Wednesday, September 30, 2015

I Want

I need. This is how my sentences begin now. I had an accident that forces self-discipline. A kind of accident that emphasizes a keen distinction between needs and wants. Fifteen years ago, needs absorbed my focus and wants became obsolete.

I dove into another Netflix series. Often, I keep away from the Netflix app on my Apple TV. All too easily, I end up lost in a series or a movie. I quickly start researching Penny Lane or Tony Soprano or Don Draper or Mary Crawley. I get sucked into their worlds and don’t want to leave. About two months ago, clearly ignoring this tendency, I finally pressed play on the show, Friday Night Lights. Years ago, when this show was actually on network television, Ashlea begged me to watch this cult classic. But, largely due to one of the story lines, I just couldn't bear to watch it. And then, recently, I heard engaging whispers and soon these whispers quickly morphed into shouts. Then, the whispers turned shouts, urged me to press play and give into the call. The call to binge on this fantastic sleeper series, called, Friday Night Lights. So, I did just that. I pressed play. And well, yet again, Ashlea was right. Friday Night Lights has heart. A heart that is honest and good. A heart who does what is right, over what it easy. This show celebrates the underdog and the overcomer. The person who falls, employs determination, and finds a way to still manage to show up and participate in the game. And, oh, it also has Tim Riggins. Oh, Tim Riggins.

In addition to the wonder that is Tim Riggins, this show also features another well-loved character. A character called, Tyra Collette. Trya is a girl who doesn’t know choice. She doesn’t know possibility. She only knows poverty and abuse and struggle. Despite her misfortune, Tyra tries to be better. Trya believes she is more than her past. Tyra believes she can change. She writes a college essay and her essay changed me. Tyra taught me it is okay to want, instead of need. Tyra gave me the idea to want. Tyra gave me the freedom to want. 

Two years ago, I was afraid of wanting anything. I figured wanting would lead to trying and trying would lead to failure. But now I find I can’t stop wanting.
I want to fly somewhere first class.
I want to travel to Europe on a business trip.
I want to get invited to the White House.
I want to learn about the world.
I want to surprise myself.
I want to be important.
I want to be the best person I can be.
I want to define myself instead of having others define me.
I want to win and have people be happy for me.
I want to lose and get over it.
I want to not be afraid of the unknown.
I want to grow up and be generous and big hearted, the way people have been with me.
I want an interesting and surprising life.
It’s not that I think I’m going to get all these things, I just want the possibility of getting them.
College represents possibility. The possibility that things are going to change.
I can’t wait.
-Tyra Collette, Friday Night Lights

Like Tyra, I decided it is okay to want. Like Trya, I decided it is time to be brave enough to ask for what I want. Dreams don’t have to stop because life throws us curve balls. No, the dreams don’t have to stop at all. The dreamer just has to work a little bit harder. The dreamer must be brave enough to ask for what she wants. 

I want to be brave enough to want.

I want to be better than I was yesterday.

I want to walk and run and dance again.

I want to travel to Paris and Greece and Spain.

I want to sit on the beaches of Kauai, one more time, and smell the saltwater and the Gardenias.

I want to hold my baby in the middle of the night and feel her heartbeat mingle with my own heartbeat.

I want to love and be loved.

I want to forgive and forgive and forgive again.

I want to make mistakes and try again.

I want to be kind and vulnerable and honest.

I want to honor my ten year old spirit and live from her dreams and imagination.

I want to stand up for what is right and just and good; even if I make a scene.

I want to show up for my friend and be her soft landing.

I want to cook more.

I want to laugh more than I cry.

I want to not be afraid to be me - flaws, designer skinny jeans and boots, and all.

I want to watch more sunsets and more sunrises.

I want to feel untethered joy.

I want to make the world more beautiful.

I want to be a cheerleader for everyone I meet. I, especially, want to cheer lead for all of the strangers I will never meet.

I want a house filled with love and dogs and kids and safety. A house where positive and loving energy surrounds and embraces each person who crosses my threshold.

I want to grow up and be generous and big hearted, the way people have been with me, just like Tyra.

And, mostly, I want to live. I want to live.

I can’t wait.

Please be brave enough to want. All you have to do is ask. 

