Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Time is Hear Ye!

Christmas Eve will find me
Where the love light gleams...

Like I've waxed on about before, music has played a large role in my life this year. It soothes, awakens, enlightens, enthralls, makes clear what is swirly and dark. It has been a gift in my sobriety, a wish I had that has somehow come to be. 

This year, the gift culminates with my first Christmas album with my friend Joe, Christmas Time is Hear Ye! We cover our old and new favorites, from the crooning standards like I'll Be Home for Christmas, to the unconventional carol Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis.

Click here to view the album, or listen via the player below. May your holidays be filled with love and light!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

'Tis the Season!

With my birthday so close to Christmas, my family didn't really develop any holiday-centric traditions. Sometimes we give our gifts on Christmas Eve, sometimes we spend the morning playing board games and drinking my father's awful coffee, sometimes we buck Christmas all together and celebrate the Solstice. Every year is special, every year is lovely, but there hasn't been one intentional through line that ties one year to the next.

What I have is an accidental tradition. Very much on a whim one year, my friend Richard and I posed as George and Martha from Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? for a Christmas card. Since then, we've recreated scenes as celebrities, iconic duos, and even "ourselves," to wish our friends and families happy holidays. It's frivolous fun, something we look forward to and start preparing for months ahead.

After seven years, this is probably, solidly a tradition. And I didn't realize it until this very moment, but this year, we appropriately chose The Seven Year Itch as our inspiration! Any ideas on who we should portray next year?

George and Martha, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? – 2006

Harper and Prior, Angels in America – 2007

 Holly and "Fred," Breakfast at Tiffany's – 2008

"Ourselves" – 2009

Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe – 2010 

 Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgwick – 2011

 The Girl and Richard, The Seven Year Itch – 2012

Saturday, December 1, 2012

10,000 Hours

Music video shoot for a Seattle artist. 

"Ten thousand hours felt like ten thousand hands.
Ten thousand hands, they carry me." – Macklemore

Since making space in my heart and mind earlier this year, incredible things have come to pass. I am relearning language, articulating truths and feeling out honesty. I've explored my own backyard and found beautiful new corners of my city and state. I've learned hard lessons. And most delightful of all, music has bloomed, billowed, exploded. 

How band practice usually starts. 

From helping out at a music video shoot (see above), to crafting a song out some lyrics that came to my head while carrying coffee back to my apartment (I've learned that the voice memo app on iPhones is perfect for capturing words when you don't have a pen and paper), music has suddenly become a very important part of my life. I put the intention out that I wanted more rhythm and joy, and people started knocking on my door. I sang my favorite song at a house party, I recorded some vocal tracks for a friend from high school, I'm slated to record a demo with my bandmate in January. Sometimes it makes my head spin. 

Recording in my childhood bedroom. 

Music has also given me something to hone and practice, to wildly make mistakes and learn from them. As I've written before, I struggle with perfectionism and living within other people's definitions of success. As I log my 10,000 hours, there are rough moments, raw realizations, the potential for me to get hard on myself because I didn't get it right the first time. But those cracks give the light a chance to shine through, and I am grateful for every moment I get to spend making music and mistakes. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012


This has been a month of music for me! I am very lucky to live in a city that lives and breathes music—some of the best musicians in the world call this place home, and many artists make a stop here on their tours.

The month started with Xavier Rudd, an Australian artist with a giant spirit. I stumbled upon his closing prayer at his Bumbershoot set a few years ago, and stood spellbound. He trances with didgeridoos, deep drum beats, and words of healing and love.

Next came Macklemore, who has been making waves around the world with his track Same Love, which supports marriage equality. I've been following Macklemore's career since he started making waves on local nonprofit radio. Now he is suddenly huge, performed to a sold-out audience of 7,500 people, and had the number one album on iTunes for four days. All without a record label. His lyrics are authentic, hilarious, and heartbreaking. If you haven't already, watch the video below. Warning: it WILL make you cry.

The following week, I fulfilled one of my life goals and saw David Byrne in concert. He is currently touring with St. Vincent in support of their collaborative album. The show was a show: choreographed dance moves, crazy lights, and head-filling sound. My friend and I didn't think they would perform any Talking Heads songs, and they performed three of our favorites!

