Archive for the ‘THOUGHTS ON…’ Category

  • January 6, 2016

    thoughts on :: the last day and the first day

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    on the last day of the year, I went for a walk for the first time in months and wondered aloud (to myself, like a crazy person) what exactly happened. why 2015 felt like one blindside after another. why everything happened so out of order and out of control and with complete disregard for my need of equilibrium. everything seemed out of whack in 2015 and it was all I could do to hang on. hang on by the very tips of my fingers, I tell you.

    but hang on I did. and now it’s 2016 and I’m still walking slowly through pain and wondering aloud (still to myself, still like a crazy person) if equilibrium will somehow reassert its balancing act in this new year. this new year where the questions and doubts and fear of the unknown still remain. this new year where pain still keeps me from sleeping and worry still keeps me from resting. all things considered, 2016 may be just like 2015. and what if it is?

    well if it is, well then…it is. if I’ve learned anything (and trust me, I haven’t learned nearly enough), it’s that pretending to have control and trying to keep myself from getting blindsided by life is as pointless as trying to hold light in my hands.

    on the one hand, I must admit that I’m a little (okay, a lot) frustrated. frustrated that my mom got sick and no one knows why and no one knows how to fix it. frustrated that friends were made to bear unbearable tragedies and survive unsurvivable loss. frustrated that I spent most of the last three months of 2015 in bed and in pain and unable to dance around the house to the new justin bieber album, which – I’m not ashamed to admit – is fantastically perfect dance material. frustrated by all the little ways that things seemed wrong and broken and completely senseless.

    but on the other hand, I must admit that I’m a little (okay, a lot) thankful. thankful that in my pain and isolation I was surrounded by unbounded, inexpressible comfort that came in small acts of huge kindness. (see: text messages with lots of emojis, personal chauffeur services, ceaseless streams of prayer, and more gummy bears than I could possibly eat.) thankful that I was allowed to watch people around me perform radical acts of empathy and selflessness and love, even in the midst of broken hearts and broken lives. thankful that, at the end of the day, I am not alone in any of it. none of us are alone in any of it.

    but you know what? no matter what hand I’m looking at, I must admit that I’m just totally, completely undone. undone by the freedom (yes! freedom!) that comes in not having any freaking clue what’s going to happen in 2016. undone by the fact that people will show up to help bear what seems unbearable and survive what seems unsurvivable…and to dance when we need to dance. undone by how the smallest things can actually be the biggest graces. undone by the mysterious equilibrium that is not found in the fragile balance of my circumstances, but in the ridiculously uneven amounts of grace that always always tip the scales towards what is true and good and beautiful. undone by the ribbons of light that force their way into dark rooms and make everything a bit less scary and a bit less hard. it’s useless to try and hold light in my hands, but when I stop trying, I see it reveal everything I need.

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  • October 21, 2014

    thoughts on :: what i didn’t expect

    do you ever feel like everything is so not how you expected it to be? how the weight of all your unrealized, unrealistic, unfulfilled expectations is kind of ridiculous?

    for example.

    I didn’t expect to return to this little corner on the day that my first brother would have been 25. I didn’t expect that I would unconsciously (and sometimes very consciously) feel the lack of him every day for 25 years. I didn’t expect that time would pass so brazenly and undaunted in the absence of him.

    I didn’t expect that my dream job would be…not that. that I would walk away from it for the uncertainty of being my own boss and paying insane sums of self-employment tax and buying my own health insurance. that writing about country music would become (part of) my livelihood. no. I did not expect that.

    there are so many things I didn’t expect. to be real, I didn’t expect really any of it. and I hate it. because I am a planner. I am a comfort-zoner. I am a ducks-all-in-a-rower. I hate it.

    and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    I wouldn’t trade the dashed hopes and broken hearts and hard lessons learned. not just because all those unmet expectations have brought me here and because they are what continue to push me to grow in ways I never imagined but am a million times thankful for. (which is true.) not just because those unmet expectations have taught me to hold everything with an open hand and be thankful for unexpected blessings and not take life too seriously. (all true too.)

    but mostly because, without them – without all the losses and gains and suffering and laughing and wondering and wandering – I would have had no reason to get to know the one who is never surprised by unmet expectations. the one who sets all the expectations. and then exceeds them. the one who knows every hair on my head and thought in my brain and beat of my heart better than I do.

    wow. it’s really cool that I know that one. and I didn’t expect that either.

