Posts Tagged ‘present’

On New Year’s Day, four year ago

Facebook has a memories feature called “On this day” that shows what was posted on that day however-many-years ago. The poster can choose to share it or leave it.

On New Year’s Day, this came up for me from January 1, 2014, four years ago:

“Happy New Year! 2013 felt very full, with so many transitions and significant life events. I take its lessons, and shed the skin of what I no longer need. 2014, I call for a deepening of my power, gifts, and wisdom. I dare myself to dream big. I intend to listen to the wisdom of my body. May this be a year of growth, claiming, magic, connection, and laughter.”

Those are big, bold words. It’s a tall order. The words say a lot in broad strokes; they do not say very much in terms of specifics.

What kind of wisdom? I received that, but it was more in the vein of “life doesn’t always give you what you think you want.” I grew a lot, but before I did, I hit rock bottom.

And the rest? I lost my sense of magic for quite a while there. 2014 was a year of stepping back, retreating back to the bare bones of what I needed. Perhaps there was a claiming — a claiming of what I needed, a reclaiming of home. But perhaps there was a kind of magic every time I stepped on the dance floor in a Nia class or looked out at the mountains. And there was a power in choosing to step away, to leave my life as it was. I chose the path that led me towards healing. At that time, it was likely the most active decision I had made in months.

It took me a while to truly listen to the wisdom of my body.

2014 was full of major life events and transitions as well. They were not the ones I expected or hoped for when I wrote that post. That year, I had to let go of certain dreams.

The “on this day” feature on Facebook can sometimes remind me of great times and memories. It can also remind me of what I no longer have. In this case, I do feel a sense of loss. I think at least part of that is grieving that sense of idealism I once had.

And part of me just wants to hold my past self and tell her that it’ll be okay if things don’t turn out how she hopes. Because it will, eventually.

It’ll be more than okay.

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Not a stranger to myself — responding to a note from someone I used to know.

Don’t be a stranger, she writes.

I find myself thinking
how can I be anything but?
I was somewhat of a stranger to myself when I knew her,
in the midst of a getting-to-know-self dance. Getting closer, but always a
few steps behind.

Now I generally keep up but my
self keeps me on my toes.

On a person-to-person basis,
Not being a stranger implies visits,
intimate and casual conversations
some form of connection
we may or may not have.

It’s always a risk,
but to you, stranger/acquaintance/community sister,
it could be like facing a flame of my past, my past beliefs
or like facing the awkward silences of the I-used-to-know-yous,
and who are you now?

She writes that she hopes to see me soon.

I’m not sure what to say to that.

I am thinking of the dream, a few nights back, of people from that community yelling at me, of the nagging feeling that stayed with me most of the day.  I am thinking of well-meant phrases that came across as antagonistic that day with her in the garden. I am also thinking that this matters, but less and less.

I am thinking of the feeling of wholeness and happiness that lingers with me longer as time goes by. Of standing with myself, of being in partnership, of doing art, of finding ways to sustain my livelihood.

I am thinking of dancing.

Don’t be a stranger, she writes.

Maybe that time — time for not-stranger-ness —  has passed. Perhaps it has not. I feel distant from that-which-was. I am not sure of what will be.

I put the letter down. At face value, the mailing is a year-end letter from a nonprofit organization asking for money. Her note is scrawled across the top, turning the letter into a more personal appeal.

letter fragment

It does appeal to the part of me that wanted — and wants to be part of something. But I remind myself that I am part of something, of some things: my own life, my marriage, my friendships, my Nia communities, large and small.

And I think of what it means to belong, not merely fit in. And how at some points in my life, I felt like I belonged and fit in, but often confused the two. While I’m still at odds with myself sometimes, in feeling “not enough,” I feel more like I belong. I belong, most of all, to myself. I’m not sure I want to fit in, at least not in the way I once did.

I don’t know how much thought she put into writing this short note. Clearly, I have put some thought into how I am reacting and responding to it.

Health results, past and present.

