Tuesday, February 27, 2007

I Need a Nudge

I have a little dog, she’s tiny, only 8 pounds. As cute as can be! Right now, I live in a townhouse so we have some slick wooden stairs that lead up to our bedrooms. My Katiebug (as I call her because she’s as small as an insect) can walk up the stairs. But she’s scared to. So she sits and stares at them when she wants to go up. There’s a little platform there that she just sits and waits on. She’ll only go up them when I come over and nudge her. I point her in the direction and give her that initial nudge that’s all she needs to race up to the top.

Sometimes I feel like that little pup. I can go up the stairs. But they look awfully tall, and I feel so small. I’m not sure I can make it up them. When someone comes over and nudges me, I run right up. So what if there’s no one around to nudge me? What then? Do I just sit and stare? There’s food at the top of the stairs, and I’m hungry, but too scared to climb up. To even try to climb up.

That’s what I think.

But then again, I give myself a hard time more often than I deserve the beating. I feel so messed up and full of issues that I sometimes I tell myself I did something because of one fault I have or one weakness or one thing that’s wrong with me. Sometimes, I don’t make mistakes. Sometimes, I just know what’s good for me. The trouble is I rarely know when I made the right decision and when I made a mistake.

A good friend shared the following parable with me:

“There was an old farmer whose only horse ran away. Knowing that the horse was the mainstay of his livelihood, his neighbors came to commiserate with him. ‘Who knows what’s bad or good?’ said the old man, refusing their sympathy. And indeed, a few days later his horse returned, bringing with it a wild horse. The old man’s friends came to congratulate him. Rejecting their congratulations, the old man said, ‘Who knows what’s bad or good?’ And, as it happened, a few days later when the old man’s son was attempting to ride the wild horse, he was thrown from it and his leg was broken. The friends came to express sadness about the son’s misfortune. ‘Who knows what’s bad or good?’ said the old man. A few weeks passed, and the army came to the village to conscript all the able-bodied men to fight a war against the neighboring province, but the old man’s son was not fit to serve and was spared.”

Sometimes what are our greatest tragedies or what we perceive to be our greatest mistakes lead to great joys. I don’t know if I have any regrets. Well, I can think of one. I let someone treat me in ways I shouldn’t have tolerated. But in the end, maybe I learned something valuable from that period of my life. I believe I did. I often look back at some of the tough decisions I’ve made and wonder whether they were “right.” But like the old man said, “Who knows what’s bad or good?” I sure as hell don’t.

And that’s when I feel lonely. Some part of me feels that things would somehow be better, would at least be more bearable, if I wasn’t alone. It’s so hard for me to make decisions lately. I don’t know why, but I’ve gotten worse at it in the past year or so. Or maybe I’ve just started to notice it more. It makes me feel lost. And confused.

I seem full of fear that I didn’t have before. I can still take chances, can’t I? Or can I? I don’t know. I feel like I’m waiting for my life to start. Waiting for someone else to push play or nudge me up the stairs. But it's now or never, and if I’m hungry, I have to choose whether to eat what’s downstairs or brave the scary trek up.

Monday, February 26, 2007

In an Instant

I'm so restless lately. For the past week or so, I've had this feeling of just being unsettled. And like I'm standing on the edge of something that's about to happen. It kind-of feels like that uneasiness you get in your stomach when you're on a rollercoaster and you're going up a hill, knowing that at any second, you're going to drop and speed down.

I found out last week that my grandfather's not feeling well again. He could have a cold or it could be something else. We really just have to wait and see if he starts feeling better. Whenever I talk to my mother about him going to a doctor or not feeling well or anything, my heart stops beating. I stop breathing. I stop moving. And I feel like time is standing still for that brief moment.

I have a close friend who lost her father several years ago. I was at the funeral, I remember it vividly, and I remember feeling so helpless. Wanting to do something or say something, but feeling as though I had no influence or control on how she felt. I know now that just being there for her was the best and most important thing I could do. We weren't as close then as we are now, but she knew I was there for her, grieving with her, supporting her, and that made a difference, however small.

During the months he was sick, she measured that time in instants. She remembers the last hug. She remembers the last time she said 'I love you.' She remembers all she learned and experienced because she knew that time with him was running out and she soaked up as much of it as she could.

Now my friend's mother has breast cancer. It's small, they caught it just about as early as you can catch it, and her doctor told her she would not die. But my dear sweet friend and her family are reminded of that dark, sad time when they lost her father. And again, I feel helpless. I told her what she means to me. We've grown into women together, and it's hard watching someone I value so much and know so well, such a genuine, caring person, it's hard watching life hit her again with another unfair punch.

Of what she's going through (and has already survived), she says this, "Pain reminds us we are alive, that we are all the same, and that to feel is to live and love, and nothing else matters."