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  • January 31, 2014

    thoughts on :: a new year (a month late)

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    today is my last day at blood:water mission. seeing those words on a screen is surreal and unsettling. because it’s such a weird feeling to walk away from something I’ve defined so much of my life by. the blood:water dream started when I was 19 and an idealistic sophomore stepping into the brokenness of the world for the first time.  it took me six years and three moves to make it happen. and now, I’m walking away from it. almost as difficult as the act itself, writing about leaving blood:water has seemed impossible. (hence the radio silence around here for so long.) as I’ve spent the past few months processing what it would look like to leave, there have been a million scenarios playing out in my head. a million what if’s. there have been so many days spent trying to convince myself that it could still work. and so many nights spent wondering what it would mean to walk away. because at the end of the day, my heart hasn’t changed. and my belief in blood:water is as strong as ever. and I’m still the idealistic sophomore in so many ways.

    but for the first time (maybe ever) I had to start taking tiny steps outside the box. and those first tentative steps have led to this. the big step into self-employment via freelance writing. partially because I love to write. and partially because sometimes I’m good at it. but most of all because there was a voice that kept asking, why not? that kept asking why I didn’t just take a good look at what I really love to do and try to actually live in it. that kept asking what was stopping me. (it’s fear by the way. it’s always fear.) and after so many months living with that little voice getting louder and louder, I just couldn’t ignore it. and so here I am. a little bit broken and kind of exhausted but really thankful for the past year and a half. and really excited to start. we’re already a month in. but it sure feels like the new year to me.

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    and so, I’ve been thinking about resolutions lately. and although I never make them, the writing of these felt necessary. they aren’t really resolutions…because let’s be real, if I tell myself to work out more it just won’t happen. and these are more about the simple (and difficult) act of living more fully into myself…

    1. I want to cultivate rhythm. I want my life to be balanced and not in opposition to itself. with all things working together and in sync. I don’t want to work and then rest when I am too burned out to function. I want my starting place to be a stillness of spirit that is rooted in the confidence that no matter what happens, my foundation is in one who’s grace is sufficient over all my fears. and to-do lists.

    2. I want to be fearless. (or at least a little less fearful.) I want to take risks without giving myself a panic attack thinking of all the possible negative outcomes. I want to take big steps. I want to leap. I want to do things that scare me. and I want to do them for no one else but myself.

    3. I want to simplify. to spend less where it is unnecessary and more where it is truly needed. I want to get a handle on what’s important – what, at the end of the day, is truly a non-negotiable need in my life. I suspect not much.

    4. I want to be rooted in selflessness. I want to stop thinking that I am the center of anyone’s universe. and I want to celebrate the fact that I am at the center of a universe that is full of so much for me to think about other than myself. I want to pay better attention. I want to love others for the sake of loving well, not for the sake of being loved in return.

    5. I want to stop trying to be all things to all people. because, I can’t be all things to all people. I can only do what I can do. and that is enough when it really counts.

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  • December 17, 2013

    thoughts on :: big steps

    I’ve been thinking about steps lately. big steps. and I’ve been thinking about taking them. big steps are hard and scary and really not something I am good at. I am good at little steps. the ones where I see where my foot will land and I see what it will land on and I see where it will go next. the ones that are well thought-out and well executed. the ones I think and over-think until I’m certain (or at least until I feel certain) that nothing can go wrong. but the big steps are just a whole different kind of beast. the big steps are into wide open air and I’m pretty sure my foot will just keep going down down down forever without hitting anything solid. I’ve spent my life taking methodical steps. and now I’m thinking about taking one giant leap that will be way off in some other corner of reality that I don’t yet know.

    I’ve also been thinking about the “responsible” thing. and I’ve been wondering what it would be like to maybe not do the “responsible” thing. but maybe to do the thing that will inject life back into everything. because I’ve spent my life with one perspective of responsibility. the kind that centered around a certain kind of job and a certain kind of skill set. but if nashville has taught me anything, it’s that you can love what you do. it’s not always about paying your dues forever. it’s not always about doing something because you can. sometimes the atypical thing is actually more responsible. responsible to your health. to your happiness. to your place as one who is loving the world to life. I’ve spent so much of my life fitting into a box…and don’t get me wrong, I actually love the box. it is safe and kind and relatively easy to navigate. it has served me well for over 10 years. the box is what I know. and yet.

    big steps sometimes must be made.