Next up was First Aid Kit. I missed them the first time they came through, but this time I was lucky enough to snag a ticket. Plus, the show was a benefit for 826 Seattle! They cast spells with their music, and sing with voices beyond their years.

Lastly, Lord Huron. I didn't get to go this show because I was sick, but the music is too good not to share. I call it ambient surf rock, lovely harmonies glide with a lilting guitar. Check it out.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Of Accidents, Emergency Rooms, and Letting Go of Anger

Sometimes, things have to explode for you to take a moment to pause. Sometimes those things are hot, sugary shards of glass that embed themselves in your skin. Let me explain.

Yesterday, an accident in the kitchen involving a Pyrex of cinnamon rolls set on the wrong burner (I meant to heat the tea kettle, and accidentally set the front burner to high) sent glass all over my tiny kitchen and into my right hand and forearm. I let out a string of incredibly creative expletives just as my friend Joe showed up for our afternoon music session. I told him we were going to the emergency room instead.

The lacerations were minor, the burns second degree, but it still hurt like fire in my veins. After the emergency room, Joe and I hunkered down with Thai food and British comedies. My apartment still smelled like delicious cinnamon rolls. I fell asleep trying to keep my arm propped up, like the nurse had told me to.

Joe was a champion, going above and beyond his friend duties. He kept one arm around me as we drove, cleaned my kitchen while I called my people to tell them what happened, and helped me redress my wounds before bed. Earlier in the week, we had gotten into a disagreement, and when I spoke to him about it in the moment, I felt my teeth grind, my heart pound, my voice tip into that strained octave. By the next day, I felt fine. I had let go being angry, and after a quick conversation, we were right back where we had started.

Two years ago, I would have let that anger burn. It would have smoldered into a resentment, possibly ending our friendship. I used to have no patience. I would cut people out of my life for minor offenses, but held on to toxic friendships that fed my addiction to victimhood and perceived power. Now, however, I'm able to practice "live and let live." If I had held on to that anger, Joe wouldn't have been there.

These cuts and burns will heal, and one day I'll gain full mobility of my hand. I'll always remember to check the burners, and I'll be forever grateful to my friend who was there in such a stellar way. Lessons learned.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Breathe. Believe. Receive.

Cousin Riah and her contribution to a blank wall and chalk we found when walking after dinner. *Please pardon the spelling error!*

As I have shared before, I am continually inspired by my family. They transcend time, they follow their bliss full throttle, and they know what I need before I even do. We're a collection of odd ducks, of bar tenders and artists and teachers and shadow agents (I'm convinced my papa works for the CIA, because I have no idea what a HVAC VP sales rep does). When we get together, it is all laughter, cooking, singing, like no time has passed between our gatherings.

So when my cousin Riah came to visit, once again, it was like no time has passed. We continued conversations we were having a year ago, and what started as musings are now real, fully formed ideas and opinions. In the time we spent apart we continued on our trajectories, not knowing the other was experiencing the same thing. 

We decided this may be the picture definition of "traipsing." 

There are surface similarities (like getting facial piercings within a day of each other—we had no idea what the other was planning to do!), but beyond that, our beliefs and values have grown alongside each other. We're both experiencing this shift, this openness to the universe and what it has to offer. It's one thing to have these kinds of tumbling talks with a friend, but someone you've known you're entire life? It's absolutely wild. 

Our conversations centered around the theme of not knowing what the day will bring. All we have is this moment, and we have no idea what will come our way. All we have control over is our intentions, our energy we put out into the world. I can experience the world with love and lightness, let go of particulars, and be open to offerings. 

Her visit was a breath of fresh air in the routine, an affirmation of my recent choices. Thank you, Riah!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Explanation for an Absence

Back in December when I wrote about love, I made a wish to the world for peace, health, and light in the new year. While I included myself in that collective whole, I had no idea the transformation that take place in the coming months. I had a vague sense that something would shift, but I thought it would be an external factor, like a new job or boyfriend. Turns out, the shift was internal and scary, joyful, and radiant.