This is who I want to be. I want to dance with people who knew me at my worst and never gave up on me. I want to continue to dance with them. I want to never give up. I want to never give up on me and never, ever give up on them. I want to dance with joy, forever, and forever more.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Yay, for the weirdos

My practice of finding the light phase is over. Instead, it is now time to commit to the light. I choose to bask in the illumination light offers and radiate its glow. This difficult and vulnerable commitment requires truth and an uncovering of the darkness that lives inside of me. This commitment forces a purge of pain that some people are not comfortable hearing. 

And just like most hard stuff, when we shed our darkness, we feel a bit of euphoria. But, as readily as euphoria arrives, it also quickly dissipates. Sometimes truth telling leads to pain. Sometimes truth telling is met with fear and burden. I understand these emotions, these fears, and these burdens of truth. Empathy challenges us. We don’t always get it right the first time. I know this because I don’t always dive into the empathetic and healing waters right away, either. When I feel wronged or hurt or burdened, I, also, can turn to fear, judgement, self-preservation, and cruelty. Empathy isn’t always the first response to pain and that is okay. Empathy is learned and practiced, too. Just like light. But, the tricky thing about light is that it covers darkness. Light needs darkness to truly shine. A sun soaked day is wonderful, but a dark evening with a glowing moon, well that’s just magical.

Last night, as we packed up a few drinks, grabbed IPads and IPhones, and headed out the door to watch the Lunar Eclipse, I paused to reflect and comment on some of the pain I felt over the last few days. The pain that rose to new heights and needed to be released in order to fully commit to the light. I turned to my friend and said, “I think I am kooky and weird. I believe in these words like love, reconciliation, redemption, hope, forgiveness, grace, and love. I really believe these words exist as actions. I really believe these words are possible to experience and live and practice. I believe in their possibility.” 

My friend gently replied, “Yes. You are weird and you are kooky. I knew this when we met over twenty years ago. You do believe in those words. You do think they are possible. This is why I love you, though. This is why I stand next to you on dark nights and watch the moon. You forgive and you love. You offer grace. You are weird and kooky and that’s not only okay, it’s pretty great.”

We gathered in the middle of the road; a few neighbors and friends huddled together to watch the moon’s glow on a black and dark night. As we sat and waited, I sent another friend, Kelly, a text message and asked if she could see the moon. She replied with a text message that read, “I can’t see it from my deck or my front porch, but if I stand in the middle of the yard, like a weirdo, I can see the moon.” 

Right away, as I read her words, I knew we all weren’t just waiting for the moon last night. We all weren’t just standing in the middle of the road and our yards just to watch the moon. We were ALL standing together, as a bunch of weirdos, waiting for the light to take over the dark. 

Our band of weirdos included saints and sinners. And addicts and recovering addicts. And the abused and the abusers. The fallen and the recovered. The liars and the truth tellers. The loved and the lost. The dreamers and the hopers. No one judged anyone, we all just stood together, looking up at the magical light, in the middle of the road, like weirdos. 

I guess it’s weird to believe love and forgiveness and grace really do exist. Historically, some of the world’s greatest weirdos, like Jesus and Martin Luther King Jr., believed the antidote for hate was love. I guess it’s weird to think reconciliation is possible with all of the swirling pain, hurt, and fear that exists. I guess it's weird to think, with love, we can heal anger and prejudice. I do not believe we can’t wax poetic about our sick and hurting world without first being brave, or weird, enough to practice a little compassion and empathy and redemption. And I do believe we must practice these things in our own front yards, in our own neighborhoods, in our own homes, and in our own lives. If, as individuals, we don’t commit to these crazy words, nothing in this world will ever heal. Wounds will continue to bleed.  Burden will continue to win and perpetuate the myth that we are alone in our darkness. Peace and light begin with us, as individuals. And if that’s weird, well okay then. If grace is risky and kooky, then okay - I will gladly stand in the middle of the road with the other weirdos.

We can’t judge pain. A lack of empathy comes from our own pain. Hurt people hurt. Grace and forgiveness and hope and love are really, really hard. They take someone kooky enough to fight for them and preach them to the masses. 