I often wonder what it will be like when the great patriarch of my family is taken from this world. I know getting the phone call will be a life-changing instant. Everything before that point will be completely different than everything after it. It will be in a completely different color...language, even. I don't know where I will be when it happens, what my life will be like, who will be the most important people to me that will carry me through what can only be desperate hysteria.

"Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends."

The above quote is from The Year of Magical Thinking which was a beautiful, vulnerable portrait of grief. I loved it, it was moving and eloquently written, but I felt distanced from it. Like I'm still too young, my heart is still too clean from scars, for me to fully understand its meaning and message. I do not know grief that big and cannot possibly imagine it because I have not known love that deep or inseverable.

Because to feel pain, we first must love. And knowing that, truly understanding that, helps us to a greater appreciation of the love we currently have. If I realize that one day the love I have for those most dear to me will come to an end (at least physical), I feel an urgency to express that love to those individuals, to do what I can to show my love, to squeeze tighter and hold on longer. And that is one of the ways that experiencing pain makes us better people.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Just to Understand

I’m addicted to CNN. I never thought I would be. The news always used to bore me. I never imagined I’d ever live in DC either – it just didn’t interest me. But we can’t imagine our future anyway. People are constantly changing, and we can never imagine thinking or feeling any differently than we do in the current moment.

Our hearts and minds are capable of such extraordinary things that at times they seem limitless and all-powerful. But one of the universal traits that connects us all and makes us human is that we are fallible. We make mistakes. All the time, every day, big and small. Sometimes we don’t know we’ve made a mistake until days, weeks or even years later. Sometimes we may never know at all.

Human mistakes and fallibility are all over CNN. Almost all mistakes cause some amount of pain, but colossal mistakes cause immeasurable damage. There is so much unnecessary tragedy in the world. Across the world, millions are hungry. Across town, thousands are hungry. People are suffering everywhere. But last week, my main concerns involved getting flowers from a guy I wasn’t really into and which shoes to buy at Macy’s.

It’s hard to conceive of it all. It’s hard because we only understand what our own experience illuminates for us. Though it’s hard to hold anyone accountable for innocent ignorance, not knowing about or understanding the world is a mistake we can no longer afford to make.

Watching CNN, reading the New York Times or the books I choose to buy are the ways I think will help me be more informed and enlightened. In the best way I can, I want to understand things outside of my own life.

I have a good friend who always responds to my frustrated cries of, “Isn’t anyone paying attention? Doesn’t anyone care?” with a poignant retort:

“D, most people don’t care as long as they can still shop at Wal-Mart and buy shirts with little ponies on them.”

But it would be a better world if every individual could view others by what unites us all as human beings. We love, we hurt, we laugh, we want, we need. We want to feed our families, we want to work a steady job. We want to protect those we love and want to live without fear.

Though it may not be Wal-Mart (and really shouldn’t be!), we want to be able to shop where we want to shop. We have basic needs of clothing, shelter, food, comfort and love.

Whether “the other” is viewed separate by their class, religion, race or gender, we’re all driven by the same things. And to create an unimaginable future together, we have to understand where we all are now and how we got here.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Bread Feeds the Body, But Flowers Feed the Soul

I broke up with someone the day before Valentine’s Day. We didn’t have plans, I don’t like to celebrate it. I find it so insincere. A forced expression of affection is never heartfelt. It’s always so disappointing, such a letdown because it has these huge unrealistic expectations of passion and romance – two forces that cannot be predicted or controlled.

I broke up with someone because again, I am in a place that he is not. He’s not ready. He has shit to sort through, things to figure out. He needs to grow up!!

Why do they tell children they’ll find someone and get married one day? What do “they” know? Only like 50% of adults in this country are married. “They” don’t know shit about my future. Or yours. It all seems so arbitrary and coincidental. You can’t plan for it – you’ll go crazy if you try. I mean, really, what are the odds that you’ll find that one person in the world who’s just right for you? They’re not in our favor.

I just want someone to show up. To fucking have it together and be ready. But I want the grand gestures and all that passion and romance too. I’m tired of always being the muse. I’m tired of always being the teacher. I just want a partner. Or to be fully satisfied without, which is entirely possible.

I wish someone never filled my head with all the fantasies and fairy tales. I want to tell kids the truth:

“You might get married, you might not. You might stay married, you might not. But no matter what happens in life – be enough for yourself. That’s all that matters.”

I’m tired of feeling bad for being stable and strong and together and strong. Fucking strong. When other people aren’t, I should feel bad for them and stop punishing myself for someone else’s inadequacies or failures.

