BE, HERE, NOW

I wish I could say that I remember living in Queens, but I don’t. I know that I did certain things like skip home from the public library with a stack of books around the age of 3 and play in snow that nearly came up to my tiny little shoulder around the age of 2. But remember, I do not.

I don’t remember moving from Queens to Suffolk County, Long Island with my family around the age of 3-and-a-half! nor do I remember painting my new, all-to-myself room a shade of purply-pink. But what I do remember is a constant, pervasive feeling of Not Quite Liking Where I Was.

I’m one of those people who is always reaching for what’s beyond me; always seeking something better or grander and always thinking it can’t be found where I am. I don’t know why but I’ve never really liked Long Island. Well, that’s not true. I like the geography, and some of the towns, but the people—sorry to say it—embarrass me a bit. The rough and tumbled accents; the crassness and propensity for strong language; the general lack of grace and gentility; the culture of god only knows what that’s always felt very much Their’s and not at all Mine—even though a peek through a few of my family’s photo albums would tell a different story. But let’s just say that’s because I was an eccentric teenager trying, for a minute, to fit in to a place where I never fully could.

That’s the problem I guess, Long Island never felt like mine. It wasn’t a place that I could lay claim to, so when a dear friend recently said to me that there was something “so Long Island about you,” I felt my blood boil because to me, there isn’t. Worth noting: she isn’t from here.

You see, my closest friends growing up weren’t in my school district, one wasn’t even in the same state as me. My earliest boyfriends were also from different school districts, most weren’t in my grade either. My own family is mostly from the city, if not different states all together. For college, I shirked convention and hightailed it to a private school in North Carolina, much to the surprise of what felt like everyone and their mother’s who attended in-state public universities or ones within a few hours’ drive of home.

So when I came back to Long Island after college, I did so with my tail between my legs with all intentions of at least working in the city. But that was a thing that very much didn’t happen as I worked for the town I grew up in for 2 years—literally, I was in Town Hall. All the while scratching that itch of mine to leave (again). So I dated someone who lived in Brooklyn. When I finally moved to Brooklyn myself for school, it was largely a disaster and I found myself back in Long Island sooner than I ever wished to return (which at that time was never, mostly never, with the exception of birthdays and holidays and the occasional trip to the Hamptons).

So I was back here. Living in Long Island, at least working in New Jersey (words I never thought I’d say). But when that commute just got to be way. too. much., I was fully here once more—goodbye Brooklyn Boy—dating here, working here, living here. All the while scratching that itch of mine to leave (again). So I dated someone else who lived in Brooklyn; and then someone who lived further east in Long Island but had an apartment in the city; and then that one who lived in Harlem that was so good until it wasn’t good at all. And then I was fully here once again.

But not quite! Because I was still hoping for something better/different/farther away to come my way somehow. Until, quite literally last night, when a very important person in my life—mind you, this is a person I never thought I’d see again (life, you’re funny)—stopped me in the middle of yet another one of my “Why am I here? I can’t stand it here,” diatribes and looked directly at me as he said, “There’s nothing wrong with being here.”

Here.

It has literally cost me so much trying to not be here. I’ve chased down every possible avenue to have an excuse to not be here—religion, education, romance, work—and all of them have ended with an exasperated, financially-strapped, heartbroken me looking up at the sky saying, “Really? Here? Again?”

But yes. Here: apparently where I’m supposed to be now (thanks for nothing Ram Dass). My parents moved my siblings and I here, as in Long Island, for a “better life” and my stubbornness has left me trying to leave this “idyllic suburb” every chance I’ve gotten. Yet my Parent—capitalization necessary as I’m talking about God y’all—has kept bringing me back, saying all the while, “Child, will you just be Here.”

So I shall be here; and not reluctantly this time. Because maybe there’s nothing wrong with being in a place that doesn’t quite feel like Mine. Because maybe it’s not supposed to, and maybe it can’t feel like Mine yet if I am to truly make my mark on it. And maybe, just maybe, this is the biggest test of all: being fully here, in this place and in this moment, even though it’s a here I never really wanted, and finding its light and all the ways I can love it.

Aha.

P.S. Necessary listening…

 

THE WANDERING, WAYWARD DAUGHTER: A MEMOIR, OF SORTS

I keep talking about and focusing on how long it had been since I sat proper and did a bible study in my trusty Life Application Study Bible (New Living Translation). Perhaps I am trying to level myself lest my head get too big (which is ridiculous). Or perhaps I am attempting to differentiate myself from others that I deem more godly than I (which is also ridiculous). Either way and for whatever reason, it is something that I do.