I remember when I first found out I had some sort of cyst or tumor, nearly four years ago now. At first, it was tangible — it showed up in X-rays and an ultrasound, and I could feel it when I touched my abdomen — but it wasn’t quite a real thing for me. I was determined. I was determined to be fine aside from that; I said to myself and everyone around me that I was otherwise healthy. I was finishing up a healing and empowerment program and I felt alive and powerful. While I did things to mitigate the occasion sharp pain and continued with the trajectory of making doctors’ appointments, I also pushed forward. I was determined that it was not going to interfere with the goals I had for myself.

I didn’t consider how much energy the mass took up inside me. Nor did I consider the power of denial. Which is not to say that the feeling of empowerment and hope and idealism was not very real for me — it was. But I didn’t even really think about the potential realities of a mass growing on my ovary. I continued as if it were not a factor.

Also, I had not had this experience before. I simply was lacking both experience and information. Phrases like complex cyst and borderline ovarian tumor did not yet have meaning for me, even if and when I heard them. It wasn’t really until after my surgery where those meanings hit me and I understood.

The present:

Saturday, I stared at the letter: my most recent pelvic ultrasound results. I get an ultrasound every six months or so to make sure that I am tumor-free. My results up to this point have been negative — nothing abnormal found. This time, there is a small cyst on my left ovary. The letter said to wait about three months and get another ultrasound and see if it resolves itself or if I need to take further action.

I froze, putting the letter down, motioning for my love to come over. He took the letter away from my shaking hands.

And I realized this weekend: While I am afraid, it’s important to not let my fear paralyze me. I can acknowledge the worst-case scenario while also acknowledging that that may never come to fruition. At the same time, it’s important not to bury myself in denial. I don’t have to present myself as a pillar of strength and push forward and try to make everything okay whether or not it is. I can be vulnerable and strong. I can be scared and concerned while still moving forward with creating my life here. I don’t have to push; I will take one step at a time.

This could be something. It could be insignificant or nothing. Many cysts resolve on their own. I’ve had one that did not. This one is small, just over one centimeter.. The one I had was nearly 13 cm. For now, I will do what I can. I will try natural and herbal remedies, ask for healing thoughts or prayers.

This weekend, I re-felt some of the trauma from that time, where I did not receive the support I needed from my community during my health scare and following crisis. I reminded myself that my support network now is strong: husband,  parents, parents-in-law, other family, friends. I allowed myself to feel the fear and the grief while also holding the reality of my current experience. In the past few years, I have created a safe space within myself to feel what I need to feel and also move through it. I have developed and strengthened relationships.  No matter what happens, I have a strong foundation.

“Try to be present” and applied wedding advice

One of the most common phrases of advice before my wedding was along the lines of, “Just enjoy it and try to be present.”

First, I want to say that this is well-meant, good advice. However, it’s harder to take this advice to mind and heart when planning and executing a wedding. There is so much going on, and it’s challenging to enjoy the process. Also, the midst of all this busyness, I am often managing my sensory experiences and making sure that I am taking care of myself so overstimulation won’t overshadow my overall experiences and outlook. I do have skills that help me be more present, and I use them often, and I still struggle when juggling multiple tasks and stimuli.

The question that came up for me after hearing this advice is: How? How can I be present amidst that much stress? How can I enjoy it when there’s so much going on at once?

Another piece of advice I received provides a possible answer:

“Do your best that day to just be there – remember these are people that know and love you, and it’s especially okay to be you in front of them.”

In the end, this reminder helped me stay present. I was there to join my love, to be with loved ones who came specifically for this occasion. If something didn’t go according to plan, it wouldn’t matter – people were coming to be with us, not for an exact or perfect occasion.

At the ceremony, as I stood there in the circle, looking into my love’s eyes, feeling the love of all those around me, I felt safe, present, and alive.

Three Julys, and the broken beauty of what we choose to do

Last night: I close my eyes and allow singer Karin Bergquist’s vocals to wash over me, her voice rich, lilting at times. As I listen, I realize that this is the third time I’ve seen the musical duo Over the Rhine in the past two years. They comes to Albuquerque nearly every July – they teach an annual songwriting workshop in Santa Fe, so they also play concerts the area as well.

Over the Rhine, a wife and husband duo, plays something close to folk or Americana music, sometimes with a hint of rock. Many of their songs have narratives. Husband Linford Detweiler often plays the piano and guitar and Karin sings and sometimes plays guitar. Sometimes they sing together and harmonize. Some of the most stunning moments during their shows are the pauses where there is no other sound but her voice.

