my mind just simply didn’t comprehend.  My friend of the past 6 years had lost his life in a gruesome way that I later found out was more than likely at the hand of one of his friends and involved a knife, brutal force, and fire to cover it up.  While I won’t go into the gory details, the bottom line is that my friend’s beautiful blue eyes and heartwarming smile were now cold and only seen as a memory.

Todd and I were not extremely close.  Todd was a friend who I loved to see and always made me laugh.  While I wasn’t his best friend, I always looked forward to our meet ups because I knew they would be full of smiles, laughter and least of all, judgement.  You see, Todd was a bit more of a social butterfly than I and in the past, I have gotten slack from some of my friends for my love of staying home and going to bed early.  While I always appear to be an extrovert, I recharge the way an introvert does – on my own – and i frequently run out of juice by the time the week is done.  I’m so involved, that I need my time on my own.  While Todd didn’t at all work the way I did, I felt he was always one of my friends that I could count on not to give me any grief – only a smile.

As the news poured in over my Facebook feed through news outlets, friends’ posts and random memories of Todd, my head began to spin.  How could my friend, my friend, be murdered?  How could someone I know be taken from this earth at the hand of someone else – at the direct hand, at that matter?  This was no act of God, no mere accident, no illness that won in an epic and final battle.  This was pure insanity, pure hate, pure evil at work.

I went into crisis mode, planner mode. Suddenly, I was being contacted by the media for statements about Todd.  As a leader in my young professional organization (of which Todd also belonged), every media outlet was looking for a way in on who Todd was.  I began portioning out the stories like rations, trying to fulfill some level of honor for Todd by letting those who were hurt the most tell their story to thousands perched on their couches waiting for the latest thrill of the movie-like incident that washed over our town like a Brad Pitt sighting.  It’s all anyone could talk about, and to know Todd, well, you were almost an instant celebrity.  While funneling out information to those in the dark and coordinating interviews, updates and gatherings to pay tribute to Todd’s memory, I didn’t have time to think or feel.  I only had time to plan.  If there’s one thing I love almost as much as planning, it’s logistics, and this was a logistical interest that kept my mind busy.

But then I went home.  Exhausted, I walked into my lonely apartment, stale with the curtains drawn and my bed unmade, and looked around.  I dropped my bags, my shoulders hunched and suddenly, I wept.  Soon, the weeping turned to sobbing and the sobbing turned to hyperventilating.  I couldn’t comprehend what had happened to my friend.  But, beyond the fact of a life taken far too soon – a life that would be terribly missed by our entire community, I couldn’t understand it – he had plans.

There was so much about Todd’s death that bothered me.  The brutality of it.  The fact that Todd was genuinely one of the nicest people I had ever met with perhaps one of the biggest hearts.  The sobering fact that at some point, death calls for us all.  The fact that a life was taken too soon – a life that had so much left to do.  But the one thing that nagged at my emotions and chewed on my very existence was what happens to all the plans??

I have built my life around plans.  They have worked well for me and they have bit me in the butt.  They have made me rejoice in triumph and they have made me weep in pure sorrow and feel like a failure.  But, they have always existed and have always come to fruition in one way or another.  Suddenly, Todd’s plans didn’t matter any more.  Death triumphs plans.  This, this I could not fathom.  What about the meals I plan to make?  The friends I plan to catch up with?  The 50 lbs I plan to lose?  The family I plan to have?  The dinner date I plan to go on?  The places I plan to visit?  In an instant, the plans were gone.

My soul was crushed.  Death could take away my plans.  It seemed as if it was the final insult – to rob a girl of her plans.  This could not be.  I could not let death take these from me.  But yet, as I sobbed on my kitchen floor both for Todd and his plans, a small voice whispered inside my ear that one day, my plans too, would be nothing more than Cheerios for death.

As I picked myself up off the floor and squinted through puffy eyes, I thought about what to do next.  The planner in me had to make a plan for what to do about my plans.  (This is where I should have also realized I may have a planning problem.)  While sitting there and fighting through waves of sickness and sadness for the loss of my friend, I couldn’t find an answer.  To rid myself of plans is to rid myself of a large part of my very essence.  To stick to my plans was to sentence myself to a constant peering over my shoulder for death’s looming jaws threatening my sweet morsels.

I pushed through the week.  I sit here on my bathroom floor with journal in hand and planner at my side.  I’m at a crossroads, a juxtaposition: I don’t know how to proceed forward.  At times, I know that understanding death is always just a few steps away is crippling to the point that you won’t ever do anything.  But to leave everything to plans, and to assume every tomorrow is promised, is also a life foolishly lived.  There has to be a middle ground – a place where I can enjoy the plans made, but take life as it comes in the same breath.  The idea of spontaneity terrifies me, but beckons in little ways.

