Monday, October 1, 2012

Because October is Orange

In my last post I discussed my love affair with the changing of seasons from summer to fall. I'm not even sure what I want to write about tonight. I just feel the urge to write, and like exercise, when I have the desire it is best to just go with it.
This past month has been FULL. Every weekend had pen written all over each day. Now as the nights turn just a tiny bit cooler, one night at a time, I feel the slowness of the season washing over me. I am so thankful it is finally October. It must not be a surprise at all, that since fall is such a magical time, October is one of my favorite months.
I like the way the trees bare their true shapes when their colorful leaves drop like a whisper to the forest floor. The way they bend and move in the wind as if dancing to a song I can't quite hear. The transformation of the landscape is haunting and refreshing all at the same time. I fear change in one moment and the very next I welcome the newness that comes at this time of year.
The way that the sun sinks into the mountains earlier and earlier so that I am drawn back to my favorite books and paintings to fill the darkness with my own light.
As work fills with more and more students fighting their own battles, I am once again reminded of the necessity of my job and exhausted by it too. There are days when I imagine a utopia where no one actually needs counselors because everyone is so well adjusted and loved and loving. Where there are never any parents who leave their kids or kids who want to kill themselves.
There were a few days last week where it was difficult to remember the good sides of life. Yet, as I am constantly discovering and rediscovering, I am surrounded by love. The only way I can keep giving is to keep accepting the love of those around me and letting that love fill me. By soaking in the goodness and kindness that truly is everywhere.
Sometimes, when I get angry at a person's rude behavior in public, I often get wound up in thoughts surrounding that one person. My whole mood plummets. Yet every day, the kindnesses I witness far outweigh the ways people forget to treat others as human beings.
I think the reason October is so brown and orange is because earthy tones are soothing. Brown is solid and warm and comforting. There is a reason so many coffee shops choose brown, it's because there is something calming about being reminded of dirt. Dirt is capable of so much. Growth, and rest. Renewal, and connection. And orange, of course one of the best colors ever. Such a fulfilling contrast to brown. Orange is the color of the sun, of vibrancy, and of change.
So I'm going to keep watching for the kindnesses, and let them carry me beyond the broken ways we sometimes treat each other. And I'm going to let the brown and orange of the season keep me both connected and hopeful.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Pumpkin Spiced Hope

Whenever the seasons begin to change something in the air revives my spirit. The way leaves exhibit their glorious exit in bright yellows and oranges soothes me. Gentle transformations are all around me these days, and I am soaking it in. Today was just a few degrees cooler, so out came my favorite scarf. Soon my bright orange hat that matches the color of my car will be a welcome morning tradition. The fact that my favorite cooler weather hat matches my car always makes me giggle. It's like a flashing symbol to the world that I love bright colors.
Returning to work is another aspect of the coming of autumn. The first month was difficult. Stories of abuse and tragedies that filled the lives of my students over the summer flooded my office. Hope was not as near for me as it had been. I desperately needed a reminder, a reason to keep hoping even when so many sadnesses were all around me.
I went to a family wedding over a week ago now. I knew it would be fun. I did not know it would bring back hope into my heart that I needed to live my life well. This wedding was different than any other I had ever been to. It took place at a campsite in Northern California. The groom was my cousin, someone who has become a dear friend in recent years. I know some of his journey, and I know it has not been easy. Yet he opened his heart to love again, and it was beautiful to watch. I could literally feel the joy beaming out from him like a beacon. Just being near him lifted my heart. The wedding was simple and fun. Such a reflection of their unique personalities. My grandfather whisked my grandmother around under a starry sky to Frank Sinatra's New York during the party after the ceremony. Love was so full that night.
On my travels back home, I thought about my experience. What I realized was that despite or maybe because of the journey my cousin had to take to find love I have proof that there really are second chances. I am related to people who have had to fight hard to find joy in their lives. They could have given up, but they didn't. I have living proof that hope is possible. And that love is always nearby even if you can't always see it.
In a very real way, my hope has been restored. I know that second chances exist and that people are resilient and capable of such great acts of love and compassion.
One of my favorite authors Thomas Merton, said this about hope, "Hope is the wedding of two freedoms, human and divine, in the acceptance of a love that is at once a promise and the beginning of fulfillment."
As the seasons begin to change yet again, may you also find that hope and love are never too far away.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

