Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Battlefield for the Heart

"School is a battlefield. . . for the heart" -Angela Chase (My So-Called Life)

I recently rewatched the entire MSCL series. I've been struck anew by all the profound statements made by the characters within the show. There is so much truth spoken in the scant nineteen episodes. The pilot nearly opens with this little gem I've quoted above.

And while I agree with Angela, school, especially high school, is most certainly a battlefield for the heart, she only got it half right.

LIFE is a battlefield for the heart. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Cracked Wide Open

When my marriage fell apart, I made a promise to myself: that I would come through it with even more of an open heart, that I would not let this break me, that I would not turn into one of those empty shell people who is forever jaded and cynical about love and life and loss.

No, I have been through much worse than a marriage ending. I have crawled through glass and experienced the true underbelly of life, which in the aftermath of my divorce was a blessing because these past experiences gave me the tools to cope with this devastating loss.

I drew upon every inspirational quotation, every meaningful thing I have ever read or that has ever been uttered, turning them into mantras to be repeated, to be written, to be affirmed. One in particular that was my anchor, keeping me from drowning in despair was this: Grief cracks our hearts wide open to let in more light.

So each night that my heart felt like it was turned inside out and my tears flowed in abundance to create rivers and oceans, I breathed through my pain and imagined my heart as a giant crack letting in blinding light. I repeated this over and over each day, I’m cracked open to let in more light. I’m cracked open to let in more light.

And here I am again, in the aftermath of more destruction, clinging to this mantra. Allowing all the light in to my cracked open heart.

For it is the darkness, that allows the light to be seen, yeah?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Coming Home

This space has been very empty and quiet.

A lot has passed in that space of time.

To put it simply, my marriage ended and I've been putting the pieces of my existence together in a new way. Trying to figure out what that way is.

These past many months haven't been all bleak, mind you.

I threw myself into rediscovering myself and what this life looks like with just me in it. That involved a lot of travel, a poor diet consisting mainly of snacks, and a lot of long bubble baths. There hasn't been much reading or tv watching (unless you count marathon watching old favorites, comfort viewing if you will) or exploring too much new of anything. It's been all about comfort in these parts. Even my travel has been what I would consider comfort traveling. This was never more clear to me when I was in London, a place I love dearly and have visited many times. I just wandered and didn't do anything on my London to-do list. I even took a side trip to Switzerland for a couple of days,  a completely new place for me! And I had very little inclination to do what I normally do when finding myself in unknown parts of the world. But do not mistake that to mean I did not enjoy it, because I did. Switzerland was good to me. I had a fantastic host. She took me on a most wonderful hike, indulged my desire to simply wander about town doing nothing but poking into shops and peeking in windows, and she fed me amazing home-cooked dinners. (Not to mention that London felt like a big, comforting blanket to snuggle inside of for ten days)

I've also been rediscovering what a social life looks like. My social world had greatly diminished in the past years so that I hardly even knew what one was. I was constantly working out what community looked like for me and where to find it, but my marriage tended to keep my existence small. It was due to many factors, to say the least, not simply because I was married or solely because of my husband, although both of those things did contribute.

So I've been working my way through the disorientation that suddenly being granted complete freedom entails. Because that is what this ending has been - a liberation. And suddenly to have my entire future laid at my feet, ripe with possibility is heady and frightening in equal measure.

Lest you think I have gotten through this scot-free, do not be mistaken. There has been pain and mourning and plenty to grieve. There have been countless hours spent lying in bed, staring at my walls or my head buried under my pillow, too listless to move. There have been torrents of tears shed until I felt that I would disappear from the agony.

It has not been an easy time.

But it also has not been solely a hard time.

It has been a time filled with immense pain and heartache, but also moments of great joy and gratitude. Life is complex and both are present all the time. That is what makes life . . . life, I suppose.

The one thing that I have not yet been able to wrap myself around is being alone in this place that I live.  This is very sad and challenging for me because I truly love my flat. I love my neighborhood. I even love my neighbors (mostly).

