Sunday, April 20, 2014
“You should write more, I’ve missed reading your writing.” That’s the voice of encouragement and concern that only a mother can have. What she’s really saying is, why haven’t you been making the time to write? What are you hiding?
I have two blogs that have been blatantly ignored and a journal that lay unopened for months. I don’t write for other people. I never have. The fact that other people read and glean some bit of joy or satisfaction out of what I’ve taken the time to pen is a pleasant side effect. But I don’t write for other people.
Writing has become a variety of things for me over the years: a friend, counselor and teacher. It has served as a sort of confessional, a dumping ground of thoughts and emotions. It’s been a lens that gives new perspective to this odd thing I consider my experience. It’s an active mediation. It’s a snapshot into a moment in time that I can and do look back on with curiosity and wonder. But it’s also a pleasure. I enjoy going through the process – the introspection – like watching a movie for the second time, and writing something down about what the heck you just saw and what it could possibly mean.
So why haven’t I taken the time to write? I can’t say anything truly significant. I have no mind-blowing reason. I just haven’t. I took a hiatus from myself. I didn’t want to go and explore those corners of my mind or of my heart. I decided for the first time in my memory, that I wasn’t interested in doing anything hard. I wanted to coast for a while.
I did just that. I coasted through my own life numb to any real sensation. I coasted until I literally crashed.
But before I get too carried away, let’s take some honest perspective here. My life, even before I didn’t want to toe up to challenge, has been the farthest thing from “hard”. Sure, I’ve had challenges, everybody does, but I have been born into a blessed life. I have an amazingly supportive family. I was given an education. I have genuine friends that pepper the globe. I’m healthy. I have never truly experienced lack. I’ve travelled. I have enough to pay my bills and then some extra for fun and frivolity. So what exactly was I taking a break from? Why did I all of a sudden have this desire to become a passenger in my own life?
At the time I would say, that I didn’t know or that it didn’t really matter. It’s just what I chose to do…and I did it rather well for a while too, I might add. But the truth is that I did know, and I just didn’t want to take responsibility. I didn’t just stop writing; I stopped doing most things that give me perspective. I stopped practicing yoga. I stopped meditating. I stopped praying and studying my spiritual texts…and I filled that space with distraction. Why? Because distraction can be fun. Distraction isn’t hard. Distraction doesn’t require process or passion or honesty. Distraction is easy to come by and easy to replace. So, I filled up my life with distraction – TV shows, the time-suck that is Facebook, buying things, making dates, snowboarding, planning trips, sleeping in, cooking, running, biking, working late and eating out. Now it’s not that those things are inherently bad. They aren’t. I love all of those things…well, most of those things anyway. But I wasn’t doing any of them with real purpose. I was simply passing time.
I was also trying to find people to fill the void that I was so actively ignoring. The challenge was, that I’d managed to build up these spectacular walls because I didn’t want to allow myself to get hurt again. In my own melodrama I’d experienced a couple of back-to-back blows that left me questioning my faith in humanity – and that honestly did hurt. Disappointment always does. Regardless of whether it was partially made up in my own mind or if that betrayal was actually experienced to the degree that I felt it, didn’t really matter. All I knew was that I was hurting and the best way to avoid the unpleasantness of it was to shut out the opportunity to get hurt again. This is really hard to do when you want to meet people. This is exceptionally hard to do when you want to find a potential mate. This may explain my failure at doing those things. But of course I couldn’t recognize it without taking the time to sit with myself…and I was, as I mentioned, very actively avoiding that.
So here comes the drama. I’m 30. I had this list of things I thought I was going to accomplish in my life. I like lists. I especially like to check things off of my lists. I’ve even been guilty of writing down things that I’ve already completed for the sole purpose of checking them off – but I digress. There was this big shake-down that occurred some time after college that, rather painfully, forced me to let go of some of my long-held goals. It sucked. It was also made me realize that I had the opportunity to reframe what could be life. That part didn’t suck. Then, I went ahead and made new goals, and clung to these with the same ferocity of the older, abandoned ones. Recently, about the time of my desire to bury myself in distraction, came the realization that maybe these new goals aren’t quite right either. With the glimmer of that realization I decided to run, to jam my fingers in my ears, hum a pretty tune, close my eyes, and pretend that THIS IS NOT HAPPENING AGAIN.
