Friday, April 3, 2015

gratitude for every step...

Eight years ago today, I fell, hurt my spine, and my life changed forever. I'll spare you the gory medical details but in essence, walking was an act I'd need to learn again.

The running and hiking shoes were boxed up and sent to Goodwill. The gym membership cancelled. The stamps in my passport stopped accumulating--and the current ones began to fade. As did some of my favorite activities and relationships.

Countless setbacks, doctors, physical therapists, hospitals, and insurance company battles ensued. So did the tears, stages of grief, and depression. Two savings accounts drained. Muscle atrophy and weight gain crept in.

The fabulous poet Rumi wrote 'you've seen my descent; now watch my rising.' I used to read that and wonder if I'd ever rise again. Would I get out of the bed? Would I put on my own shoes? Would I walk without assistance? Do I even dare to dream I will run again?

Today, I contemplate the many steps I've taken forward. I may not run but I am beyond grateful to walk. To take small hikes, to even own hiking boots again. To keep a walking cane in my car and not use it for months. To feel the support of my doctor when he helps me up from the spine injection table this very afternoon. I am blessed, friends. I am learning strength inside and out.

As I think upon all the pain, I cannot help but see equal measures of grace. And so many people who have stood by my side in this adventure.

The kind wisdom of my physician who offers me a hug after every visit. The flirtatious physical therapist who pushed me out of the wheelchair day after day so I could learn to walk again. One amazing aunt and uncle whose single level house I crashed in for months until I could tackle stairs again. To my family for their thoughts, prayers, love. To my friends--workplace and otherwise--who have put on my socks and shoes, driven me to work, escorted me to the bus or other places, offered a hand or an ear.

The journey continues but I am rising. And yet, I do not rise alone. So today, I thank each one of you reading this who has tread along beside me in ways big or small, whether for a moment or for years.

Today's spine treatment is for you.
This weekend's hike is for you.
These steps I take are for you.
Thank you for everything.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

NaNoWriMo What…?

Dear One:
At the start of this lovely month of November, you didn’t know what you were getting yourself into. You couldn’t even pronounce NaNoWriMo or remember what each part of this crazy word stood for. (It’s National Novel Writing Month, by the way.) But you were a girl with a dream of writing. Not a girl who talked about writing or wanting to write…but a girl who actually WRITES!

A girl with more to ask than to say. A girl with no novel—get it, novel?—story idea but a thirst for bringing to the page all those random pieces of life you have witnessed, experienced, or listened to from the world around you.

30 days later, 50,463 words in, 129 pages, countless late nights and cups of coffee, you have crossed the NaNoWriMo marathon finish line. You silenced your inner editor, pushed past laziness, elevated your sense of responsibility to writing regularly, and threw your vulnerable inner voice onto the page.

You have learned much about the world and yourself in these last 30 days. And while there is far more to learn, more words to write, and then to edit—oh, the editing!—you take a moment to pay tribute to NaNoWriMo for nudging you in beautiful, brilliant direction.

With love,
Your heart

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Love in a Parking Garage

Dear Girl with the Dry Erase Marker:

I’ve been thinking a lot about love lately. How its power is stronger than anything else that might be held against it. Strife settles into all our lives—at one time or another—but love is a quiet force that resurrects our spirit, even in the darkest of hours. Even if we cannot touch it.

Wednesday had been a long day, beginning with a last-minute schedule change that begrudgingly forced me to drive into work and park at the nearest garage rather than take my usual, more economical bus commute. I was out $15 dollars and not thrilled about it. But I made the meeting on time and continued on through a usual-busier-than-it-really-should-be sort of workday. Don’t get me wrong; a good day filled with tremendous value and purpose albeit on a speed that I don’t really care to repeat.

You get it. I was damn tired.

So I took my time getting to my car that evening, enjoying the Portland autumn air and exhaling from the to-do lists and responsibilities of the workday. After paying the parking fee, I pressed Level 8 on the garage elevator and leaned against its wall on my way upward to find Madge, my beloved black Honda. I didn’t anticipate discovering you when Level 8 arrived.

