This generation of children growing up today are expected to die five years younger than their parents. Why? Because of inactivity. The benefits of exercise are so many that it seems silly not to. Yet, so many of us still don’t. I haven’t been to the gym since October.
Don’t judge me.
While I’ve fallen off my beloved fitness game for a while, I’m committed to getting back on track, not just for myself but because I want to be in the population of people that’s a part of the solution. Growing up, my mother used to say, “if you aren’t a part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem.” It annoyed me when she said it then, but it’s true.
The children are the future. Let’s teach them well.
My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.
- Mary Oliver, Thirst
This is the sixth #notetoself letter, originally sent on March 13, 2012.
There is a great irony in my personality. I suppose it’s common amongst others that identify as writers, but knowing it’s not specific to me doesn’t make me any more comfortable with it than if it were only my problem.
I’m a horrible communicator.
However eloquently I may be able to string together written words, I’m much less gifted with the spoken word, especially when it comes to my most vulnerable relationships. Especially when I’m hurt. Especially when hurt and most other painful emotions are filtered through anger. The only thing I can communicate then is anger. The knives come out. They’re figurative, but the wounds from my words can be just as painful as a literal cut — and they can go deeper.
The result is frequent apologies. I’m sorry for days, but anything said too often begins to lose its power. The last thing you want to do is issue an impotent apology. I fear sincerity won’t be able to carry me for much longer.
This is the fifth #notetoself letter, originally sent on March 5, 2012.
Henry David Thoreau said, “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” He lived in the first half of the 19th century and yet those words still contain truth today. It’s sad. Quiet desperation kills the spirit.
Before this trip, I realized how discontent I’d become with my life. My work didn’t matter to me. I wasn’t even sure what I was doing with my “work”. I never knew how answer the “what do you do?” question. I don’t know. Live. That was the response I wanted to give.
I’m a great starter. My starting energy is fresh, empathic and certain. Then, slowly but surely, it’d wane and I’d quit. I’m also a great quitter. My attention usually shifts gears to something else equally engaging.
That’s a pattern I’m really sick of.
A few nights ago, I happened upon an Alicia Keys’ song called “How It Feels to Fly” that’s feeding my soul. With such ambiguous lyrics, I don’t know exactly what she’s talking about in the song, but for me, it makes me think about reaching for my dreams.
“I am riding high, don’t wanna come down.
Hope my wings don’t fail me now.
If I can touch the sky, I’d risk the fall
Just to know it feels to fly.”
How many of our goals are our own? Whose definition of success drives our actions? I can criticize corporate America all I want, but I was a part of the rat race, even if I didn’t have a 9-5. The discontent I feel is the result of not doing things I wanted to do, for whatever reason. There’s so much I want to do, and have wanted to do but have neglected to. This trip is the perfect example of a dream deferred. I’ve always wanted to travel and stay somewhere for a longer period of time. That’s just now happening for me. On the other hand, I appreciate it just the same because I can receive so much of this experience differently than I might have in the past.
Being here has awakened me to my desire to do things I’ve neglected to do, things I let sit in the recesses of my mind and my heart. They were there, alive, but unattended. Living a life with meaning, passion and fulfillment are of incredible importance to me.
Earlier last week, one of the people I’ve been blessed to meet on this trip asked me if I wanted to hike one of the two volcanoes on the island. Of course he wanted to do the larger volcano, Volcan Concepcion, the one we look at everyday. Without hesitation, I said yes. Sure. Why not?
This is the third #notetoself letter, originally sent on February 20, 2012.
Isla de Ometepe in Nicaragua is an island formed by two volcanoes with an isthmus between them. Many consider it to be a magical place, although I haven’t yet figured out exactly what makes it so, but suspect I will soon. It’s beautiful and there are more signs of nature than the 42,000 people that live here. I’m staying on a permaculture farm with all kinds of good stuff: random greens, herbs, coconut, banana, plantains, Moringa, Mayan breadnut, taro, jackfruit, neem, guava, cashew, cinnamon, mango and so much more.