When I was in college, my good friend, Fun Robbie (totally the most fun person ever) told me I was the Free Fallin' girl. He said I was the girl guys want to commit to and want to marry, and that then scares the shit out of them so they run for the hills. That has been the most common scenario of my love life. Guys not ready for me, not ready to commit, scared because they're not ready for the feelings they feel for me. Geez, it's friggin' lame. Aren't you dudes too old to still be pullin' that crap? Grow up already. You're missing out on a lot of fun.

And this most recent guy told me that I had my shit so together and was so sure of who I am that it was intimidating and made him realize he had to figure his life out. Yeah, it was obvious from the start he wasn't the one, but it was fun to have someone cool to hang out with. After someone says that, though, what choice do you have? Peace out, yo, good luck. This Valentine’s Day, I just want someone who knows what they want and who they are to just show up.

Every time, I have a dinner party, I buy myself flowers. I love flowers. Daisies are always my favorite. And white roses for special occasions. I buy myself flowers for Valentine’s Day, my birthday and any ol’ Tuesday when I need a pick-me-up. Because if I don’t, who the hell else will.

I like flowers. I want flowers. And that’s something I can give myself. I can’t satisfy all my wants and needs. But I believe it’s time to prepare myself for a lifetime of finding ways to feed my own soul.

** I wrote this several hours ago and just posted it now. In between, I went on a date with a nice boy who just doesn’t really do it for me. I’m not going out with him again, but he did bring me flowers. Just goes to show you how arbitrary it all really is…

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

We're Just Looking for Our Lobsters

As I’ve grown up, I’ve noticed, especially in the past couple of years, that I’ve gotten more sure of what I want and asserting myself has gotten easier. I still struggle with a lot of the trials of my youth – insecurities, fear, doubt – and I’ve started to realize that those I may never outgrow. Those might just be part of the human condition.

Being more certain of my wants and finding it easier to demand them has led me, and my peers, to a predicament. I know what I want. I’m not afraid to ask for it. And I’m not going to settle for less. But what happens when what you want can’t be found?

And so you’ve got this dilemma. What you want, you can’t find. You made a promise to always assert yourself…but those unfulfilled desires and urges are getting stronger. Which gives in first? Do you settle for less because your hunger pangs got worse? Or do you stand strong in your principles and live each day with unsatisfied longings? And who says it has to come to all that anyway? Why can't it just work out?

The movies say that people can live happily ever after. The passion of a sonnet lasts forever. A musician sings a beautiful love story. And Ross ended up with Rachel in the end. Cuz she was his lobster.

But the wait to find that crustacean is long. Some kill time by adding to what they want, to that long list of "qualifications" and "requirements" without even meaning to. Because you’re learning more and more each day, and you have nothing to apply those concepts to and no ways to test those theories. Others find themselves settling because they’ve waited for so long, they've reached their limit and cave in desperation.

I made a promise to my uncle that I would never settle. And it’s a promise I intend to keep. It’s a promise that all the strong-minded, independent women I know have made and are keeping. So right now…when the waiting is becoming unbearable…we’re fighting hard not to give up hope that holding true to our principles will eventually give us great rewards.

After all, we were taught all those fairy tales, and the goodies were always rewarded in the end. But before that, Snow White had to hibernate, so did Sleeping Beauty. While Cinderella was slaving away and Rapunzel was locked away. Those gals went through hell. Maybe that’s the lesson we were supposed to get out of those stories to begin with…go through hell, get your prince.

Even Ross and Rachel had a tough time before they ended up in each other's arms...or lobster claws.

We can never give up.

Friday, February 9, 2007

"Get Me Through December..."

It's so cold and windy right now that it physically hurts to be outside. Winter is the most miserable part of the year. I know, I know, I just wrote about how beautiful the snow is. And it is beautiful. But now the snow is gone, and we're left with the bitter cold and nothing pretty to look at! Except maybe our feet because it's the wind is too strong to lift our heads.

Every year, I complain about the winter. And February is most definitely the worst month of all. It's the shortest for a reason, my friends. And in my opinion, it's not short enough.

I question the purpose of winter sometimes in the same way that I question the purpose of pain in my life.

Because my grandfather got so sick and almost died, I cherish every moment with him. I pay close attention to every word he says. Every time I see him, I'm so full of gratitude and joy. I believe that I went through that pain in order to appreciate him more greatly and to cherish all the moments left.

I once had a bad boyfriend. Who hasn't? But after having that experience, I promised myself never again to settle for less and never again to beg for affection. Because I went through that pain, it's easier to recognize when I'm in an unhealthy, unsatisfying situation. And therefore, it's easier to get out fast and avoid any pain.