It turns out that strategy doesn’t work. It is easy to do. I understand now the preference of toddlers for this type of behavior. Yes, I can admit, that I was choosing to act like a toddler. And I repeat, I’m 30. I did not think that was going to bother me. On a surface level it doesn’t. It’s just when I start doing the math and realize that all these things that I thought I could check of my list of life accomplishments or at least be on the path of checking them off by this age, didn’t or aren’t happening that it throws me into a bit of tailspin. On a totally rational, logical and practical level I realize that I’m still young. There’s still plenty of time to regroup and re-evaluate. Unfortunately, I don’t always operate from that place, especially when I’m pulling out tricks that are only acceptable to toddlers.
All of these factors lead to why I haven’t been writing. I wasn’t ready to admit to myself that I’m confused. Admit to myself that I may have been wrong. To acknowledge that I’m a little lost…scared. If I wasn’t ready to admit and acknowledge it to myself, I was absolutely not ready to write it down. Writing things down makes them real.
But then I crashed. And this isn’t figurative; I actually crashed and fell during one source of distraction - while snowboarding. It was the second time this season, and it was serious enough snap me out of my fuzzy, sleepwalking guise of an engaging experience. Pain can do that. This was nauseating pain.
So now I’m at home wrapped up in a splint. I can’t snowboard, can’t ride a bike, can’t run, can’t even walk – hell, getting dressed is the hardest damn thing I’ve ever had to do. The most basic tasks are exhausting and painful. I’m stuck at home…alone…with my physical hurt, emotional turmoil, and gasp, my thoughts. All that fun and frivolous distraction, I can’t do any of it anymore. I tried to run away, and the universe said, “uh, yeah, about that…NO. Seriously, deal with it.” I refused for months…and now, I literally can’t. I have no way to run.
Here we are in the aftermath of my childish shenanigans. Despite my best efforts to sit around and feel sorry for myself, I’m not completely devoid of reason, I know that isn’t the answer. I find myself slowly, albeit resentfully, turning back to my long-lost friends: my books, my breath and the familiar space inside my own thoughts looking for the calm in the midst of this storm.
I’m slowly beginning to process months of erratic behavior that I so actively ignored. I am also re-gaining the courage to sit again with myself and re-discover the joy in being my own company…without distraction. Somehow the desire to collect the thoughts, organize and process them stopped feeling so scary. It stopped being so overwhelming…and instead started to feel again like that familiar lighthouse guiding me back home.
…and I think I’m ready to write it down.
Monday, September 23, 2013
When you’re 18 all you want is to get the hell out of where you’re from. Or at least that was all I wanted. So I did just that. I went to college in the most distinctly different place I could think of. I wanted to live somewhere sunny all the time. I wanted to go to a city where NO ONE knew me. I wanted to wipe the slate clean and start my “adult life” without the ties to my past...and I landed in Arizona the summer of 2002.
It’s now the beginning of fall of 2013 and I’ve just loaded up my car to make the drive back to Seattle; that place I said, as fiery 18-year old that I would NEVER go back to. And here we are. 11 years. A lot happens in 11 years.
I graduated from that program I went to school for. I started down the path of my career and worked in arguable the best firms in the state. I fell in love. I bought a condo. I travelled to Europe and Asia and Latin America multiple times. I started hiking. I started camping. I fell in love with the snow and started snowboarding. I discovered yoga…and in that my passion. I started to teach. I made friends. I lost friends to time, to distance, to the peculiarities of life. The economy tanked. I lost my house. I quit my job. I packed my bags and went on an epic journey of self-discovery. I came back to the desert with the intention of getting married, building a family, starting the next big chapter in life. Life had another plan and I was pushed out of love. It hurt like hell. I wondered why I was still here. It felt like there was nothing here for me anymore. No school, no job, no home, no love…and after months of trying to piece together a life that resembled fulfilling, I started to explore some other alternatives.
So 11 years later, my best chance to start over isn’t somewhere new. It’s oddly enough, back to my roots. It’s a different city now than the one I left behind. I’ve done more visiting in the last few months than I had in years, and to my surprise I liked it. The culture has morphed, the population has grown and the skyline even has evolved. But it still smells like the Sound, and its cloaked in green, and I navigate the streets as if nothing ever changed. I have a handful of friends excited about my return and family tucked in the wings if I need help. The prospect of direction, the sense of “home” I’ve missed for so long, the energy of hitting reset is promising.
As a fiery 29 year old, I’m wanting to go to a city were a few people know me. Where I get to wipe the slate cleanish and start my “adult life” maybe for real this time, with only good ties to my past. I’m optimistic about starting a new job that leaves me fulfilled. I’m excited deepening my love of the hobbies and passions I found in the desert and re-learning them in this place. I’m hopeful about finding new love, real love, and this time building a home and building a family with a partner who loves without reservations. I’m happy to invest in friends that have stayed connected with me during my long boomerang of a journey.
