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?