After some dark moments, I started to realize that the things I wanted were within my grasp, but I was making unhealthy choices that cut me off from them. This started a slow awakening, a laborious sunrise, light that crept into the edges of my vision (Missa picked up on this in my posts). Then, something clicked. The answer was in front of me the whole time, the pieces were in place, I just needed to speak the words, and when I did, my shivers ran through my body like cold lightning.

Before I came out as an alcoholic, the idea of not drinking terrified me. I thought about everything I would lose (the friends, the loose limbs, the confidence). I looked at it like a deficit, something I would have to trudge through life without. Now, on the other side, my life is taking turns in ways I never thought possible. It's like I opened the doors and invited warmth, music, adventure, and a new sense of physicality to come and roost. The first time, I'm feeling what it's like to live wholly in the present, to engage on a corporeal level. I'm more my self than I ever have been, and it is a wondrous thing.

So, after a few months of experiencing this new way of being, I'm ready to return and dive in head first.  You are all so lovely and gracious, and it is a privilege to share my thoughts with you. Thank you thank you thank you.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

How Do You Make Time For It All?

"What comes first, the compass or the clock? Before one can truly manage time (the clock), it is important to know where you are going, what your priorities and goals are, in which direction you are headed (the compass). Where you are headed is more important than how fast you are going. Rather than focusing on what's urgent, focus on what is important." – Unknown

I run into this problem every once in a while. There are just so many things I want to do! I want to sing in a band, I want a daily yoga practice, I want to write a novel, I want to finish The Artist's Way, I want to give myself a pedicure when I need it, I want to practice Transcendental Meditation, I want to make all my meals from scratch, I want to take horseback riding lessons, I want to regularly contribute this blog. All of these things I know will be good for me demand my attention on a daily basis (except maybe the horseback riding lessons), so how do I make time for it all?

This is another lesson is treating myself gently, and with respect. I can't do everything, but I know these things bring me joy. And joy is where I am headed. So even if I can't do it all, and I can't do it regularly, making more time in my life for simple pleasures—the bead of sweat tickling my back as I move into Downward Dog, the meditative focus of cooking in my kitchen—will remind me in the moment of what joy feels like.

I tend to devote myself entirely to whims, believing each to be my new path in life. This causes rapid fire burnout, like relationships that are all hot sex at the beginning, and then you realize you have nothing in common.

I learned recently that today, this moment, is all I have. So experiencing joy one day at a time seems much more doable than a radical shift in my routine to make room. And eventually, the things I make time for every day will become a part of the routine. I have to start somewhere, why not right now?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Nature and Nurture

Aspiring Yogi!

The mountains are calling, and I must go. – John Muir

I am very privileged to live in a place of such immense natural beauty. On my walks home in the fall, I can see Mt. Rainier blushing in the sunset. The Sound sends salt breezes across my tongue. The trees are regal and tall, and sidewalk gardens grow wild and lush. My environment is alive.

My friend Maria and I ventured to the mountains to enjoy the cool, damp, green shade of the trails. On the way up to the peak, we couldn't help but smile. Our endorphins were propelling our feet forward, and we could feel the natural energy from the forest in our fingertips. When we reached the top, we drank in the views.

The view of our challenge from the beginning of the trail 

Maria and our companion Coco 

The view from the top

Not enough can be said about the power of nature. The cradling qualities of lakes and forests, or the terrible wrath of storms and oceans. Many view the great outdoors as an escape from the city, from "it all." The place where God* is. I find God in all corners of my world. In the human ingenuity that built skyscrapers, the human creativity that learned to sculpt and make fire. God is also in the remote untouched, wild territory.

If all around me is considered sacred, then it makes sense to treat everyone and everything with respect. This is, of course, easier said than done, but as I go through my workweek in my office, I can carry with me the reminder, and I can practice, one day at a time.

*I use God here as a placeholder for any and all deities, higher powers, forces. I haven't found a word that captures what I'm trying to express more aptly than God. One of my friends uses Guide, which I love, but gets lost in translation without context. Please feel free to substitute your own beliefs into the reading of this text. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Music and Magic

Music has always been, and always will be, a huge part of my life. My earliest memories include the Moody Blues' Knights in White Satin playing at Thanksgiving; my father telling me how much he loves Cyndi Lauper's voice; my brother and I banging on upside-down pots and pans and strumming on rubber band guitars, practicing our favorite songs for our epic band. Despite these promising beginnings, however, I never picked up a proper instrument, until very, very recently.