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  • December 14, 2013

    thoughts on :: just sitting

    theres’ a boy sitting at the coffee shop doing nothing. he flipped through the pages of native for a few minutes but finished that pretty quickly. now he’s just sitting, looking a little bored. I’m pretty sure he’s waiting for his dad to get out of some sort of meeting at another table. but he’s not even really trying to find something to do. he’s just hanging out and waiting. for some reason, it’s striking to see someone at a coffee shop just sitting. there is no smart phone to to be a technological security blanket. no computer screen to illuminate his face with that soft LED glow. no book. he’s not even trying to sleep, which is kind of surprising, as he’s sitting on one of the more nap-inspiring couches. he’s just siting. and waiting. kind of bored. kind of annoyed. increasingly restless. but for the most part, he seems content to sit. he seems unworried and unstressed and generally unfazed by the fact that he is not doing anything “productive.” it would be kind of odd if, at the moment, it did not seem totally appealing.

    I haven’t just sat…in I don’t know how long. there’s always a book I have to finish. a facebook post I have to write. a tv show to watch. there’s always a friend to catch up with. a journal to write in. a thought to over-think until I’ve torn it to pieces. but what if, at the end of the day, the sitting is what matters? the act of doing nothing. the act of letting my mind wander and not trying to accomplish something or produce some sort of result. for someone who, too often, measures her worth by what I am able to “do” in a given day, it is increasingly dangerous for me to be part of a world where we have become obsessed with posting and tagging and documenting everything. I may have a quiet moment watching the evening settle into the coffee shop, shadows playing with the light and brick wall in front of me. but I will immediately take a photo. and post it on instagram. and title it “a quiet moment.” it’s completely ridiculous…but no less true.

    listen, I’m not about to give up all social media and become some sort of buddhist zen master. all I’m saying is that sometimes I wonder if my value being tied up in what I do that people see, is directly related to the fact that I never let myself just sit. I never take time to let myself be. but at the end of the day, maybe that’s what is going to shape my identity in more constructive ways than finding a cool song to post about on facebook or watching west wing for the hundredth time. maybe at the end of the day, there is a reason I was named a human “being” and not a human “doing.”

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  • August 30, 2013

    photo friday :: 5

    there have been millions of photos floating around the internet this week (as always, I suppose). and a good majority of them have featured an almost-naked teenage girl trying to prove she is an adult in a sad and misguided way. I’ve tried to stay away from those. but today I ran across a different kind of photo I’ve been trying to avoid. one I’ve had saved on my computer for a while – of a syrian father grieving the very recent death of his son. the image is visceral and painful. in many ways, it’s too much for me to bear. (which is why I’ve included it after the break. be warned that it is graphic and hard to look at. please know that I am not trying to be gratuitous in my inclusion.)

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  • July 17, 2013

    thoughts on :: cautious joy

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    sometimes the sheer newness of life is absurd to me. (I realize – that sentence does not make a ton of sense. but go with me, for a minute.) lately I’ve celebrated so many firsts and with every single one I am filled with this emotion that I cannot quite put my finger on. it’s something akin to cautious joy, I think. in less than two months, and in my immediate life, there’s been 2 weddings and 3 engagements and 4 birthdays. 2 babies  have been born (as of tonight!) and 1 pregnancy has been announced. new jobs have been popping up more often than I can count. it’s like everything good is bursting out. like spring in the summer – all things are budding with this intense sense of urgent joy. joy that must be pushed out into the world before it gets squashed in the muck of everything else.

    I just spent a week in california celebrating 90 years of life with not one, but two grandparents. and then on the opposite end of the spectrum there was a baby just a few days shy of his birth-day (tonight!) and a best of best friends asking me to stand beside her in the wedding we’ve been talking about since we knew that we could. and then I came home to celebrate the pre-baby shower that turned into a post-baby shower when life couldn’t stay in any longer and just had to come six weeks early. and there were two wedding invitations on the counter (only one of which I’m in, thank the Lord) and announcements of new jobs and new plans. and just so. much. life.

    and I am a little shell shocked by it because with all this new life, something else must end…right? there has to be some level of death right around the corner. I know there has to be. I know it’s all mixed in together – beginnings and endings. even now, as I claim the joy of new beginnings, I am acutely aware of the pain around me. of the marriages ending and relationships breaking for those I love. most of the time, my morbid self is waiting for the other shoe to drop.

    but tonight, as I drove home, all I could muster was that un-nameable feeling akin to cautious joy. and a ton of gratitude. and an unshakeable confidence that someday, it will forever only be this. this feeling of life bursting at the seams. newness will grow and multiply like stands of the most invasive and beautiful bacteria. and there will always and only be joy pushed out into the world and there will be no endings. both shoes will stay firmly on and the joy won’t be cautious anymore.

