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.