My mama gifted me her ukulele in December, and I thought that her birthday in July would be the perfect time to unveil what my practicing has yielded. I spent several hours pressing the pads of my fingers into the strings, perfecting the breezy-yet-firm stroke patterns, trying to sync up the singing with the playing. My friend Richard volunteered to accompany me with the piano and voice. Being the incredibly talented person he is, it took him roughly two minutes to pick up the harmony and piano part.

I feel about singing and music the same way I feel about dancing: I relish the kinetic, rhythmic, whole-body expression of joy. I like the way it feels to have my voice trill up my throat and over my tongue.

How do you experience music?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

As I have mentioned before, "feel the fear and do it away" has been a mantra in my family ever since I can remember. If we had a crest, it would be emblazoned in Latin next to a cup of coffee and a camera (two additional very important things in my family). The mantra captures the spectrum of emotion—it recognizes that fear exists, that we experience it, and sometimes we tell it to hush and we break on through to the other side. 

I choose not to let fear dictate my decision making, so even doing a simple thing that scares me helps me build up reserves for when the big decisions have to be made. For when the comfortable, static, and familiar are all too inviting, and I miss the great unknown's call because I was too busy listening to my fear of failure. At these times, small things can be big things.

So on Independence Day, I got my nose pierced! A small gesture for a big idea. This year has been very much a transition year—from fighting to acceptance, from surviving to thriving. I feel love and light dancing in my veins, and this jewel is a reminder that I can be healthy and happy. It's possible, I've experienced it. It is not a mythical invention, it is a reality I have come to know.

What are some small things you've done in the face of fear?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Soul Rebel

Photo by Jessie 

I'm a rebel, soul rebel. 
I'm a capturer, soul adventurer. ~ Bob Marley 

My best friend performs in holiday burlesque shows around Seattle, and through the frolic and pageantry, there is always a deeper message. For their Independence Day Freedom Fantastia, boys in heels and girls in beards celebrated rebellion, the most American of traditions. I may not have pride in the whole of the United States' history, but I do have pride in my forefathers and mothers who questioned, pursued, and battled for the kind of life I lead today.

I celebrated the with friends and picnicking on what seemed like the edge of the world. We found a spot surrounded by tall grasses on the edge of a bluff, overlooking the Sound. We ate oven fried chicken and homemade pasta salad, listened to Janis Joplin, and explored the surrounding woods. At one point, we made music with a guitar-slinging random my friends literally found in the field. We soaked in the sun and it made us sleepy and hazy and happy.

Photo by Jessie 

Photo by Jessie

We ended the night with the Lake Union fireworks show on the roof of my friends' apartment building. Booming blooms that illuminated the night and made the towers of the city look like crystals. 

I like the idea of celebrating rebellion. I value curiosity, questioning, challenging, and (much to the chagrin of some of my colleagues) demanding answers. When something doesn't feel right in breath and bones, the community that I identify with values changing it. I'm grateful for this power, for this freedom. 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Do You Ever Feel A Little Like Ringo?

Well, I'm getting happier all the time. Which is very nice. – Ringo Starr 

Over the last month, there's been a lot of excitement around my office. Three women are in their third trimesters of pregnancy, this lovely lady got engaged, a comrade of mine left for her dream job, a coworker is transferring to our other office because her boyfriend got into grad school in that city, and we officially hired three incredible talents. There have been choruses of congratulations and excited ooohing and aaahing as people prepare for their new phases in life.

Meanwhile, I started to feel a little like Ringo. Parading in the background, never getting the ladies, writing songs about octopi. And my immediate reaction to all the excitement is to retreat to my self-pity cave, because none of it is happening to me. This retreat starts a cycle of inactivity, isolation, and escapism that doesn't end until some external force boosts my confidence again. 

This past month, however, I was able to recognize the Ringoisms early on, and I decided to do something about it. I channeled the energy I would have spent on listing out reasons why I'm inadequate into celebrating my coworkers and loved ones. I planned parties, organized gifts, rallied, and raved. Usually, my self pity clouds any attempt at genuine happiness. For the first time in a long while, I felt genuinely happy for another person's accomplishments, and let myself revel in their successes. 

