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Archive for March, 2012

Reconciliation

There was a time when I lived two lives.  There was the woman that knew exactly what she was doing and she was the one that I took out to parties to mingle with near strangers.  She was the one that attended my ten year college reunion and spent time with neighbors back home.   Then there was the woman who woke up some nights in complete fear and distrust of herself.  She spent time alone listening to sad music turned up loud.  Sometimes these two women got in vicious fights, yelling at each other, both perched on a shoulder.

                I know there’s a way to make them reconcile.

                When I lived in Aspen, I tried on every job title for size, to see how it would sound when I told people what I was doing.  “Loan Assistant.”  Yep, that sounds pretty important and respectful.  Meanwhile, in my head I would tell myself that I was a “banker” and then shake my head, wondering what exactly I was thinking.

                I know that it wasn’t only old high school classmates that I was trying to reassure when I told them that I knew exactly what I was doing.  I was trying to reassure myself.  But meanwhile, that silly woman who listened to sad music would yell something about hope and confidence and trust.  I know that there’s a way to have them meet in the middle.

                That middle ground is a place where I don’t feel like I’m lying when I am not exactly telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  It’s recognizing that there is room for a little doubt, room for bumps in the road.  And that the sooner I can accept that in myself, the better it will be for all of those that come in contact with me.  It will be a confidence that will exude even if the confidence is in the fact that though I don’t know exactly what I’m doing, I know that I can get there someday.

 

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Spring around here brings some weird weather.  Less than a week ago, we had tornado warnings.  A few days after that, we woke up to a couple of inches of snow on the ground.  Today, the sun is out and the temperature will edge close to 70 degrees.  Today, people will flock to the park near my house in an attempt to grab at spring’s first appearance.  A smile will be on their faces and they will be showing skin that hasn’t been seen in a while. 

                And this is what I love the most about spring—the way it not only blooms flowers but also the attitudes of all those around me.  You start to see confidence that has been missing over the long, dark, cold days—we will make it through this season.  And this confidence is even more beautiful than the purple irises that have taken to sprouting all around. 

Hold on, I want to say to the flowers and the people, perhaps winter is not over yet.  This could all be a trick.

But it probably doesn’t matter.  Even if winter lurks again around the corner, we have this day.  And for the purple blooms, they have gotten to see the sky and stretch their petals and reach towards the sun and isn’t that enough?  Even if they have to suffer through some cold nights, wasn’t that time above ground completely worth it?

What does that mean for us that we run outside at the first hint of spring, completely forgiving of the fact that she might not be here for good?

I like to think that it means that we accept small pleasures as we are given them; that no matter what chill and rain sit in our forecast, that we at least have this day of warmth and soft breezes.  I think it means that we are willing to take on winter again if he at least gives us a hint that better things are coming.

Bring it on, we might even say, because I know the warm and I know the sunshine and I know that it will return some day.  Give me your snow, I can take it, and I will smile again sometime soon.  But could you please not hurt those purple flowers?

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I just read this blurb in O magazine (Oprah’s magazine for those of you who have not been yet enlightened by this fabulous publication) about learning how to lighten up.  It turns out that I am not alone and that many of us are wired towards the troublesome.  We focus on the negative things about ourselves, about our surroundings and about the people that surround us.  As Oprah’s buddy, Dr. Phil, would say…”How’s that working for you?”  Gets you kind of angry and icky inside, doesn’t it?

                Sometimes, when I am feeling particularly sad and pitiful, I think my mind works a bit like a drain, or the funnel-like tornado that carried Dorothy far from home.  I think about one thing that is going wrong and the thought spirals, out of control, until I feel like I am this green monster walking through a wasteland surrounded by steaming piles of dog poo.  Actually, that’s an image that I never really had before but I think it works to communicate the feeling.

                When I once confided in a friend about this feeling, she recommended that I keep a list.  Now, I love making lists so the idea immediately intrigued me.  But this list would be different from a grocery or a to-do list.  It wouldn’t involve crossing things off in an effort to feel as if you’ve accomplished something.  This list would be one that you preserve, looking back at occasionally for inspiration.

                It was a list of positive things that I did each day.  It was cheating if I skipped a day.  And some days were easier than others.  There were days when I could hardly narrow down the most positive thing that I had done that day—-I took the recycling, I dragged myself to yoga class, I dressed nicely.  Most interesting, though, were the days that I had to stretch for items to list.

                There was a day that I listed “returned item to Target.”  Maybe this wouldn’t make your list but for me, it meant overcoming buyer’s remorse and the feeling that I would be judged at the return counter and keeping the item just in case I would someday use it, and just simply getting my money back. 

It doesn’t matter that this might not be viewed as a huge accomplishment to anyone else.  To me, it was something positive that I did…and the only thing that I could point to for that particular day.  What would make your lists?

                But back to Oprah….the blurb I was reading dealt with training our brains to rewire towards the positive using a simple trick.  When you notice something positive in yourself (the item on your list perhaps) or something beautiful in the world, savor it for ten seconds. 

Go ahead…think about that coffee you are drinking, or that song that comes on the radio that you love, or the pretty tree that stands in front of you.  Close your eyes if traffic allows and let the corners of your mouth turn up a little bit and think about the good.  Click your heels three times if you want to….you’ve left that tornado behind.

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…Somewhere an Island Awaits You

                I called the career counselor at the local university today.  I could imagine them saying “Yes, and what seems to be the problem, miss?” to which I would respond, “I’m 33 years old and don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.”  But instead, of course, I just simply made an appointment.  When they ask me want I want out of a job, I will show them this picture.

                I met this man when I was in Costa Rica.   I joined a boatful of people as we departed from Montezuma to head to an uninhabited island.  The island was surrounded by crystal blue waters and there were snack stands, volleyball courts, a gift shop and a wild pig that had been trained to drink beer.  It was admittedly, a little cheesy.  But around lunchtime, this man paddled up in a little rowboat and after he pulled it onto the white sand, he hauled a large netted bag onto the shore and set up shop at a downed tree.  He had these huge bivalves—clams? conchs?—that he began to shuck with delight.  After he had them open, he dressed them with a lemon/lime type fruit from a nearby tree, some diced onion and some hot sauce.  He sold them for the equivalent of $2 US dollars.  And they were, to this day, the best thing that I’ve ever eaten.

                Soon, others on the island began to take notice of the man.  His laugh was easy and loud as he conducted his business.  I stayed near him, watching in fascination.  He spoke English pretty well and as I stood by, occasionally purchasing another snack, I spoke to him about his life.

                He rowed, by himself, for a few hours each day just to reach this island, extracting the bivalves on the way.  When he had sold all of his merchandise he turned around and did the long row back to his family in a place that he described as a small, dusty town.   He made this journey to provide for his family and the endeavor took him away from them for practically the entire day.

                But, this man, the joy on his face was undeniable.  I imagined his solitary rows through these beautiful Costa Rican waters during sunrise and sunset and thought of what peace he must have during his daily journeys.  I thought of the sharks and storms and other dangers that he might face during his trek and knew that his occupation was a brave one.  I remembered his laughter and the unrelenting smile on his face as he passed around his half-shells to smiling and laughing customers and I knew that his joy was in the joy that he brought to others.

                It’s something like this that I am looking for.  I don’t need the palm trees, or the salty waters, or the deep tan from a life spent outside (though all of those would be perfectly fine) but it’s that smile that keeps me searching.  It’s the smile of someone who has rowed across oceans of uncertainty to finally arrive at an island, then thinking….yes….

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