When we shed our darkness; when tell the truth and uncover our secrets, we are free to be weird. You can’t fake forgiveness and you certainly can’t fake grace. God’s favor shines on all of us, not just the successful and perfectly put together armored humans. We shine and strengthen this armor to prevent hurt and imperfection. These lofty words are lived through practice and determination and a stripping of that armor. We must choose to allow them to shine above, through our own darkness, through our own chinks in our shiny and glistening armor. Because when we offer these gifts to others, when we take off our masks, we are rewarded in ways that are hard to grasp and measure in practical terms. We become the light workers and the weirdos, not because we are wrong and confused and tormented, but because we are brave enough to stand in the middle of the road and wait for the light.

Once again, I fail to practice empathy on many occasions. I sit with the hurt and pain and, only later, do I see my role, my part, my job in its healing. The craziest part of this whole offering forgiveness thing is I learned how to offer this this gift to others because it was once and continues to be offered to me. I only know how to be the forgiver because I am forgiven. The change begins with us, as individuals. We are the change. We are the weirdos who choose to believe in a better world. We don’t fear redemption. Instead of a burden, we see others' confessions of pain and hurt and darkness as a privilege. 

So, if you feel like a weird and kooky person who believes in love, come join us in the road. Just as suffering does not discriminate, our light of the moon doesn’t discriminate either. It shines, equally, on all of us. Each weirdo feels and sees the light. Each weirdo is healed by its magnificence, no exceptions. We are here, waiting out the darkness, and we will wait for you to join us. Come one, come all, we will wait and save a place, in the middle of the road, for you stand along side of us - the weirdos, the healers, the healed. Yay, for the weirdos, we will change the world. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Space Holders

"You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path. " -Steve Jobs. This gal sent me a surprise card today. She sent it old school style and wrote it out by hand, put a stamp on it, and it ended up in that old thing called a mailbox. She included the quote I shared with you. This is what holding space for others means. Ashlea doesn't judge my pain. She doesn't expect me to fix anything. She just reminds me she is here for me. She simply listens to me and offers her heart. This is holding space. I am very grateful for her example and feel lucky to call her friend. We all know these people - the space holders. These are the people who deserve our energy. I need this reminder, too. To all of the space holders out make the world better. Please keep doing what you are doing.

Friday, September 18, 2015

YOU are not paralyzed

"There is no greater threat to the critics and cynics and fearmongers than those of us who are willing to fall because we have learned how to rise." 

-Brene Brown, Rising Strong via Kelle Hampton

Several months ago, I read an article written by a woman who survived cancer. She beautifully described the minutes, hours, weeks, months, and years she desperately struggled to survive. While I identify with many of her feelings and emotions, not until the last paragraph, the last few words, did I sit back in my chair and feel that tingle of whoa that’s me, that’s exactly how I feel. 

That last paragraph told the story of the first year as a survivor of cancer. That last paragraph recounted the crushing self-doubt and defeat that so readily comes along with recovery. That first year is spent stubbornly searching for the person inside the survivor body. The person who once lived and breathed and felt joy and precious hope. The author said it was probably the hardest year of her journey with cancer. She was forced to recover from the fall.

I fall a lot. Not so much physically, but quite a bit mentally. And lately, this first year - a year filled with promises of new beginnings and tangible hope - has been anything but easy.  Bold dreams seem possible, yet my mind twists these dreams into unattainable pieces of perfectly etched artwork. Glorious portraits and landscapes delicately hang on my walls, but can only be seen and admired, instead of lived. And in simple and basic language, I feel pretty crappy lately and really paralyzed. I listen to the can nots and will nots far more than I should. That cynic and critic, who lies is wait inside my head ready to pounce and crush these visions of hope, is louder than ever. All I can hear is you are paralyzed and you fell. You fell, you are permanently damaged. 

And then today happened. I left to get my haircut, pick up a few things at a cute little market, and returned home. I lifted my body out of the car and into my chair and sighed a huge, I feel sorry for myself sigh, like I do when I am really feeling yucky. I, reluctantly, gathered my wallet, keys, phone, and purchases and started to head up my never ending hill. And when I am feeling all icky like this, that hill seems so huge and so daunting. I started up the hill and noticed a neighbor waiting for me at the top of the hill. This former rabbi stood, at least six feet tall with majestic grey hair and piercing blue eyes, waiting for me to reach the top. He offered to help, but I insisted this climb is good for me. He laughed. I stopped for a minute to say hello and we started a conversation. At some point during this brief encounter I heard him ask why I used a wheelchair. I cavalierly said, "I fell off of a horse and I am paralyzed.”