This space of compassion fills my limbs with a glow. It feels so much better than the cold I let reign. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Weight of the World

“In the scenery of spring, there is nothing superior, nothing inferior. 
Flowering branches are by nature some short, some long”. – Zen Proverb

There are five mirrors in my tiny studio apartment, not counting the reflective surfaces of the windows and my computer monitor. At work, I openly pause in front of framed posters or the microwave to adjust my hair, face, and clothes. I am aware of how I look and feel in my clothing, how my body carries its weight on my hips and my chest, how my cross bite makes my jaw hang little crooked. I poke and prod and squeeze and breathe shallow. 

When I was 22, my first “real” boyfriend broke up with me because I had gained a little weight. I don’t exaggerate when I say a “little,” it was literally 5 pounds. But he could tell, told me I didn’t have any respect for myself, and ended our relationship. I lost 10 pounds in two weeks to get him back. (He ended up breaking up with me again three months later, but that’s a different story.)

Since then, I have struggled with the surface. Because my weight dictated my first and one of my more significant relationships, my mind was wired to believe that my weight dictates my happiness. Gaining a little weight made something that I treasured disappear so quickly. What if it happened again, or never begins in the first place, because of my weight?

This isn’t a constant mantra, but it is a familiar one. The fear ebbs and flows, always whispering around holidays, or when the sun disappears for months and my activity slows. But the whispering is getting quieter, softer, weak. The more I treat myself with respect, the more love I put into the world, the more will I have to quiet the voice. It will take time, and it may never go away completely. I am unraveling the thread with my fingernails, using my hands to clear away knots, softly and gently and slowly.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

When Should Revenge be a Motivator?

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters
 compared with what lies within us. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I've had a fantasy recently of proving someone terribly and horribly wrong. In this dream scenario, I receive some kind of accolade, and I dedicate it solely to that person who actively and vocally considers my work to be "awful" and "embarrassing." And I let the world know that this person never believed in me, and I invite them to join me in pointing out their foolishness.

While it is nice to escape into this fantasy every once in a while, it cannot be the sole motivator in my work. Motivation borne out of negativity will poison and sour, drive my work to need to be lauded and applauded by external approvers. Authenticity will be replaced by a rabid hunger to win. 

However, I cannot ignore my renewed drive and focus. So where is the balance? I can channel that energy I have seething under my skin away from revenge, away from the imagined satisfaction that the person comes to their senses (a fantasy in itself), and toward gratitude. Thank you for the motivation, I say. Thank you for the inspiration. Thank you for reminding me what it is that I love and live and breathe.

And then, I get to work.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

It's Okay to Exist in the Gray

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything,
That's how the light gets in. – Leonard Cohen

As I have said before, I struggle with perfectionism and living within other people's definition of success. The self-imposed pressure, the constant berating narrative, the disconnect from the present moment.

Opening myself up to my own definition of success, however, has yielded results. It's a tactile existence, recognizing resonances as they hit my chest and feel empowering and wholesome, but also those that don't hit in the right way. I am exploring my world, and realizing very quickly that it is not the black and white universe of haves and have-nots, ares and are-nots, I thought it was before. There is a gray fluidity.

And it is okay to exist in the gray. There are areas in my life in which I revel and celebrate, and there are others that inspire me to work and learn and grow. This is a joyous place to be. 

How do you celebrate the light that you let in? 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Waking Up

If every day is an awakening, you will never grow old. You will just keep growing. – Gail Sheehy

I feel as though I am waking up. I am stretching my limbs wide, reaching fingers and toes outward like an animal. The comfort of darkness and depth, the low hum of sadness that had been following me, still whispers its promise of isolation and loneliness, of going blank. Forget the world for a bit, it hisses.

But the morning breaks, the cool light of dawn washes over me. I let the glow raise the hairs on my arms. It it cautious, slow, waiting to see how I will respond. Will you allow yourself this happiness? it asks.