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  • June 19, 2013

    thoughts on :: how not to be alone

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    lately I’ve been thinking about loneliness. how sometimes it follows me around like a puppy, always nipping at my heels. it’s not that I am often alone. there’s roommates (who I love) and co-workers (equally so) and a town bursting with new people to meet at every concert or coffee shop or corner. and even in moments without the presence of actual human beings, there’s facebook and twitter and tumblr and even this little corner to keep me company. so in a world where some form of “community” is so readily at my finger tips, why is it that I often feel kind of alone?

    my friend, beth, pointed me to this article by jonathan safran foer called, “how not to be alone,” written for the new york times. JSF is one of my favorites for his knack of making the broken and tragic and lonely astoundingly beautiful. and his words, like those of many great writers, often reach readers exactly at the necessary place they are in, creating a myriad of different responses to the same string of words. the meaning that beth found in his words is amazingly wise. I fear my interpretation is a bit less eloquent, but here you go.

    like lots of other articles today, JSF writes of technology. he acknowledges that experience I’ve had, but not been able to name – of feeling connected, but alone. the paradoxical characteristic of technology, he says, is that it “celebrates connectedness, but encourages retreat.” when we engage with others through a screen, this is not an improvement on face-to-face interaction. it is, at best, a “diminished substitute” meant to fill just one tenth of the gap created as we move further from one another. but now, we’ve begun to prefer the diminished substitute to the real thing. because, be honest, how often do you call a friend hoping to get their voicemail? how many times did I ride the metro to work, choosing to look into the screen of my phone instead of into the eyes of my fellow commuters? on that underground of isolation, we so rarely engaged with each other that when I actually saw it happen, I was compelled to write about it. what happened? we embraced the diminished substitute. we fell into the practice of checking emails instead of each other. we got into the habit of paying attention to “likes” instead of faces.

    disclaimer: his words (and mine here) are not some staunch cry against technology. if they were just about the ills of social media, beth may not have been compelled to write about contentment and gratitude because of them. and my takeaway would be different too. his words do not come with a requirement that I throw away my iPhone and delete all my social media accounts. they just ask me to look up from them every once in a while. and into the eyes of others around me. they remind me, ever so gently, that I don’t have forever to pay attention to the world around me. that my days of searching for beauty and seeking to create it are finite. that all of us, really, only have a few more years “to wrestle with the question of purpose and wrestle with our answers.”

    JSF doesn’t answer the question of “how not to be alone.” at least not explicitly. instead, he writes of an experience, sitting on a bench next to a crying stranger. and how he had to choose between scrolling through the contact list on his phone and engaging with her tears. I’m afraid to think of what I would have done. because here’s the thing – at the moment of choosing, our choice has already been made. my habit of checking my phone whenever I am standing in line or alone in a public place does not bode well for my ability to notice another human being in the moment they most need to be noticed. JSF puts it this way: “the flow of water carves rock, a little bit at a time. and our personhood is carved, too, by the flow of our habits.” so, if my habit is to look down and in instead of up and out, what will I do with the crying stranger? what will I do with the crying friend even? because in the end, my “heart” on their instagram pic will not help. only my undivided attention will. my empathy. my recognition that they are here and I am here and we are connected even when the wifi is down.

    we live in a world made up more of story than stuff. we are creatures of memory more than reminders, of love more than likes. being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. it can be messy, and painful, and almost impossibly difficult. but it is not something we give. it is what we get.

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  • May 21, 2013

    thoughts on :: a return to blogging

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    welcome to day two of the new blog! one of my goals for this revamped little corner to write more often in a way that is honest and (dare I say it) vulnerable. truth be told, I’m not sure how that will pan out, but in a first attempt, I’m going to take just a few minutes to talk about where I’ve been and why I’m back.

    I have to admit, it has not been the most obvious or easy of decisions to return. up until that first post yesterday morning, I went back and forth on a daily basis about whether or not I really wanted to start this up again. (have I mentioned that I chronically over-think everything?) less than a year ago, I had gotten kind of used to feeling stressed and overwhelmed and spread razor-thin. and so when I got to nashville, I just decided to take a deep breath and a step back. I entered into life here more slowly. more methodically and intentionally. I needed to let go of a lot of expectations and obligations that, by my own addition, had overwhelmed my life. I needed to find small ways to be patient with myself. small ways to be kind to myself.