And just like that a chapter closes. And just like that the next one opens. I honestly can’t wait to see what’s in store. Luckily I won’t have to wait long…that much I’ve learned. But whatever it is, I’m as ready as ever.
|So long Phoenix. It's been real.|
Monday, September 10, 2012
|My last perfect sunset over Farellones...bittersweet, this was home for 3 months.|
Hey, everyone…thanks for coming along on this crazy ride. It’s difficult for me to fathom that it’s been over a year since I started this journey. Miraculously, the world has done one solid revolution, it’s still spinning and I’m still standing, I guess, that’s how it goes. But I suppose that is like every earth-shattering, life changing event; it only seems that way to the person that got shook, who felt the tremors, who had to pick themselves back up off the ground. To the rest of the world it’s just a Monday, and you, you feel like you just opened your eyes for the first time in your existence. I feel like my eyes have been stapled open, every day a fresh shake, every day a new start; every day has been a Saturday. However, that kind of ride doesn’t last forever. It can’t, right?
So now, I’m rounding that final curve and my next stop isn’t somewhere exotic doing something strange, it’s even bigger than that: I’m going home. I’m going to my real home where family, friends that have managed not to move away, and stuff that I packed up and left behind await me.
But I think this is going to be the biggest challenge yet. Life on the road, life on the move, life without an agenda has become my norm. Part of my fears are how well can I slide back into convention. Or more importantly, do I really want to? Absolutely I’ve had my moments of longing for all the things that have been left behind. I’ve missed the face to face conversations with people that I love. I’ve missed the warmth of a hug. I’ve missed the real-time response that a smile from a familiar face can give me. I’ve missed having my own space, my own kitchen, a shower with consistent water temperature and access to clean laundry. I’ve missed the food, knowing street names and at times I’ve even missed my car.
Soon I’ll have all those things again, and my fear is the opposite of what it was a year ago. It’s not about facing the unknown, but about living a life that is safe, predictable, conventional…everything that pushed me onto a plane in the first place. I have this inkling that I’ll miss all that has made this year so spectacular; the unpredictability, every day making new friends, every day not knowing what unforgettable thing is in store for me. Can I hold on to this spirit of adventure when I “know” so much of what already surrounds me?
I suppose you could say that I’m staring my graduation in the face. And perhaps, like every grad wondering if all my recently acquired skills will guide me in this new world. When embarking on this adventure a year seemed like a long time. In practice it went so much faster than I ever expected. Of course it did. If there was any lesson that I kept re-learning it was that time is perhaps the most subjective thing in our human experience. But it’s still shocking. So now I have to ask myself: did I learn all the things I set out to learn? Was this everything I thought it would be? Did life school adequately prepare me for the road ahead? Do I need to get myself a PhD?
I have learned a lot. I feel like I did grow a bit and found out who this Claudia girl really was. It turns out, she’s a bit different than the girl she thought she was. I can have fun, let go and just let things happen. Unexpectedly, I’m a bit more durable than your average hiking boot, can repair from bumps and bruises and have a pretty high tolerance for cold. I never knew that I liked people as much as I do or that it was so easy to make friends. I never thought I would see myself dance, comfortably speak another language, or think hitching was the preferred mode of transport. Under all of it though, there is this girl I recognize, below the dirty clothes, the dirty nails, the disheveled hair, I found that girl that I used to be, the one I thought I lost. Not the one who got buried in “career” and “house” and “responsibility” and forgot that there is so much more to life than just going through the motions. I found the one who yelled at me, “You get to do this amazing thing, you get to pick your purpose, you get to direct your path, you get to LIVE your life!” So those tremors that no-one else was feeling, yeah, they knocked me around a bit and reminded me to be that girl that wakes up every morning grateful. You know why? Because my life doesn’t have to be a perpetual Monday, it’s a blessing, a surprise, a chance.
So here we are. Looking forward, looking back, taking a deep breath and deciding…which way to go. Do I follow convention and a return to my previous career? Do I follow my heart and let things unfold as they may. Do I maybe…get a PhD?
That, after all, might not be such a bad idea. It’s definitely something to consider. There is so much more to learn, so much more to see…so, so much more.
That, after all, might not be such a bad idea. It’s definitely something to consider. There is so much more to learn, so much more to see…so, so much more.