Stepping out of the elevator, you came into full view. The garage was deserted save for Madge, your red car, and a couple other vehicles parked sporadically down the long garage corridor. The elevator must have dinged its arrival because you looked up briefly, gave a small smile, and returned to your project. I returned the little smile but your head was already back down into your work. At first, I found the whole scene peculiar. Your car wasn’t parked in a spot—between the lines, so to speak—but rather haphazardly sideways, taking up two disability spots near the wall of the facility that looks out over landscape of SW Portland high rises and street lined streets.

Even though your car wasn’t on, your trunk was fully open and its light shown down onto the most random of household items. But you struck me the most. Hunched over the hood of your car drawing diligently on a canvas of some sort. Are you an artist, I thought? Perhaps taking in the night sky, capturing in sketch the building shadows of this beautiful city at night?

I walked slowly toward Madge, who was parked several feet beyond you, so I could take the full picture in. You were simply a woman drawing in a parking garage, rather hastily at second glance since your trunk was open and the light was draining the car’s battery. Most likely in your 20s, stylish clothing--jeggings, blouse, jean jacket, and awesome brown boots, by the way—with long well-kept hair. But as I drew a bit closer, I realized your canvas was a whiteboard and you were wielding the brush of a dry-erase black marker. A very large floodlight flashlight rested on the car’s hood too. You looked up briefly at me, then out into the night sky and across the street. I followed your gaze and then a key piece of this fascinating puzzle fell into place. Your gaze fell to the high rise at the opposite corner of the street: the City of Portland jail. You returned to your work and then looked up to smile again as I approached.

I took the smile as an opportunity to greet you. Good evening, I offered.
Hi was your reply. Whatcha got there? I returned.
Oh, I’m writing to my partner, you shared quietly. She’s in the jail across the street.

And thus began our brief conversation…which sits on my memory days later.

You and your partner had been together for one year when finances got really tight. Your partner wanted to make it better and looked to illegal means for doing so. She’s definitely guilty and she’s disappointed in herself, she knew it was wrong you shared. So now your partner is doing time in jail downtown and doesn’t get much opportunity to ‘call home,’ so to speak.

So three days a week, you visit Level 8 of this parking garage with a dry erase marker, a large whiteboard nearly the size of your car’s hood, and a flashlight. You wait for her appointed time to visit a certain window in the jail and you communicate with each other. By shining a light on each letter/word/phrase you write. You’ve gotten very good at yes/no questions since your partner has none of these supplies in return; only hand signals to indicate comprehension or the need for the flashlight to fall onto a word again in repetition. And a few short hand signals to reply as well.

We didn’t talk long. Your partner was due to arrive to the window soon and you had a couple more words to write. I didn’t come close enough to you to see what you wrote; it seemed inappropriate, as though I would be looking into the inner language you share.

You were reticent to talk to me at first. As though I might express concern or judgment about your actions. As a result, I immediately wondered how much concern and judgment you’ve experienced with this situation. I guess replying with that’s really good of you was the invitation for you to share more. No matter what I offered, though, you, my dear, offered me a great deal more that evening.

As I climbed into Madge, I sat there for a moment, waiting. You finished those words hurriedly and turned on the flashlight, looking toward the jail. I craned my neck from my own car to follow your gaze again. And then I saw your partner. Standing alone at a window, wearing the typical clothing forced upon those in an extended incarceration. Waving to you.

Your flashlight beamed on, you pulled the whiteboard to its feet, and your communication began. You turned slightly for just a moment and I could see your profile; your smile rivaled the intensity of the flashlight in your hand.
A tear in both of my eyes took shape in that moment. Bearing witness to your love in this manner took my breath away. Three days a week, you pay a fee to park here for 30 minutes or so to write on a whiteboard on the hood of your car, to then spend 10 minutes ‘talking’ to your partner. I wondered what you must be feeling, what your partner must be feeling in that moment. I sat in awe in my darkened car after a long day drawn to the love you expressed to each other. I thought about all the things I communicated that day at work and wondered if any of them held the same depth of connection that this little whiteboard had between you. I thought about all the connections out there in the world with social media; how close we can sometimes feel to someone we barely know. Or perhaps how isolated we feel from the world even if we have 600 ‘friends’ and a robust news feed of ‘likes and comments.’