    and this site (or the old one) had to be part of that step back. I needed to refocus and rediscover why I even had this little corner to begin with. because if I’m being honest, sometimes I feel a bit weird about this whole blogging thing. in the beginning, this site was meant to be a love letter of sorts to my friends and family spread all over the world. and it has become, on my best days, a love letter to the beauty and connectedness in the world around me, even as life feels increasingly disjointed and mundane. but there is always this tension when I’m writing. questions of why I am really doing this at the end of the day. why I feel the need to write about my life in a public space. why I want to add my voice to the multitude of other bloggers who seem to do it much better than I ever could. truthfully, I’ve been sitting on this new site for quite a few months, wondering if I really wanted to dive back in. wondering if, in a world where some people actually get paid to blog, it mattered if I came back or not. and then wondering why mattering was so important to me. I am nothing if not over-analytical.

    and then I read this piece by my friend, shanna. and among many other candid and wise thoughts, she wrote this:

    “For me, the biggest difference between blogging because I love it and blogging for recognition is this: I forget
    what I’m doing here…what matters, really, is the passion and love behind it, with or without recognition, with
    or without acclaim.”

    and I remembered. ultimately, this little corner does matter. because it matters to me. I want to write about life and share it with you, my friends, in california and oregon and virginia and germany and wherever else life has taken us. and I would be lying if I said I didn’t care about  people reading what I write. there will always be that tension between wanting to be noticed and wanting to be known. but more than that, I just want to write about life – for me. ultimately, this space is meant to claim a small piece of creativity in days full of task lists and errands. and to remind me of who I am and of what I love. and to keep a track record of what is good, if only for the days when I am grumpy and lonely and in a rotten mood. I want to really see the ordinary instants around me that are beautiful and true and tell of a broken world striving to be whole again. and I want to celebrate them because I know that they are a small mirror to my own self – broken but with the hope of being whole one day soon.

    {don’t forget about the GIVEAWAY! click here for details.}

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  • September 4, 2012

    doing things we never did

    driving around in circles. in an instant, we could tell you what metro stop you needed and how long it would take to walk from there. but when it comes to parking, we feel somewhat useless.

    walking with the seasoned speed the city has taught us, making a beeline for our destination. weaving through families from out of town and honeymooners stopping to peer indecisively at their maps. smiling as we brush past. apologizing. something we would never do during the morning commute.

    slow steps climbing white marble, we give a slight nod of hello to mr lincoln. heading for the quietest spot that will still ensure a view. dangling our feet off the edge. ignoring the excited chatter of a dozen different languages and becoming slightly indignant when children make a slide out of the smooth stone and squeal with delight in the presence of such a hallowed structure. spotlights beaming towards the sky, creating a halo of white light off white stone. this is what makes lincoln and his friends so loved after dark. talking of the purpose of memorials and monuments and remembering those who have come before.

    staying put until a particularly persistent and particularly enormous spider uproots us. settling into a busier spot on the steps next to field-tripping school children more concerned with their pre-teen angst. on the way, I pause to give a more formal hello to mr lincoln, returning to my favorite of his words: with malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in…to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

    fitting my back in the crevice of one of the great white columns to find that rain has begun to fall. not a particularly harsh thunderstorm, but one that has us thankful to be under the protection of a forefather. the spotlights neglect their job of illumination long enough to crystallize the rain and we are able to follow the falling drops almost all the way to the ground.

    talking and talking. for over two hours until our butts are sore from hard stone seats. our eyes weary, our voices cracked. worrying over descending visitors unaware of how marble becomes slick under a thin covering of water. tourists creating dozens of poses while mr washington and his capitol stand perfectly still in the background – glowing and always camera-ready. a newlywed couple ascending the stairs – she, lifting her white gown to reveal red toms. he, gently grasping her elbow in case the rain thwarts their gingerly placed steps. later, they will ask us what time the metro stops running and we will answer instantly, with the proud knowledge of locals.

    finally descending with care, gripping the handrails, determining not to make the mistake of those who have come (and fallen) before. making a slow circle, nodding last regards to mr lincoln and returning to face washington. pausing at the reflecting pool and, as others lay flat on the concrete to get a good shot, teetering on the precipice of water, pretending to be olympic swimmers ready to dive into the fray. endeavoring to remember the words of the patriotic songs of our youth, we make it all the way through “my country tis of thee” and halfway through “yankee doodle dandy” before needing to google the rest.

    returning to the car, anxious to see if we have a parking ticket courtesy of confusing signage characteristic of the district, I wonder aloud how it happened that it took one of us moving 600 miles away to finally do something so quintessentially local.

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