I focus on the time I spent separated from the bible version of God’s word and the pursuit of Him in a Christian sense. Which means I ignore all the other ways I’ve found God these past two and a half years in the pursuit of a meditation practice, yoga, healing herbs and teas, the energy in a beautiful crystal, good food and wine, hiking in nature, and the study of the religiously-neutral, spiritual, indescribable yet palpable energy that connects every and any thing.

In those two and a half years, I became a member of the People’s Church of Necessity, a phrase I use to represent God’s uncanny way of placing you in situations that seem so. wrong. amongst people that are too. different. (read: hedonists and nihilists and heathens) in order to heal you. Through the healing, God is dismantling your ego* brick by brick until all you see around you is rubble. Then slowly but surely, God shines Its light upon one brick at a time and you find yourself elbows deep in the dirt building and building. And one day, the rubble is gone and around you is a beautiful Home to dance, sing, play, and rejoice in.

* It is the ego that keeps us separate from God and others. Because it is the ego that drives our desire to be a Special Snowflake and the ego that drives our fear that we are Too Much/Alone/Different/Weird/Needy/etc.

I also came to understand how insignificant our human concept of time is to God. In Psalm 90:4 we read, “For a thousand years in Your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.” A thousand years is a day. Can you imagine? I sure can’t. And that’s exactly why I take upon my heart the largely inaccurate persona of the Wandering, Wayward Daughter.

When I read or hear the Word—in any text or conversation which was inspired by Divinity— and it rings as Truth, I see my thoughts for what they are: a (needless, unnecessary, ungodly) shame cycle meant to feed my ego and keep me separate from God.

But when I read Psalm 107:2, “Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out!,” I am reminded of all my conversations with the heathens and nihilists and hedonists in which I would start clapping like a giddy child while pouring out Truth after Truth after Truth of our Grand and Loving Creator of the Universe.

And when I read Jeremiah 31:12, “They will be radiant because of the Lord’s good gifts,” I am reminded of all the times I left yoga, glowing in said radiance, with a desire to only eat foods that would nourish me, and have conversations that uplifted others, and be kind and gracious to my neighbors.

And even when I read, “Happiness is the lost paradise. Humans have worked so hard to reach this point, and this is part of the evolution of the mind. […] Moses called it the Promised Land, Buddha called it Nirvana, Jesus called it Heaven, and the Toltecs call it a New Dream,” in Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements, I smile knowingly because I know that the God of Everything is, and has always been, in everything that truthfully brings us closer to Joy. No matter what you call it.

And just like that, the shame cycle is finished.

CAR SEATS ARE FOR ADULTS TOO

I hate driving in overcast weather. Between the shadows and the increased pressure, it’s never a fun experience. But today was exceptionally bad. I could barely stand being behind the wheel. So it got me thinking: am I doing this car seat thing all wrong?

And then I really got to thinking. New parents obsess over putting their babies and toddlers into car seats properly. There are precise angles and locations for the seat belt, the seat, the baby, etc. If you get it wrong, the mistake can be costly. But it can be just as costly to sit improperly as a driver or passenger too.

I realized that though I could correctly install a car seat for a small child—thanks to my niece and nephew—I had no idea how I should be sitting in my car seat. Or anyone’s for that matter. So I did what I do and I took to Google.

Thanks to these videos, I made micro-adjustments to my headrest, my side view mirrors, my rear view mirror, the angle of my seat, the location of my seat, the height of my steering wheel, the angle of my steering wheel, and how I sat. I changed everything.

And it was no longer a surprise why I was a wriggly worm every time I tried to drive. My headrest was too high, my side view mirrors were tucked in too much, my rear view mirror was too low, my seat was angled too far back, my seat was too far from the pedals (and I already sat pretty darn close), and my steering wheel was both too far forward and angled too far down.

Sitting parked on the side of the road, I felt great. But as soon as I began driving, I was completely disoriented. I thought I was going to throw up the entire time. For a minute, I entertained putting everything back to the (way more comfortable) wrong way. But when I saw the other drivers around me hunched over their steering wheels, white-knuckled making left turns I knew I couldn’t keep doing the wrong thing just because it felt better. So I kept going.

Disoriented as I was, I was also more in control. My car felt speedier and lighter—too light at times, the wind was blowing me off-center every chance it got. Pushed back against the seat as I should be, I was conscious of how often I’d displace my weight on the steering wheel. And so I wondered if I even liked the experience of driving as much as I thought I did—considering the level of tension I had behind the wheel—or if I just liked the freedom that my car represented. This body/soul/life scan continued along with the drive.