But it is a lot harder than I thought to stay behind in this home that we shared, this space that we created together. He got to leave it all behind, but I'm the one still here. This has caused me no end of anxiety and growing panic that usually winds up with me gasping for air on the ground like a fish out of water. The panic is too much, the tears are too much, the emotion is too much.

I don't know what to do with myself during these times.

To be quite frank, I am afraid of myself when confronted with myself, alone in this empty flat.

But something truly horrifying happened to me last week. Well, it could always be worse, much worse, but what happened was worse enough. And while I went through the attendant emotions of I should'ves, and I wish I had's, there was a tiny gift bestowed upon me in this darkness.

I didn't go to work for days. I barely moved from my bed, and if I did it was to huddle on my couch. I cried. I took baths. I tried to sleep. My dreams and my thoughts were haunted. But you know what? This place that I have not yet been able to reconcile myself to, it comforted me, it took care of me, it sheltered me during some dark, awful days.

I woke up Sunday feeling strong again, like I could come out of hiding and face the world. And that's when I saw a tiny gift emerge out of this horror.

My home became my home again.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Author Live! Elizabeth Gilbert

"My thoughts turn to something I read once, something the Zen Buddhists believe. They say that an oak tree is brought into creation by two forces at the same time. Obviously, there is the acorn from which it all begins, the seed which holds all the promise and potential, which grows into the tree. Everybody can see that. But only a few can recognize that there is another force operating here as well--the future tree itself, which wants so badly to exist that it pulls the acorn into being, drawing the seedling forth with longing out of the void, guiding the evolution from nothingness to maturity. In this respect, say the Zens, it is the oak tree that creates the very acorn from which it was born." -Eat, Pray, Love

Last Monday, I attended the Author Live! Event at United Methodist Church in Highland Park to see Elizabeth Gilbert. I have been excited about it since I found out she would be making an appearance in Dallas. I put it on my calendar. I excitedly listened to her on Think that afternoon, getting more and more excited.

The thing is, I almost didn’t make it. I don’t drive. I usually don’t go out during the week because Dallas traffic pretty much blows. Also, I get steeped into a sense of comfort and inertia once I’ve come home, which makes it difficult for me to do anything sometimes, especially when it’s cold and rainy. But when I saw EG tweet about this book she was reading in her Dallas hotel room, I felt a sharp pang. I really needed to go. I would kick myself if I missed it.

So I didn’t. I wasn’t able to make it to the reception, but I got there with enough time to buy her book, snag a cup of hot chocolate, and find my seat. Once I was seated alone amidst the sea of other women, I felt a surge of triumph at being there, at being alone, at overcoming all the stupid obstacles I put in my own way. I nearly wept at the strength of it. Honestly, I forget how amazing it feels to do something by myself. I kind of love it.

When Elizabeth was introduced I wanted to stand up and clap. I wanted to give her ovations all over the place. The audience members asked insightful, intelligent questions, which led to some amazing stories shared by Elizabeth. She got personal and real. She shared tales of profound grace; opened up about the reality of depression; dived a bit into the feminism waters. She is so articulate and funny and full of wisdom garnered from her travels and difficult times of despair. She talked about writing as devotion, creativity as spirituality. I teared up several times, I was so touched by what she was saying. I am so grateful I was there and I got to hear what she had to say. When I got home I laid awake in bed going over the entire evening, remembering each of the questions and the answers they led to, making a permanent home for them in my heart, a place I can come to when I need that wisdom and those stories and those words.

I was undecided if I should wait to get my book signed; however,  I felt like I wouldn’t be experiencing the fullness of an author event if I left without it so I went over to the line. Surprisingly, it was short and moving really quickly. They had told us the signing wouldn’t be personalized and there would be no pictures. Once the event started and Elizabeth had mentioned the reception, I started to regret missing out on it. During her talk, what I wanted to say if given the chance bubbled up. But standing there in that line I wasn’t sure if I would be able to or if it would be rude. I didn’t want to hold the line up. However, once I was standing in front of her and she said hello, the words rushed out of me before I could stop myself. I asked her if I could tell her something really quickly and quickly I did. I think I summed up everything I wanted to say in two sentences as fast as the words would leave me. They may or may not have made sense. But I think Elizabeth Gilbert got it. She looked at me, smiled, and put her hand up for a high five.