Then he said it. His Israeli Hebrew accent eloquently spoke the words I needed hear. The very words filled with so much power, they crushed the cynic and the critic in one swift blow. 

He said, as he looked right at me and pointed to me, “NO. No, part of your body is paralyzed, YOU are not paralyzed. I see you. I watch you. YOU are not paralyzed.”

I was never more grateful for my giant aviator sunglasses. They hid the tears until they streamed down my cheek. I looked at him, I easily smiled through these tears, completely caught off guard, and said, “Yes, you are right. You are right.”

We all have a piece or part of us that is paralyzed. Cancer, fear of the unknown, the loss of a dream or loved one, accidents and falls, all paralyze us. And small, seemingly insignificant moments paralyze too. The are no limits to what can hold us back and keep us from fighting off the cynic and the critic. All of us, each and every one of us, has a part of us that is paralyzed. WE are not paralyzed, just this little part of us is paralyzed.

And as I rode on the coat tails of his euphoric words, I wheeled inside and went straight to my mirror. I looked in my own eyes and I repeated, “YOU are not paralyzed. YOU are not paralyzed. YOU will get back up again. YOU will recover from your fall.”

I may be all messy and vulnerable lately and searching for where I am going and wondering how I will get there. But, I will be damned if the cynic and critic, living inside of me, beats out hope and tenacity. I recover. It’s what I do. It’s what we all do. Recovery is forgiveness, it’s grace, it’s a second or third or twenty-seventh chance. We are so fragile, but we are also so strong. And I say to all of you who are stuck on the floor, who doubt recovery and resurrection, the words from the rabbi who waits at the top of the giant hill...

“NO. No, part of your body is paralyzed, YOU are not paralyzed. I see you. I watch you. YOU are not paralyzed.”

Friday, July 24, 2015

The White Feather

Chaos reigned the last few weeks. Chaos showed up and tried to steal my hope and pollute my dreams. And because I am human and flawed and sometimes full of doubt and fear, I almost gave in to the darkness. I almost forgot it is up to me to bring calm to the chaos. Yesterday, as I coughed and hacked my way through a long and hot walk, I decided I just couldn’t take all of the hard anymore. I drove home, hopped in the shower, and let the floodgates of pain open and pour down the drain. And as I cried I asked why. Why does this life have to be so hard? Why does it always feel like I am ten steps behind even though I hit the ground running every single morning? Why does it feel like my heart breaks more than it swells? The tears finally stopped and I turned off the shower. I felt better, but didn’t feel any magic answers or loud intuitive callings. I just felt a bit of relief. Belle needed to go outside, of course, so I put on some leggings and a t-shirt and prepared to take her outside. And as I opened the door, a tiny, white feather flew inside and landed smack in my lap, right on my black leggings so I could see it, clear as day. A long time ago, when darkness was all I knew, I chose a feather as my spirit sign. Whenever I doubted or feared or even wondered, I asked for a sign I was on the right path or making the right choices, and within days a feather would show up on the ground or in the air or on the hood of my car. 

I didn’t ask for a sign yesterday. It just showed up and flew in my door into my lap. The feather wasn’t an answer to a specific question, but more a reminder that yes, life will kick me in the ass more times than I would like and these kicks will keep happening. Trying to figure out why is it so hard is an exercise in futility. Life is just hard sometimes. Life is hard more often the not. It just is. This doesn’t mean life isn’t also wonderful and inviting and accepting and sparkly and joyful. Life is both hard and good. And the only thing I know for sure, is there is always joy on the other side of hard. I just need to persevere, get through it, and have faith in the light its willingness to carry me. Light wants me to recognize she is always there, even when it is dark. Sometimes, I have to hunt for light and sometimes it effortlessly floats through my front door.

So, from a person who is still learning not to fear the dark and accept it as part of life, please wait it out. I know darkness and hard are painful and scary. I know they seem like they will never end. But, they do end, eventually. And we all feel scared and alone and defeated. We all need to be reminded that we are loved and not alone and seekers of the light. We all want the good, even though we get the hard sometimes. Hard doesn’t show up because we are wrong, or unworthy, or broken. Hard is just a part of life. I am sharing my feather with you today because we all need to be reminded how beautiful and whole and full of light we are. We are all carriers of the light, even when we don’t feel that way. Sending so much love to all of you, especially if you feel alone and scared today. The hard will end, I promise. 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Freedom for All

"For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. " --Nelson Mandela. 