I can't help but enjoy this newness, this reprieve, even if this too shall pass. And there is an acceptance that this shall pass. Our darkest and our brightest moments all do. How does it feel when the edges of light creep into your vision? What are your experiences with waking up? 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Taking Risks

The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn
and feel and change and grow and love and live. – Leo F. Buscaglia 

Recently, I've been taking small risks. I learn the most when I leave my heart dangling on a limb, ready to be plucked and held close, or left hanging. When I was much younger, I felt a relationship to be the ideal, my ideal. It was what I wanted more than anything, and jealousy burned inside me when I saw my girl friends pair off, most often with boys whom I liked. I would embody self pity with hunched shoulders and a quiet voice, swallowing my feelings and building a wall around myself.

When boys started to show interest, in my early twenties, any and all interactions were catalogued and replayed in my head over and over. Independent of whether I liked the person, I always thought, "Finally, someone. I can stop exhausting myself with worries of being alone." Ultimately, they would lose interest and we would part ways, and it would feel like my ribs had been smashed and were piercing my lungs. I didn't realize at the time that I still had the wall around me, that I was so afraid of losing said person that I didn't take any risks in the relationships. I didn't let the person actually see me, a risk in itself, because I believed if they did, they would leave. And more often than not, they did. 

I got tired, lonely, and resentful, spinning around in circles behind my wall. Any "relationships" I had weren't real; they were pantomimes. Only recently have I begun to be able to bring myself, my true self, to relationships. I realized that being in a relationship for the sake of a relationship wasn't worth it. When I close myself off from the authentic and don't speak up, I am left to fill in the blanks with my own delusions. When I take risks, and ask the hard questions or express how I truly feel, and the result isn't what I intended, it no longer feels as terrible, because I know I did everything I could. I am left with my authentic self, and I'd much rather that than a shadow of something unreal.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Old Soul

When I was very, very small, my aunt held me and told my mother, "She is an old soul." My mama says that since that moment, I've had worldliness and  knowingness about me. They only evidence I have of that is ordering salads at restaurants when I was three years old. 

Yesterday, I visited the newest member of my family, Eli. I was scared to hold him, as I had been with his sister when she was an infant. I was afraid of holding something so delicate, of holding him the wrong way. I was telling his aunt this, and she said, "Oh, you have to hold him. When you do, it feels like there is nothing wrong with the world. He is such an old soul."

And it's true. As I held him close, the whirlwind, static noise of thoughts and worries evaporated. All of my attention was on this tiny little being. My heartbeat slowed to match his rhythmic breathing. He took in the world, and his eyes didn't hold the same grasping quality I've seen in most infants. There was an acceptance, a patience with the attention he was receiving, a knowingness and a sweetness about him, so rare in others that he was striking and comforting at the same time. It was a comfort being close to him, a little respite.

Welcome to the world, Eli. May it be a wonderful one for you.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Resonace and Frequencies

Photo my mama took on the airplane ride to Southern California 

There is something incredibly—I can't describe it other that tiny-laugh-secret-smiley-comforting-and-lovely—about having a conversation with someone, and they say things that echo your heartmind so thoroughly you feel a though they are reading pages from your personal journal. Those moments bring me back down to earth, make me feel connected again, and validate my cascade thoughts.

I'm in Southern California right now, where the air is constantly thick with a bougainvillea perfume that sticks to the roof of my mouth. My mama flew down from Northern California, and we're visiting my uncle and his family. My mama and uncle and I spent yesterday wandering around Descanso Gardens, venturing up into the hills among the poppies and the lizards, drinking in the sun's warmth.

Both of them are artists. They speak with candor, humor, and cadence that I recognize, and there are moments of resonance that give me pause. I wax on about struggles and insecurities, and they don't placate with "There there, now." They offer up truths so rare and so raw that my world starts to soften. My tunnel vision, narrowing in on the awful, expands to let in some light. "I've been there too," they say. "You're not alone."

I could write entire posts about how each of these people have inspired me in their own ways (and I most likely will). Take a moment to visit their websites and be inspired. The links to their blogs areavailable in my Love List. 