I realized that forcing my body into one position for x-amount of time was a constant dance between tension and release. My body kept trying to regain control. It did not like being at the whim of the road. When the car would dip on the left, my body pushed toward the right side. When I would break, instead of succumbing to the change in G-forces, my body fought to stay where it wanted to stay. When I would switch my right foot between pedals, my left side would angle backward to maintain its oddly centered balance.

When I felt my right shoulder blade repeatedly pulling toward the steering wheel, fighting against the cradling effect of the car seat, I wondered how many times a day my body does this little dance. How often I roll my shoulders back and down and yank them back up toward my ears. How often I tighten my hips and ease them back down into the chair. How often my lower jaw clamps toward my upper jaw and steadily relaxes.

It was exhausting to notice how exhausting it is to try to maintain control. So I instead focused on this story and tried, as best I could, to let my body succumb to the movement of the road, for once fighting my ability to fight for control, and release.

FINALLY MAPPED

For those of you familiar with Danielle LaPorte, you know what’s coming. For those that aren’t, let me briefly acquaint you with this incredible human. And by that I simply mean, this is her media bio:

Danielle LaPorte is the creator of The Desire Map: A Guide To Creating Goals With Soul, author of the bestseller, The Fire Starter Sessions (with Random House/Crown), and co-creator of Your Big Beautiful Book Plan. An inspirational speaker, poet, former think tank exec and business strategist, she writes weekly at DanielleLaPorte.com, where over a million visitors have gone for her straight-up advice — a site that’s been deemed “the best place online for kick-ass spirituality,” and was named one of the “Top 100 Websites for Women” by Forbes.

The Desire Map is a holistic life-planning endeavor where you get down and dirty with your Core Desired Feelings. We’re talking earth-shattering, this is why I live and breathe, how do I manifest more of this wonderment, please don’t take me off this glorious ride, feelings. As Danielle says, it’s where, “the inner meets the outer. The spirit drives the material.” So naturally, I was all for it.

A little less than a year ago I attempted it for the first time in the middle of my living room with a television on and four people around me. Down and dirty? Not so much. Then a few weeks later I attempted again. Eight semi-relatable words and convoluted definitions later, I decided to take a break. Until now.

This summer has been profound—thanks to three retrogrades and an eclipse or two—and it slowly and solidly chipped away at every thought pattern, belief, relationship, etc. that was holding me back. To say that I hardly recognize the version of me that began this summer would be an understatement. So you could imagine how the aftermath of all of that created the perfect environment for me return to this mapping thing. And lo and behold, I did…and did it good.

Presenting my Core Desired Feelings to the world is a bit intimidating so if you’d be so kind, drum roll please.

SOULFUL : TRANSCENDENT : ROOTED : WILD : EARTHY

And here’s what they mean to me:

1. soulful (warm, deep, luscious, rich, inviting, powerful, sensual)

to be soulful is to have a smoldering, lingering passion for life’s depth and richness. to infuse the day-to-day with pleasurable small details and to fully enjoy sensory experiences. to be warm and inviting in expression yet luscious and powerful at the core. to express the pure, unadulterated, alluring, magnetic mystique of womanhood.

2. transcendent (mystical, expansive, connected, divine, infinite, wonder-filled)

to be transcendent is to experience the interconnectedness of life and the divinity within all of us. to live in a state of wonder as you experience the expansiveness of the universe. to marvel at the brilliance of life in such a way as to diffuse all anxieties. to infuse the mystical into the mundane. to embrace the infinite possibilities and stay unbounded and unlimited.

3. rooted (centered, grounded, whole, aligned, intentional)

to be rooted is to be wholly present and fully aligned mind, body, and soul. to have love, home, and community flowing abundantly to you and from you. to move with intention and to be thoughtful in all that you do so nothing that comes forth from your efforts is aimless.

4. wild (adventurous, curious, free, receptive, lighthearted, resilient)

to be wild is to be true to and trusting of one’s intuition and receptive toward whatever comes from the universe. to live freely and to follow one’s internal curiosities on continual adventures. to stand strong in the face of adversity, resilient and brave, and to be hopeful for better days. to keep a lightness in your heart while your bare feet tread many winding paths. to remain unbroken and unapologetic in your expression of your pure, divine spirit.