On Loss

For most of the summer I attempted to live in a bubble of only ever good news. In order to do this, I ruthlessly ignored NPR and the random news updates that even take over email checking these days. With the shooting in Aurora, that tenuous bubble was shattered. With the return to work in a field where almost every story is a tragedy, the bubble has subsided into nothingness.
My heart is heavy again. I desperately want someone to relieve the ache in my heart. Because even more than the work stories, my friends are dealing with the kinds of losses that tear and break at the very core of their beings. And, though my walls at work have grown a bit through self care strategies, when it comes to my friends those walls may as well be paper thin. 
So friends, since writing is the only real way I know to release pain. I am writing now. To my dear ones who are going through such heart rending times, I know there are no perfect words. Loss of love, loss of life never fully heals in this lifetime. I believe that is for a reason. If we can know loss truly, then that means we have also known love truly. If we can live in the depths of agonizing loss, we can live at the heights of great joy as well. 
I often tell my students that we have two choices when something horrible happens. We can allow pain and tragedy to harden our hearts. To close us up in a way that shrivels our kindness and saps our joy. This is safer in some ways. The ability to feel lessens. The heart is protected in a cell of darkness and fear. No one can touch it ever again. This is so appealing. Especially in the early moments of loss. Because the alternative to pain, the not feeling, seems like the only way to carry on. I think our bodies understand that. I think that's why we go into shock at times. Our very own anesthesia. And in the beginning, sometimes that really is the only way to continue with our days. But to choose to live that out every day and to never allow true joy into our hearts again, that is a tragedy even greater than the losses experienced here and now. 
The depth of our pain proves the depths of our love. So to the second option then. The second choice is to live with more love and more passion. This choice involves allowing our hearts to grow bigger from our pain. Like our hearts get stitched up at the place where they were broken and swollen. In this way our hearts expand. We grow in our capacity to care for the people around us. We grow in our kindness, in our generosity towards ourselves and others. This is by far the more challenging choice. It involves openness, and truly working through all of the complicated and deeply excruciating feelings of loss. Doing the work is like walking through a desert at times. But then healing enough to love again is like finding that spring, that giant swimming hole hidden in a cave. 
I have no words for loss. Because it is too real to be trivialized. So friends, I bless you with the courage to continue living passionate lives even though the cost is so high. I bless you with peace in your dark days and pray you can feel it even for a moment. You are so loved friends, from one broken heart to another. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The end is just the...

After almost successfully forgetting that bad things happen to people all the time, I am back at work. Not even a week yet with other staff members and already horrific tales of runaways and abuse have made their way back to me. Suddenly wondering what happened to the empowered glow surrounding me in the week after completing my first ever triathlon. For one week, I literally thought I could do anything I wanted. It was a fabulous week. Giddy happy almost every day just reveling in sunshine and  rainbows and butterflies.
Well, now I'm back. Trying to remember that feeling. Clinging to tail-ends of happiness like a little kid playing capture the puppy dog. And yes that is a reference to my new roommates. One of whom is a two year old little boy who will give high fives on request whenever I need a little inspiration.
So my question is, since I can't hide from the horrible stuff in the world forever, how do I keep my passion for life alive? How do I embrace the people around me while holding my palms open so that they can come and go as needed? How do I trust that the people who will be most important to me will stick around whether I ask them to or not?
I honestly don't know the answer. I do know that true happiness is often the result of knowing the dark places. Knowing pain and sadness yet finding joy in a sunset or a dragonfly skimming the water on a lake. Sometimes in my work though, I tend to let the pain wash over me without letting the joy in. This year my goal is simple. Allow the joy in too. Let the good things weigh at least as much as the bad. Hopefully more. Let myself laugh when something is funny. Let myself stay open to good people and good adventures often just around the corner. Trust that although life is unpredictable and scary at times, it is also good and full and worthwhile. So friends, open your hearts. The pain is worth the joy that follows and surprises in the most fascinating ways.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Keep Moving