And last fall, I had a really rough time with friends. Well, last year really. I lost some old friends. One of them I would have bet money against ever losing. It was such a horribly painful and depressing time of my life. But this morning on my Metro ride to work, I started thinking about all the fun new friends I have. And how happy I am that I met them all.

So even the sting of winter wind has a purpose. To make us better appreciate spring, to remind us to bundle up and protect against cold and to clear a path for the sunny warmth that's on its way.

Alison Krauss...

How pale is the sky that brings forth the rain
As the changing of seasons prepares me again
For the long bitter nights and the wild winter's day
My heart has grown cold my love stored away
My heart has grown cold my love stored away

I've been to the mountain left my tracks in the snow
Where souls have been lost and the walking wounded go
I've taken the pain no girl should endure
Faith can move mountains of that I am sure
But faith can move mountains of that I am sure

Just get me through December
A promise I'll remember
Get me through December
So I can start again

No divine purpose brings freedom from sin
And peace is a gift that must come from within
I've looked for the love that will bring me to rest
Feeding this hunger beating strong in my chest
Feeding this hunger beating strong in my chest

Get me through December
A promise I'll remember
Get me through December
So I can start again

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Before The Streets Are Cleared

This moment is perfection. I am sitting in my warm, soft bed with my sweet puppy sleeping at my feet, and I’m looking out at the most beautiful scene. It’s snowing outside my window. A blanket of white is covering the streets, the cars, the steps of the colonial brick rowhouses, even the tiny branches of the big, bare tree next to my room. I just saw someone walking their little dog. And I can see the perfect white dome of the capitol building peeking steadfastly through the trees.

I don’t know what it is for me with this city and snow, but it is the most beautiful when it is covered in wintry white. It makes me pause and appreciate the moment. Tomorrow, when I wake up, the snow will be sludgy and will be scraped off the street. But tonight, right now, it’s peaceful and untouched.

I have no idea what’s going to happen in my life. I don’t know if I’ll ever find what I’m looking for. I don’t know if I’ll figure things out or choose the right paths. Will I pick the right guy? Will I get married at all? Will I teach? Where will I live? Will I be happy? One of my closest friends tells me every once in awhile, when he knows I need to hear it again, “You’re gonna have a great life.”

I hope he’s right, but I just don’t know.

We spend so much time trying to find the answers, waiting for the next thing to happen – waiting for him to call, waiting to see him again, waiting to meet “him,” waiting for the weekend, waiting for the next big payoff…waiting for whatever it is that we think is so wonderful and great that hasn’t happened yet – but in all that waiting and looking to the future, we miss so much.

And for whatever reason, snow brings me back to the moment. The current. Even now, as I type, my mind is struggling to stay in the moment. I’m thinking about tomorrow, about next week, about next month. I’m thinking about the pains of the past, trying to make sense of things that have already happened and wondering what that means for what is yet to come.

But there is a reason for everything; I have faith that in the end, I’ll know the answers and I’ll understand the past. One day, I’ll be able to look back at my life and everything will be clear to me. Until that day comes, there’s no sense wasting so much time thinking about anything other than this perfect moment. Because before I know it, it’ll be gone…

Friday, February 2, 2007

There's More to the Story...

I freaking love Grey's Anatomy. That show takes me through a whole range of emotions every week for that one little hour. I cry, I laugh, I get giddy, I empathize, I remember important people and important moments in my life. It's beautiful.

I missed last night's episode, but a friend from work downloaded it for me on a DVD so I just watched it over lunch. I sat at my desk, in my little cubicle, with a Baja Fresh burrito in front of me and popped the sucker into my computer. My eyes were glued to the screen. And at one point, I almost cried into my salsa the ep was so good.

Why do I love that show so much? Why do I love the rollercoaster of emotions each week? Why, after each episode is over, do I feel so relieved and relaxed?

We need to feel because when we do, we feel alive. It's why I listen to the music I listen to - it makes me feel. I thrive off of passion. I need to be passionate about something every day or I feel empty and bored. Passion is what gets the blood flowing into my heart. Passion about something. Lately, I'm passionate about my job. I'm passionate about the friends in my life. I'm always passionate about my family.

Last September, I went to a friend's wedding. I was going through a rough patch and had been feeling pretty beaten down. I needed...something. And I got it. I met a guy. He was funny, nice, interesting, he liked me and was full of compliments. It was a great weekend. We email every once in awhile, he's a nice guy, but nothing more came of it and nothing was supposed to. I just needed to be danced with. I needed to be reminded that I would dance again.

And maybe that's what Grey's reminds me too. That my life has a plan and a purpose. That I will feel again. I know it's fiction, I really do. But for some reason, the silly little drama-filled world of Seattle Grace Hospital gives me hope that there's more drama left in my story. Sometimes, I really do need to be reminded that the best is yet to come.

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