I was on cloud nine for the rest of the night. It is moments like these that I feel fully alive. My soul is vibrating and singing and well-fed. I think back on the little obstacles I unconsciously put up in my way and feel rewarded for overcoming them. When I think of all the energy it took to move past them, I feel like I moved energy and created space for myself.

Before I close, I’d like to share my Elizabeth Gilbert story, the story I tried to convey in two sentences, the story I’d tell in full if I were given the chance.

When I first stumbled across Eat Pray Love, I didn’t know it was a thing, that it was this phenomenon happening. I happened across it in the bookstore. It was one of the recommended titles by an employee. The sparse cover and title intrigued me. Once I read the flap, I was sold. I love travel! I love yoga! I love exploring spirituality! I promptly bought it.

I was in the midst of a difficult period of my life. I was in the hardest year of my adulthood, the year that ultimately became my chrysalis. I had been going through the motions of life for so long, keeping depression at bay that I didn’t even realize that I was living a half-life, a life devoid of joy. I was so determined not to be what I despise that I was in denial that I bore scars and deep wounds from a traumatic childhood. In 2006 I finally sought therapy, went on medication and journeyed through the underbelly of my psyche. Things definitely got worse before they got better. Around the time I picked up Eat Pray Love, not long after I decided to check myself into a hospital. There is a really great program that is specifically geared toward childhood trauma and abuse. And that is where I took EPL. I read that book in pieces during my stay and devoured the rest when I left. I underlined passages, I wrote them out on scraps of paper to keep with me. But the one that really stuck with me the most and hearkened me to brighter days was the passage about the acorn. When I first read it, it brought me to tears and I knew right then and there that I had to hang on. That I was that little acorn and the oak tree was my potential and full, amazing life. And it was waiting for me.

Thank you, Elizabeth, for sharing your story. It was a crack of light breaking through the darkness and I am ever grateful for it.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Hour 24 Check in + End of Event Meme

Total Minutes Spent Reading: 515
Books Completed: one
Total Mini-Challenges Participated In: 5 (intro, mid-event, self-portrait, best of year, end of event meme)
Total Minutes Spent Blogging/Mini-Challenge-ing/Twittering: 145
Total Minutes Spent Cheerleading: 180
Total Pages Read: 481
Items Consumed: breakfast in paris tea, toast with honey butter, a handful of chocolate almonds, handful of cherry sours, Jimmy John's veggie sandwich with BBQ chips, pumpkin spice tea, four squares of hazelnut chocolate bar

Readathon is over! Around midnight I was starting to feel a little sleepy so I made a cup of tea and did a few rounds of sun salutations. I had a few bites of a chocolate bar to keep me going as I tried to keep going with my second book. My eyes started drooping at 1am and soon after that I fell asleep. I woke up at 3am, and I just couldn't keep going so I called it a night. Now I'm up as the Readathon is finishing up to recap and take the survey. I had a lot of fun as I usually do. I really enjoyed hosting The Book Trailer mini-challenge again. I didn't get much actual reading done. My morning was busy with non-reading things. I didn't really start until hour six. And even then I did get distracted a lot by twitter. Two readathons ago I didn't really check in on the blog or on twitter and just read read read all day, which was nice for all the reading, but part of what makes the readathon fun for me is all of the interaction. I'm glad I participated in some challenges, and interacted more on twitter than I usually do. Fun times, you guys. I wish we didn't have to wait until April for the next one! :)

End of Event Meme
  1. Which hour was most daunting for you? hour nineteen
  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? I think YA books are always a good choice. 
  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? I always think it is great.
  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? i think the challenges were well organized. i liked the videos shared. the organizers are good at what they do so it's hard to tell if something is going wrong or snagged. 
  5. How many books did you read? one and a bit of another
  6. What were the names of the books you read? Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead and The Arrivals by Melissa Marr
  7. Which book did you enjoy most? I didn't get too far into The Arrivals, but I am intrigued. Shadow Kiss was a reread for me and I enjoyed it just as much as the first time.
  8. Which did you enjoy least? they were both good
  9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? i was an unofficial cheerleader, cheering as a reader, i didn't sign up, so no advice
  10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? this has become a thing for me. i always do readathon. i think i've maybe missed one in the last six years? totally will be here again. i like hosting the book trailer challenge. i've done it a couple of times before, but took a break on hosting. it's really fun to see what people share, so i think i would host that again. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Hour 15 Check-in + Best of Your Reading Year Mini-Challenge