When I first arrived, I was ecstatic. Everything about this place was cool– the outdoor showers overlooking Lago Nicaragua, the largest lake in Central America, the squat toilets, the compost toilets, the outdoor dorms with amazing views of the sky (basically just a covered platform with a black tarp on one side acting as a wall), the hammock on the platform in a tree overlooking Volcan Concepcion, the solar-powered outdoor kitchen…
I slept horribly the first night. The only two options for mosquito nets was one that was a bit too small for the bed and one that was the appropriate size, but disgusting. It could’ve been from bat droppings, flies, mosquitoes, any number of things. To me, it didn’t matter; it was just really too disgusting for my comfort. The second night, I forgot to charge my cell phone during the hours of 10-3 when we can charge only if it’s sunny. Since the 6:45 meeting is a bit early for me still, I needed an alarm. Rather than asking someone to wake me up, I decided to sleep in the hammock up in the tree where you can see bright, vivid stars. It was windy and cold all night long. Not a good call, but I was still happy about the experience. The third night, an insect flew into my ear while I was sleeping at 2 am. Another lady here helped me drown it with saline solution, but then I was bothered by the fact that there was a dead insect in my ear. The next day was a fumbling exercise in Spanish and patience, spent going to the town clinic, waiting for it to open, hearing it was closed, deciding to go to another clinic and while waiting for the bus to take me to the other side of the island, discovering the town clinic was in fact open but not really equipped to adequately help me. The nurse looked at my ear with a dim light from her cell phone and flushed my ear with a syringe, ejecting a small, black mosquito. Still, something in my ear didn’t feel right, so she urged me on to the other clinic, where I found out that there was no insect but there was “hongo”. Fungus. I have an ear fungus.
After returning to the farm and preparing for bed that night, I wondered what the hell I was doing. I’m in the mountains. With no electricity. Sleeping outdoors. With a mosquito net that’s obviously not very effective. Freaking out about the plethora of bugs grossly outnumbering me. Really, what?
My music sharing friend, Rodrick, told me about Mara Hruby a while back. I downloaded the album, put it on my iPod and went about my business. Recently, I’ve been giving her EP, From Her Eyes a lot of play. She’s got a pretty voice and does well handling men’s songs. Looking forward to more Mara.
This Van Hunt cover, “Character”, asks a very important question we should all reflect on. Enjoy!
Mara Hruby – “Character”
Where is your character, the one that keeps you going?
Who are you when heavy weather is blowing?
Where is your character, the one who keeps you going?
Recently, I asked “do you talk about things that matter?” and today I experienced one of the most emotionally honest conversations I’ve ever had. Topics ranged from absentee fathers, sex, eating disorders, rape, molestation, relationships, education, socialization, etc. It was genuine, cathartic, comforting, inspiring and beautiful. So many times throughout the evening, I found myself smiling, feeling connected and understood as we discussed highly privatized events and feelings.
Sitting with this beautiful woman who spoke so candidly about her life, I felt inspired and reinvigorated, reminded that neither our stories nor our struggles are our own. We will all experience trials, intense pain, and loss. We will all walk with fears, insecurities, and moments of doubt. We will all struggle with some degree of feeling fragmented. These are inextricable parts of the human experience, but if you let pain harden your heart instead of soften it, you’ve missed the point.
As of two days ago, I made an important decision based upon a startling revelation. I’m ending the war with myself.
My #notetoself yesterday was:
love is accepting, patient, and kind.”
By the time I was twelve, I knew I wanted to be a traveler. Not a regional vacationer, but an around the world, “I’m onto my next passport” global citizen. Twelve must have been an important year, as I recall “knowing” a lot about myself then. At any rate, I wasn’t in the position to make such a desire reality.
Two and a half years ago, I made a big deal out of getting my passport. There was a sense of urgency, although I can’t recall why. Two and a half years later, that small ID booklet has served relatively no use for me. Until today.
After spending the weekend researching, I booked flights to Barcelona, Spain and Bologna, Italy. The picture above is supposed to be Barcelona. It looks like a vivid dream. In due time, I’ll let you know if it’s real.
Having finally taken the steps to realize this dream, I can’t help but to feel excited, anxious even. It’s as if I’m on the cusp of a very pivotal moment. I’m crossing the threshold, taking action to actualize my dreams.
The results of this tiny, yet major, step will only reveal itself in time, but I know the ramifications will be positive. So, attending my own lecture, I say to us: do something you’ve never done.
I’m going to Spain! I’m going to Italy! Yes!!!!
Before I even understood it as a psychological concept, I’ve been intrigued by shadows. As a child, I’d always look at them. Even as an adult, I’ve continued to find their value and entertainment.
Although I began to understand the importance of unearthing my self and my truth two years ago, my interest didn’t consciously shift from something part of the external world to part of the internal world until last year when I asked myself, “do you need to see the worst of yourself in order to be the best of yourself?”
That question prompted an interest in the shadow that I’m now ready to explore. It’s scary. It’s exciting. An intuitive feeling informs me that this is a special time in my life.
Carl Jung said, “People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to stop from facing their souls.” I believe it. It’s taken me almost a year to begin the journey and I can only strongly intend to maintain course, no matter how uncomfortable it gets.
“It’s winter. Hibernate. Go inside.”
This is how I think.
Therefore, I’m going inside.
On a train ride to work last week, I noticed how plugged-in I was. iPod. Blackberry. Kindle. Then, I looked up and realized how plugged-in almost everybody was, in some way.
There never seems to be enough time in the day, to the point that relaxation and doing absolutely nothing seem indulgent, even disgraceful. Always something to do, clean, cook, see, hear, taste, etc.
We’re always giving away our attention, often at our demise.