Nothing says America like the melting pot of a California Cabernet, a Waygu beef burger -sans the bun- served with pommes frites. As a person who is, sometimes, perceived as a second class citizen in her own country, please remember today isn't simply about independence for the chosen few. Today, Independence Day, celebrates freedom from all oppression, for all of US. Yes, as individuals, we all may be different on the outside. But, as sons and daughters, and husbands and wives, and mothers and fathers, and brothers and sisters, and friends and lovers, we are all equal. We are all worthy of freedom. We are all free to be just as we are and to think as we think. We are Americans and, by definition, we embody acceptance and liberty for ALL.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Listen to the Lady

Kids can be a lot of things. They are sometimes loud, destructive, unruly, and messy. They can take the calmest, most sane adult-care-taker-person and bring her to her knees. They are wise and accepting and honest and wear their hearts and emotions on the outside. Sometimes these emotions show up in a screaming and yelling, legs and arms flailing tantrum on the floor of Target, but at least they are honest. My favorite thing about kids, though, is they are overflowing buckets full of joy and curiosity and wonder and unconditional love. Kids need their adults, but the adults, we need kids, too. 

A few Fridays ago, I drove out to Kyle and Ashlea’s and join their family for dinner. We ate a summer dinner of lobster rolls, corn, and cucumber salad. And because it is summer, schedules don’t really exist, so we watched a movie with the kids. This movie night wasn’t planned, it just happened. Ashlea put in the DVD of Secretariat to make sure it worked. My dad burned Kyle and Ashlea copy of the movie and we wanted to make sure it worked first. But, as soon as the movie started, we all gravitated towards the family room and were soon a big pile of kids and adults watching a movie, together. 

Kate, Jack, and Will, because they are kids, played with toys, puzzles, and iPads, while we watched. For a brief second, I glanced over at sweet Kate and saw her happily playing on the iPad and sharing it with Jack. Two sweet kids. And then in the next few minutes, I heard Kate say something so wise and beyond her years, it still gives me chills and still causes me to wonder. 

Early on in the movie, Secretariat, there is a scene where Penny Chenery, visibly upset, escapes to a barn on her family farm. She believes in her horse. She believes he is a member of her family. She believes he will win. But, very few people believe in Penny. As she struggles with the staggering risks of racing her horse and forcing her family into financial ruin, she gives an impassioned statement. I always thought of this statement as a turning point in the movie for dramatic affect. I never really paid attention to Penny's exact words. As Penny cries from her heart on the shoulders of the few friends who will listen, Kate looks up from her iPad, points toward the television, and loudly instructs all of us in the room to, listen to the lady. Kate’s instructions were so profound, Ashlea and I quickly whipped our heads around to look at Kate, but caught each other’s eyes instead. We shared the exact same surprise and wonder face. Kate, after her moment of brilliance, returned to her iPad and finished her game. 

Kids are a lot of things. They bring us to our knees in many different ways. We pray for their safety and strength and kindness and bravery. We pray for their innocence, wonder, and love to all remain intact. When we pray for them, we forget they are also here for us. They gently guide us out of pain and misdirection. They know they ways of the world better than any of the grown ups. They figure out how to play in the sandbox together. They don’t see difference as a detriment. Kids just learn to get along. They know how to comfort us and hurt when we hurt. They teach us it’s okay to feel sadness and doubt and fear. They teach us to dry our tears and try again. We think we raise them and, practically speaking, we do. And then they turn on us and raise us up so high we aren’t sure if they are kids or mystical creatures. 

So, I share Kate’s advice with you. I know she is six, and even I felt a little silly listening to the lady these past few weeks. But, you know what, Kate is right. Listen to the lady.

“We will win if we can and live with it if we can’t, but you never know how far you can go unless you run.  You have to run your race.  I don’t care how many times they say it can’t be done. I will not live the rest of my life in regret and no matter what happens, we are going to live rejoicing every day.”
-Penny Chenery, Secretariat