When thinking about how I want to live my life in such a way that I pay tribute to all the greatness that Todd was, I see him running ahead in my mind.  In one hand, a drink (because Todd loved himself a drink or two) and in the other, some of my plans.  He runs, mischievous grin on his face, faster than I hope to catch him any time soon.  He laughs, the most free laugh that I have ever heard.   He takes my plans and he throws them to the wind.  “What does it matter??” he’d say.  “Live your life today, for today is all you have!  Today is all that is real.  Tomorrow does not exist and yesterday can never be returned!  Today, today is your only day.  Plan for that.”

Oh, but Todd, my dear sweet friend.  I didn’t ask you enough questions, enjoy your smile enough or hear your laugh nearly enough times.  Stop running so fast!  Bring back my plans!  Whatever shall i do without them?

Live.  You shall live.

Rest in peace, dear friend.  I will miss you, always.

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Lumpy Expectations

Today, I baked and assembled a wedding cake.

Now, for those of you who don’t know me, I LOVE to bake.  I love the satisfaction I get at making other people smile by feeding them yummy and delicious treats.  People seem to think baking takes some sort of magic, when in reality, it only take a few measuring cups, a half way decent oven, the ability to read and vanilla to whip up something fabulous.  (All things fabulous involve vanilla.)

Anyways, my little brother is getting married in October and I, foolishly and much to the objection of my mother, said I would make the wedding cake.  I love to bake!  How hard could it be?  I only had to create the cake that they cut – they would buy sheet cakes for people to actually eat.  So my only job is the cake that everyone in the entire wedding oohs and aahs over, is documented in pictures, and symbolizes who knows what, but I’m sure something important… I mean, how hard could it be?

The answer?  Hard.

Now, let me tell you a bit more about the years of baking past.  My food ALWAYS tastes good.  I love all things food (my waistline will back that up) and I have no qualms about jumping into a recipe, spatula first.  But somehow, while the food tastes great, I have yet to manage this little thing called presentation.  I can’t seem to get things to look, well, right.  They’re always a little misshapen, disheveled or lacking.  Dive in, your taste buds will rejoice, but your eyes?  They may be better off closed.

So, when I agreed to make this wedding cake, I clearly wasn’t thinking.  Wedding cakes are notorious for tasting decent but looking fabulous – the exact opposite of my skill set.  But, after a trip to Michael’s where I bought out the Wilton section, I figured, how hard could it be??  Let me repeat: hard.

After 8 hours of baking and layering and fondanting and smoothing and butter creaming and decorating and my feet aching, I wound up with a sad, squat and somewhat leaning cake that left much to be desired.  Oddly, I was crushed.

Somewhere between aisle 6 and 7 at Michael’s, I had conjured visions of grandeur in my head.  My eyes soaking up the beautiful pictures of perfect cakes just waiting to be created.  My mind positive I could do this – how hard could it be?  It started out fun!  I was going to create something gorgeous!  All would be jealous!!  Look at me, I can do it all!

Side note: I can’t.

At first, it was kind of funny.  But then, as this lumpy cake sat squatly looking at me, it started to actually make me a combination of angry and mad.  This cake represented so much of what I felt like was happening in my life.  Everything was always just a tiny bit off.  I suddenly was filled with waves of self-doubt and anger.  Always, always my life was like this cake.  I had such great expectations and the end result was always a little bit lumpy.

There are so many days when I really try.  I try to put together a cute outfit or do my hair just right or perfect that darn contraption they call eye liner.  But, by 10am, my hair is flipping out in a weird direction, my eyeliner is now more of a noseliner and my outfit is somehow highlighting all the wrong places while ridding up and bulging in weird ways.  I end up dating lumpy cake guys who never work out.  I work out in lumpy cake ways always awkward on the treadmill and feeling like I just don’t get it.  I lumpy cake my way through dieting and exercise only to see little to no results.

And all around me, I see gorgeous cakes with perfectly toned arms on which they hang their beautiful cake beaus, smiling in their beautiful cake ways with their eyeliner perfectly in place and their clothes never even thinking of betraying them.

The lumpy cake days are the ones that get me.  Some how, I have to find a way to look at my lumpy cake life and lumpy cake self, and find some sort of beauty in the lumps.  Some days, that’s easier said than done.  But, isn’t it always said, that the imperfects are what make life so worth living??  I do have to say, however… I wouldn’t mind a gorgeous cake day now and then… or a guy that appreciates lumpy cake.

Care for a slice, anyone?

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