Joe Murray

"We can’t waste precious time bemoaning what is no longer. What our careers used to look like. How much money we used to make, or how much notoriety we once had. Those are illusions anyway. Sometimes we even limit ourselves with what we think is right for us. Your art is happening right now, and moving like water where it wants to go. It has bigger plans for us than we know." – Joe Murray 

Dianne Poinski Handcrafted Photography –

"I know that even if I won the lottery today I would still continue to pursue photography. I really don't have a choice. My sanity and well-being depend on it. I like to think I am making the images I want to make and not just for the market. Just try to imagine for one minute, what it would feel like to create simply for yourself with no intention to ever share that work! I feel so liberated and joyful when I think about that (even if it's only in that moment)." – Dianne Poinski

Monday, May 14, 2012

Pray, Tell Me

When I pray, I imagine myself as a glass shell of a person. My insides are hollow—if you tapped my body, a clear note would ring from my head to my toes. But darkness and dirt, the scrappy dust refuse of industry, gather around my head and my heart, blocking the light.

Like water, falling heavy from the sky, my higher power reaches in and washes away the refuse. I feel the water fall into the rim at the top of my head, falling with such force that it reaches my toes and swells back up my sides, going up and over out of the rim once again. With it, it takes my fear, my pain, my worries, and plaguing doubts. Light shines through me again and drops of water evaporate from my glass skin.

The moment, the rush, the swell are momentary. I haven't been at the practice of prayer for long, and asking for help is a relatively new concept for me. I am trying to build it as a habit. Instead of running my hands ragged, blisters forming on my palms where I've tried to grasp and control again and again, I open my hands and let go. Someday, my first instinct will be to let go.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

What Do We Do With the Sadness?

Today I listened to a Radiolab podcast titled "Race." The last section told the story of a Sunni man trying to locate his father's body in a Shia-controlled morgue with the help of his Shia friends. There were several layers of horror bound in this story: The sudden disappearance of the Sunni man's father; the photos of the dead shown in the morgue waiting room that family members were forced to sit through, waiting to see if their missing relatives would appear on the screen; the collecting of his father from a pile of bodies in the morgue. My breath staccatoed and tears began to well. I was so sad, hollowed, mortified, and bewildered for this man that I don't know. I felt helpless and small and weak, unable to reach through time and technology to help this man. But what would I have been able to do?

I immediately called my friend, who has seen me cry at the musical Chess (just to give you a barometer for my sensitivity), to help me calm down. She too feels overwhelmed with all the wrongness in the world, all the awful, all the monstrous. She reminded me about housing gratitude in our actions. Breathe with gratitude. Nourish with gratitude. Speak with gratitude. Acknowledge and cherish what is around you. It isn't combat against the dark, and it isn't a guard against it, it is an acceptance that the world is unbalanced, and we do what we can as individuals to restore balance. 

Even now as I type this, I am harshly wiping tears from my cheeks and wringing my hands, feeling guilt that my reality is so much different from the Sunni man's. But my friend's words echo in my head: Respect. Respond. Restore. Storing my sadness in my chest will do nothing but make me feel heavy. Walking with a purpose will keep me light on my feet. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Choose Your Own Adventure Stories

When I was studying abroad, I would often go outside my comfort zone because I knew it would make a good story. I was simultaneously adventuring and drafting narrative in my head, preempting which parts I would punctuate with exclamations. Not surprisingly, I lived good stories. Falling in crush with a British boy, meeting my French relatives, bartering at the market in Italy.

As I build my life, I've felt that sense of adventure wane. Why is this? Am I afraid? Am I lazy? Are my responsibilities tying me down? Does it not seem appropriate or "adult" to go parading? Is it money? Is it time? Where is the pull in my stomach and the fluttering in my heart that tells me, "This would make a great story."?

It's all still there, within within, and lifts its veil briefly whenever I am staring out my office window at a giant billboard urging me to visit Montana. I feel my mouth start to gape a bit, my eyes cease to whir with the light from the computer, my fingers relax from their claw-like typing positions, and I'm lost in a daydream. And this series of responses occur when I think of other things I'd like to do: perform burlesque, sing in a band, write a short story, see the northern lights, spend some time in the desert, ride an elephant, successfully grow something and eat it, shake a woman politician's hand, learn how to drive manual.