Sharing a lane with another swimmer is always a bit of a bummer. The hope is to be lucky enough to have that lane all to yourself. Today I was not lucky, but I was blessed by a truly incredible woman. She explained to me about her MS diagnoses and how she used to be an athlete. Now she is simply trying to keep movement in her arms and legs. She looked me straight in the eyes and said, "This is my life's work, to keep moving."
Suddenly the rest of my work out was possible in a whole new way. All I could think about was inspiration. I have written this blog post a few different times in my mind this week. In observing the fire and our obsession with the red and orange flames, I wanted to write about our relationship to nature. Fire fascinates and terrifies, burns down forests yet keeps us warm in the winter. Friends and family watch the news obsessively for information. 
Then I thought about writing about patterns. The patterns in our lives that don't make sense until later on. How in losing my car key on the trail I got the delightful experience of talking with a German lady who walked two miles helping me look for the key that some kind person found at left at the entrance to the trail. Or how frantic I was about my living situation changing until I looked again and realized I already had a place to live. Once I surrendered to what was open to me, I suddenly had what I needed. A similar situation is occurring in other areas of my life. I looked frantically and found nothing. I looked again and saw exactly what I was looking for. 
Friends are in various states of turmoil. I desperately desire to ease the pain. Or even pretend the pain simply isn't there. Yet that isn't life. Not life truly lived anyways. Pretending only leads to even greater pain later. I wish I had more answers then that. Yet I do believe that each person is unique and crucial to the fabric of this world. And I believe we are held together by a truly great love. 
Maybe the only answer for now, is to look straight into the heart of whatever is on your mind today and say these words - "this is my life's work, to keep moving."

Monday, June 11, 2012

Summer lovin'

Inspired to write tonight, though not quite sure about what. Summer has seduced me with sunshine, flowers and a joyful break from a job I love yet often emotionally exhausts me. Time has slowed just a touch and has filled with playing outside on my recently repaired bicycle or reading my favorite books. I am finding myself later and later to intentional gatherings simply due to a complete dissociation from hours and minutes. 
Life is good right now. And I am soaking it in and letting it swirl around me. I know that all of life is a process and that includes good seasons and difficult seasons. Because this one is so good and filled with love, I am noticing on purpose. Acknowledging the goodness instead of letting it pass ignored for the things that wear me down. 
I was told this weekend that I love joyfully and passionately even while understanding that things on this earth do not last forever. That was an incredibly accurate description. Today I feel the sweetness of being surrounded by love. I know that may not be the same for everyone reading this, but my wish for you is that if there is even a glimpse in your life of love - that you would hold onto it with passion and joy while it is in your midst. Enjoy, soak in the love around you. Let it heal you and hold you. You are not alone.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Can't get no...

It’s an old habit. The minute discontent worms its way into my heart is the very minute I sign back onto online dating sites. Next, I frantically search Craigslist for new jobs and new places to live. Finally I cruise through college websites to find something new to study. While this automatic response has led me into a variety of spontaneity and adventure, it rarely leads to contentment. I still dislike online dating intensely since I just cannot get a sense of a person from a website. And since I finally have a job in my field that I actually enjoy, there is no sense in looking for a new one. Only nuisance in the end if I actually get calls from the resumes I sent out in a fit of anxious energy. While I am indeed searching for a new place to live, I actually have a few options. I can choose to patiently wait out what comes from places I have already looked into. What is this discontent and why is it taking me over? It feels uncomfortable. It feels like a vast gaping hole that can never be filled. No amount of energy or pursuits chased after in an attempt to vanquish the feeling will actually quell it. Because the feeling is not the problem, yet the root of the feeling is. The root of the feeling is most often jealousy. I have a good, full and beautiful life. It does not look like the lives of the friends around me. I am working on enjoying the company of good friends disregarding the “fifth wheel” or “third wheel” stigma. Often when I forget about where I think I am supposed to be in comparison with others, I feel genuinely loved and embraced by the people in my life. How quickly that fades when I get sucked into comparison. If only I were married, then I could buy a house and never have to move again, and I wouldn’t feel so lonely. If only I made more money at my job, then I could travel to Europe on my time off. If only…the list could go on forever. Yet I have often heard others remark about my life. They wish they had my free time. My endless possibilities in where I go from here. I am not tied into a loveless marriage where loneliness can seem even more depressing than loneliness that comes from simply being without a partner. I cannot afford a trip to Europe, but I can afford the essentials. And I am finding that the more I embrace the beauty around me, the more relaxed and at peace I become. New adventures are waiting for me right here, in my life as it is now. That does not mean I can’t go on other adventures, just not out of that unsatisfied space. If I leave on an adventure already at peace in my heart, then the adventure will only deepen and encourage that peace. If I leave out of dissatisfaction, then that dissatisfaction will follow me until I release it. So much easier to embrace what is near me now with my arms open in anticipation rather than closed in fear.