Then the tears began to fall. Love is so powerful. I’ve always known this but I needed your reminder today. The calm way you act out this ritual with a dedication beyond your own comprehension. Showing me exactly how love is an able force for anything. The way it transforms our actions, simplifies our purpose, and deepens our hope. It sees every obstacle, wall, or distance and carries on, seeping through each challenge like a quiet ripple of comfort. It surpasses understanding, every dynamic, and surprises us with its appearance in people, places, and chapters of our lives we least expected. Love is not a feeling—that is infatuation—but a choice. And one you choose to make daily.

Thank you, girl with the dry erase marker, for this gift. I drove home that evening hoping all good things for you and your partner. I drove home grateful for the last minute change of my morning to bring me to Level 8 of that garage. I was given a new found appreciation for whiteboard, dry erase markers. And a deeper realization of love’s ability to find its way through anything.

Monday, May 26, 2014

a lesson on anger & apathy...

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned. ~Buddha

In an online course recently, the themes of anger and apathy came up in a discussion thread. It was fascinating and illuminating. I have always loved Buddha's quote which I shared above. It centers us in the small, quiet reminder that anger doesn't do much good. And goodness itself struggles to thrive in its company.

On a personal note, the last time I was deeply angry, I felt absolutely miserable. Months later, I went looking for how being angry had served me...or if it had served me at all. Then, more recently, this class posed the following question: would you rather be angry or apathetic? Neither choice sounds appealing, to be sure.

But classmates and I were asked to seriously consider our position, weighing each one carefully. It was difficult to do. Having been angry before and knowing my discomfort with it and the horrible person I can become when exercising it, I chose to mull over apathy first. I asked myself when I was last apathetic about something, how it felt, how I acted within its realm, you get the idea...

And then I realized something simple but important for me to know: I am seldom apathetic. And, like anger, I don't do apathy very well. Let me step back for a minute; for those that know me quite well, you'd know that I struggle to narrow down my favorites of anything...activities, films, books, music, even character traits. But when it comes to the one character trait I can definitively say I loathe? It's apathy. And it has been for as long as I can remember.

Okay, back to the present and this online discussion thread that had my mind whirling...

Would I rather chose anger or apathy? I continued to examine both of these emotions over and over again.

And here's where I landed: I'd rather be angry than apathetic. Why, you ask? Because anger implies love and genuine care. One is not angry or frustrated with someone or something they do not love or appreciate. In fact, anger is often a fuel that ignites true, authentic connection. It forces one to see the other--whatever or whomever that might be--whereas apathy just doesn't even give a damn. Apathy is easy-going, calm, collected, resolute. Anger is passionate, fiery, discontented, searching.

Being a seeker who cares to my core, I realized that I lean into that which is searching rather than that which has made up its resolute mind. So I shared this with my classmates--and we all laughed via email when I stated that I so deeply dislike apathy--so resolutely, ironically enough--that I can even get angry over it. ;-)

Saturday, May 24, 2014

notes on a birthday...

As I was thinking about my birthday and all I've experienced this past year, two things really stuck out to me, both for which I'm deeply grateful.

I've laughed a lot this year.

From antics at work and stories with friends to fun times at the dog park or even to the hilarious dental hygienist telling me jokes while she was desperately trying to clean my teeth, laughter happened everywhere this year. All this laughter took many forms. It was quiet, uproarious, subtle at first then building to a crescendo, a giggle that became hiccups. You name it...good, hard, laughter.

And I've cried a lot this year too.

From health and relational challenges to death, disease, doubt, and a fractured sense of community at times, this year has held its share of loss and grief.

But laughter and tears-- however lovely or draining they can be--show us something. That we have loved deeply. That we have cared. We have actually given a damn about someone, something, a purpose, a circumstance. And the laughter and tears are simply the result or symptom of our authentic regard.

I'm so thankful for the gift of commitment, perseverance, and love--even if loss meets me on the other side of it.

And now another fresh year awaits!

SO grateful for the journey, I just might laugh and cry over it! ;-)

Friday, April 11, 2014

being human...

the soundtrack in my head these days as I navigate new realms of vulnerability...

Saturday, March 15, 2014

to be broken...

to be broken is no reason to see all things as broken... ~mark nepo

the further I wake into this life, the more I realize that God is everywhere. And the extraordinary is waiting quietly beneath the skin of all that is ordinary. Light is in both the broken bottle and the diamond. yes, God is under the porch as well as on top of the mountain. And joy is both the front row and the bleachers if we are willing to be where we are...

from the 'book of awakening'