But more than these daydreams, I want to have my sense of adventure run through my veins like an electric current. Every day presents potential for expansion. Every day, I have the opportunity to open my heart to new ideas, new people, new things that I'm sure will one day make a great story.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Den of Thieves

I put pressure on myself to be the best. My job, schoolwork or relationships become reflections of what I have to offer the world. If I am the best at my job, then and only then am I worthy of your time and love. I let this illusion play out until I'm standing on toothpick-thin stilts of imagined self-worth.

This self-imposed pressure disconnects me from what I can learn from others. When someone asks a really great question, or throws out a creative idea, I don't commend them. Instead, I berate myself for not thinking of it first. When I see others accelerate in their careers, I don't think about how great it is to surround myself with dedicated, ambitious people. Instead, my self esteem plummets because I am not the best and brightest. Never mind they have something different from what I want. I have failed. 

But there has to be more to me than my job. A little flicker of light within me refuses to dim. Berating myself is not going to help me ignite that spark. Yanking myself from the present moment with "shoulds" will not help me define what I believe to be success. These actions keep me locked into other people's ideas of what success looks like instead of defining my own. Instead, I will open myself to my own, toe-curling, arms-to-the-sky, full-throated rebel yell celebration of the present moment. Joy will be on my own terms, and I will give myself the gift of seeking it. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Catch and Release

"Free yourself from the burden of feeling the need to hold on to everything. Let go—you are a part of everything." – Steve Maraboli 

I tend to cling to reprimands and mistakes. "Should have's" play over and over again in my mind, revealing fresh hurt and regret every time. I grew comfortable with this routine until it became a part of my life. I began to expect that I would be disappointed in any situation, and by self-fulfilling prophecy, I got the small reward of the "I told you so" dance followed by the replaying of the mistake in my head again and again. 

Obsession wears on me. It takes up time and energy and ultimately does no good. I cannot go into the past and change it to my liking anymore than I can will the future to play out exactly as I want it to. Obsession effectively yanks me from the present moment and cuts me off from enjoying the pleasures of now. 

By letting go, I open myself up to receive what the present moment has to offer. I can cast my net wide and become human again, interacting and receiving and responding. The world becomes full of potential, rather than the place where I made that one wrong decision. The potential is effervescent, sparking and igniting the moment and lighting up my world. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Love List

I feel as though I've recently developed a bit of insomnia. Right now, I am hunched over the glow of this computer screen, wrapped up in comforter much too big for my bed, knowing that I have to get up in seven hours and thinking about how I don't do very well when I don't get my full seven hours of sleep.

And I let my mind wander, and I let the complaints pile up. Never mind that I dearly love wrapping myself in this comforter too big for my bed. Instead, I focus on how I am alone in it. I think about all things I have to do tomorrow, all the things that will go wrong, the defenses I have to start crafting now, the knots that are forming in my shoulders and neck, the money I will spend getting those knots untangled, how my money could be better spent, how my time could be better spent, the books I'm not reading, the words I'm not writing, the life I'm not living.

I'm giving myself reprieve tonight. Tonight, to lull me to sleep, I will let myself consider the things I love. Those lovely things that make me smile or pause or laugh. Things like:

  • When there is a loose piece of concrete in the sidewalk, and you step on it, and for a moment you tilt a little bit in a funny way. 
  • WNYC's Radiolab.
  • Elvis Presley.
  • Frozen blueberries and the way you can pop them on the roof of your mouth. 
  • My collar bones and swimmer's shoulders. 
  • The fact that there is a word in Russian that means, "The sound a chicken makes when she sits down very fast." I don't know what that word is. 
  • Motorcycles. The more rumbly the better. 
  • Striped shirts.
  • Clicking heels on hardwood, preferably marble floors.
  • Dancing dancing dancing. 
  • 68 degrees. 
  • Bright cherry, fire engine red. 
  • Drums. Pretending to play them, feeling their beats hit my chest at concerts. 
  • Thinking that maybe at one point or another, everyone feels like this. And they get up in the morning and accomplish magnificent things. 
  • I'm capable of accomplishing magnificent things. 
  • Glass doorknobs. 
  • The BBC. 
  • Pie. 

This is not an exhaustive list. In fact, I will probably return to this exercise soon. And I will keep these reminders with me, hold them close. What is your love list?