Total Minutes Spent Reading: 470
Books Read This Hour: one
Books Completed: I got a late start, but I finally finished one, yay! :)
Total Mini-Challenges Participated In: 4 (intro, mid-event, self-portrait, best of year)
Total Minutes Spent Blogging/Mini-Challenge-ing/Twittering: 75
Total Minutes Spent Cheerleading: 60
Total Pages Read: 443
Items Consumed: breakfast in paris tea, toast with honey butter, a handful of chocolate almonds, handful of cherry sours, Jimmy John's veggie sandwich with BBQ chips

Best of the Year Mini-Challenge

This mini-challenge asks to pick at least three categories and share my favorites from the year. I've not read much variety this year. I've been sucked into several trilogies and series. I've read a tiny amount of nonfiction and standalones. I've borrowerd books, bought books, and have relied a lot more on my Kindle than in years past. With that quick little overview, here are my picks:

Best New Adult Book of the Year:

Gameboard of the Gods by Richelle Mead. 

Yes this is the first of a series. But it is not YA! (Although she does write great YA novels). It is a complex story set in the future with excellent story building and character building. It was so complex and interesting, that I immediately reread it upon turning the last page. I borrowed this from my sister and need to acquire my own copy. Also, I am impatiently awaiting the release of the second book.

Best Nonfiction Book of the Year

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

There were only a few I read, but even if I read several nonfiction books, I'm confident it would still be Brene Brown. Her vision of a wholehearted life resonates deeply with me. I think her work is powerful and I want to read more of it.

Best YA Book of the Year:

Where She Went by Gayle Foreman

I decided to exclude books that were part of a trilogy or series. I don't think a companion book counts, do you? Anyway, I read If I Stay last year and it grabbed my heart, sucked me in, and left me heartbroken at the end. The writing was lush, lyrical, beautiful. I wanted to eat all the words. I finally got my hands on the companion book early this year. It was sad and beautiful and ended how I wanted it to. It was complex and lovely and I thoroughly enjoyed the journey.

Best Setting of the Year:

Gatlin, GA (Beautiful Creatures series)

This setting was definitely a character in this series. The writers created a very atmospheric, specific setting that truly enhanced the story. If I could, I'd totally visit Gatlin.

Hour 12 check in + Mid-Event Survey

Total Minutes Spent Reading: 220
Books Read This Hour: one
Books Completed: zero
Total Mini-Challenges Participated In: 2
Total Minutes Spent Blogging/Mini-Challenge-ing/Twittering: 30
Total Minutes Spent Cheerleading: 60
Total Pages Read: 263
Items Consumed: breakfast in paris tea, toast with honey butter, a handful of chocolate almonds, handful of cherry sours, Jimmy John's veggie sandwich with BBQ chips

1) How are you doing? Sleepy? Are your eyes tired? 

I spent the first hour of the readathon cheering other readers. I also shared my intro meme. However, I had to take the rest of the morning to take care of some things around the house, and go to the market for food for the week plus my readathon snacks. I was able to get an hour of reading in, then I had a FaceTime chat with a good friend who just moved to London. I've been able to read the last two hours, and I look forward to reading into the wee hours.

2) What have you finished reading?

I haven't finished anything yet. But I'm more than halfway through Shadow Kiss.

3) What is your favorite read so far?

I'm still on the same book. Still enjoying it though. :)

4) What about your favorite snacks?

So far it's been the chocolate covered almonds. I'm looking forward to a hazelnut chocolate bar that I picked up. I also have gelato to look forward to. Sugar high, here I come, haha.

5) Have you found any new blogs through the readathon? If so, give them some love!

I've not gotten to spend much time exploring blogs. I hope to have more time for that later, though!