5. earthy (healing, nourishing, fresh, lively, creative, true)

to be earthy is to bring healing and nourishment to yourself and others through a connection to nature. to live in a way that is simple, pure, kind, and true. to express a freshness and creativity that is life-giving to our planet and to humanity. to be generative; a fertile place where any and all goodness you wish to create can grow and thrive.

Fun right? Happy mapping!

EXIT 70

“…who shall say where one ends and the other begins?” – Edgar Allen Poe

It started in my ears, a Google alert.
It then went to my eyes, lingering lights and trucks.
It then went to my hands, quickly changing lanes.
It then went to my thoughts, “There’s water on the floor. Dear god, this is bad.”
It then went back to my hands, covering my open mouth.
It then went back to my eyes, stinging with tears.
It then went everywhere, the latent energy of it all—the fear, the frenzy, the desperation—washing over me in swift metallic strokes. Relentless and cold.

Thus began the counting backwards, “That could’ve been me. That’s my usual time.”

And at once, life was once again awful and once again beautiful.

I could stomach nothing but the ghostly reverb of Holocene, and hearing nothing new, I saw everything differently. The smooth ess-curves now harsh and unforgiving, I longed for the angular straights. For they were a soft place to get lost in thought. A place where I longed for nothing more than to just be out. Out of the car, out of my head, out of the ocean of all of the feelings and thoughts and ruminations.

And so began the calcifying effect of auto-pilot; the clenched jaw, the blank stare, the empty mind. An inner laugh at a desperate search for purpose wrapped up in FICO scores and unsent texts. An inner fight to stay present, to not relent into what would be easy. To remember long enough to record, to write it out, to share. An obsessive replay of words and phrases and phrases and words. A morbid muttering of memento mori.

And crossing the island, staring at ships on a harbor and cars on bridges and clusters of trees, this came forward: we are saved and slain in our small choices. The stop for coffee, the line for gas, the quick rush to the bathroom, the last minute email. We are spared to save, to play, to share, to love.

So here I am, seven feet deep crying for humanity; yours, mine, ours. Scooping up all of the stolen, stagnant love at Exit 70 and recycling it back to the universe, to us.

— Dedicated to whoever you are, I felt you. I love you.  —

ON DISPLAY

My shades are open and it is early evening. I am practically begging my row of neighbors — and the lone pigeon perched atop the corner of an adjacent building — to stare into my life. To watch GIRLS with me. To eat my garlic knots and drink my tea. To be the voyeurs we all secretly wish to be.

I would draw them but as I said, it is early in the evening. Which means the sun is going down. Which means that the beautiful view of the city that I have out of my right window is filling up with purple clouds and sherbet sky and I am partaking in the age old ritual of saying goodbye to the day. Of marveling at how grand our tiny planet is when the sun leaves the northern hemisphere. Of turning clouds into stories and colors into words.

My shades are open in Brooklyn but the only person being voyeuristic is me.

“There’s a sunrise and a sunset every single day, and they’re absolutely free. Don’t miss so many of them.” ― Jo Walton

2014: AN HONEST SUMMARY

I think social media is too often filled with people’s highlight reels (especially around this time of year). Our photos and statuses are primarily our final productions and little to no hint toward how terribly our dress rehearsals went. So instead of all that, I’m going to be completely honest with how my year was.

I put too much pressure and forced energy on major life events of mine in 2014: moving to Brooklyn, the direction my career was going to take, going back to school, and what it meant to turn 25. As is to be expected when we make plans and try to control life, it all burst apart in ways I couldn’t ever have seen coming. 

But there were also the little victories: skiing down the bunny slope without falling, going on a 7 mile hike, finding more happy places in little corners of the world, asking myself what desire and happiness really means, eating fresh strawberries, making my first sauce, biking around cities, picking apples off a tree, releasing the fears embedded in actually listening to what you want for yourself, letting go of what no longer served me, and the absolute joy that comes from knowing who your friends are.

And now, I’m left with only a few resolutions and definitely no hard goals. I resolve to stop making plans, to be kinder and more forgiving (mostly to myself but also to others), to stay continually open to new experiences and courses that inevitably reroute, and to accept that my own happiness happens to be rooted in the little victories.

Happy New Year, everybody. Cheers to your own honesty and wellness.

(originally posted to Facebook)

WINK

My heart pines to live a forward life, backwards. To know all that will happen and to choose tribulation anyway.

But alas, our lives do not work in such ways. Instead, our hearts ache, our minds fear, and our souls panic. And then we break plans, we break hearts, and we create again.

Though its true that life itself moves forward, the universe only winks in reverse.