Some of my memories from the past three Over the Rhine shows:

July 2014:
I remember some details of that concert: the stage, some of the stories. I was likely somewhat distracted, somewhat stressed, and feeling on edge. I was grateful that I was in town to see one of my favorite bands. However, I was struggling with major depression and anxiety and every day felt like a struggle. Still, going to hear music reminded me of how much I had missed seeing live bands, the way the music could lift my mood for at least a few hours. The way someone else’s story could make me forget the incessant narrative of my own, even if just for a moment

July 2015:
At this show, I was definitely in full integration mode. It had been exactly one day since my Nia White Belt training ended. That week had been the first time in over a year where I had consistently been around a group of people. Going to a concert, even in a small, intimate setting, felt like a lot after being so active for a week. My mind wandered at moments, thinking back to all the new experiences I’d had, and then I would bring myself back to the music.

July 2016:
I dropped my best friend from childhood off at the airport, and then went straight to meeting my dad so we could go to dinner and then to the show. It was at the same venue where it had been two years ago. While somewhat distracted at moments- my mind going from the Nia class I would teach the next day, to the conversations I’d had with my friend – I mostly stayed present, savoring the words and melodies with a new appreciation. I found myself tearing up a few times. I had the thought that I would likely not be here next year for their show, since I will be moving after my wedding this October.

3 different Julys, and so much change. I have gone from feeling like I’d lost my dreams to gaining a vocation through art and dance, putting pieces together to create a life I want. The pieces may not always fit together perfectly, and there are many unknowns. As I anticipate my upcoming transition and the things on my to-do list, I also feel a sense of calm and right-ness in this moment.

I leave you with lyrics to one of Over the Rhine’s songs:

All I wanna be is a thousand black birds
Bursting from a tree into the blue
Love – let it be not just a feeling
But the broken beauty 
Of what we choose to do. 

— From the song All Over Ohio

Metaphorical uprooting 

This entry has been sitting in my drafts folder for awhile now. I’m hoping to clear out my drafts folder by either posting or deleting those entries. I figure sometimes complete posts stay in my drafts folder because of some hesitation or something – and while some of them might be or feel a little outdated to my present circumstances, I want to honor them as part of my process. This one is from last year. 

The garden is central to the place I once called home, and provides seasonal vegetables and herbs to the women in the house. Garden work days allow community members to spend a morning outdoors, socialize, and give back. The garden is also a metaphor and guiding aspect of the recovery program: nurturing the plants helps the women learn to nurture themselves. They learn how to create their own sustenance on all levels as they transform their lives.

I take the metaphor to myself, as if I were a plant that once grew so steadily and eagerly in that environment:

Sometimes, a plant that has seemed to thrive wilts for an unknown reason. And although you feed her the same words and water as before, she no longer grows. Her leaves dry; she is giving up.

It might take repotting or new soil to revive her. She may need to find another garden. Do not try to make her bloom. If she is not thriving, the environment could be a factor.

Do not ask her to adapt. She has grown in this soil despite major challenges and odds, and now those odds have changed. Other seeds and plants may continue to grow and flourish in this garden, but she is not them.

Respect the plant’s inclination and decision to grow with or without you.

Away from that garden, she is thriving now.

An exercise with the past

What’s past is
past,
put it behind you,
they say

but
sometimes it
haunts me,
tugging at my sleeves
demanding full attention
reviving each
memory.

I’m learning not to push the past
down or away.
I’m learning how to accept
my experiences
my truth of what happened
not what someone else
told me it was
That was their perspective.
This is mine.
I remind myself
of
where I stand
now.

I repeat this exercise
as needed.
It’s hard to rewire
the pathways
which once carried blame, shame and
grooves of “if only…” and
“I have to
make them
understand.”

I learn to affirm, validate
resisting urges to
justify, defend.

I feel now
overcoming
then.
I look at the ring on my
finger, smiling at
what may
come.

I take a deep breath,
take a step forward,
savor
the sunrise
the words of a poem
the slight cool of a summer’s morning
and begin my
day.