Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Kindness is Not Weakness

Call it a Damascus moment. Call it an epiphany. Whatever it was, it happened on my road trip home this past weekend. 

I needed to go home. For one, it had been far too long since I had seen my family. And, for another, I needed to feel that wholeness of the place I come from, to see those flat lands, to hear the cattle, to look off into the distance and see nothing but fields for miles, to remember who I was raised to be. I just needed the change of pace from the hustle and bustle. I needed an escape. 

I found it. I found it somewhere on the road between the city and the country. 

Earlier in the week, I recalled a Sara Groves song I had once loved, "I Saw What I Saw." Without much thought, I downloaded it onto my iPhone and went about my day. It wasn't until I was on I-40 and the song started to play over my speakers, that it hit me like a ton of bricks. It was a song I knew 
well—in fact, it was one I had once quoted in a speech I gave. 

For those who are unfamiliar, you can watch the video below. Or, you can read some of the lyrics here: 


"Something on the road, cut me to the soul;
Your pain has changed me,
your dream inspires,
your face a memory,
your hope a fire,
your courage asks me what I'm afraid of,
and what I know of love"






This was a song that had once been one of my favorites, because it had described my heart. When I first heard the song, I identified myself as one who was merciful, kind, empathetic, generous, tenderhearted, and full of fire. I could just as easily burn for someone else's dreams and successes as I could my own, just as I could lament with those who were hurting. This song had always served as an overflow of what I knew lived inside of me. 

But, on my drive home, it brought me to tears. It made me breakdown, simply because that was not who I had allowed myself to become. 

No, I didn't stop caring, stop empathizing with people, or stop giving. Those things are still very much a part of me and always will be. The change was simple. It was not a change of heart or a change of action; instead, it was a change in the way I perceived myself and the reasons why. 

As I always have, I give, I feel deeply, I compromise, I trust, I bend, I listen, I empathize. Yet, the world has taught me to see this as something other than a beautiful part of my soul. Over time, those I had let in had taken advantage, used, and hurt. I remember each of these hurts, each of these times my trust was broken and my kindness exploited, and I remember, each time in a most stubborn fashion, rising again and asserting that I would not harden my heart. I remained tenderhearted, but I stopped letting it come naturally, stopped letting it be a thriving part of my identity. It became somewhat of a burden, a responsibility, that I donned, determined to continue being who I was in a world that didn't want it or respect it. I continued with kindness, but often it was forced, as it was something I grew to resent about myself. 

Kindness, mercy, and being generous were considered offenses worthy of resenting, because that's what everyone else did. That was their assessment. It was how they viewed it. What I had always defined as beautiful had been defined for me (and with my permission by not disputing it, and later by accepting it as my own definition) as naivety, weakness, and a propensity to make poor decisions when it comes to trust.  

This was perpetuated by the fact that my traits had come to mean different things to different people. While there were many wonderful people in my life who never questioned these traits, never judged or labeled, and simply accepted, there were several who took these traits to mean that they could take and take, while I continued to give. They placed their labels on what I was, and the result was a label that I accepted, a label that read "weak." 

It wasn't until I was headed home to the ones who helped foster this soft heart within me and I was presented with a vivid picture of the girl I had once been that I had one of the most powerful revelations I've had in a long time. 


You see, I cried partially because I couldn't remember whether these things I knew to be true about myself were a strength or a weakness. I couldn't remember why I ever placed value in my soft heart. And, that's when I finally got it.  

When we begin to place value on how a quality is perceived or accepted, rather than on its merit alone, we begin to lose sight of what is real in our hearts. We let a jaded world define our reality, and we begin to see ourselves through a lens of cynicism. In order to stay true to who we are, we must stop letting labels others place on us define how we see ourselves and how we interact with the world. We must begin to believe what we know of ourselves, rather than what an outside world sees. 

We must reclaim who we are from the grips of others and hold fast to the beautiful qualities that make us unique and set us 
apart—for what they mean to the individual to whom they belong, not for how they are seen or assessed by others. 

For, even our strongest qualities lose significant power when we let another define or place a value upon them. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

It Keeps Getting Better

Since my early teen years, I've always kept a journal. I have a shelf full of them, and each holds memories of good and bad times, personal victories and epic failures, new starts and closed chapters. On occasion, I like to go back and re-read previous entries, things that marked and shaped my teenage years, my early twenties, and events as recent as a few months ago. Much in the same fashion, I sincerely enjoy the app "Timehop." For me, it serves a similar purpose. I review these things  for the purpose of remembering, but also to remind myself of my resilience and of how life changes.

Today's Timehop post touched me to the core, reminding me that just a year ago today, life seemed a little darker. Sure, I was happy in most respects, but I was going through one of those trying, difficult, heartbreaking periods of change. I was going through a growing up process.

The twenties, I've learned, seem to be one growing up process after another, and this one was no different, although it was a particularly painful growing process. At the time, to remind myself of my own strength and the hope and faith I held onto, I had purchased a sterling silver pair of anchor earrings off of Etsy. I wore them as a reminder for much of last summer, and today's Timehop showcased a picture of them the first time I wore them. 




As I mentioned, this post touched me deeply today. It served as a reminder of what my journals have often reminded me throughout the years. You see, at this time last year, the things I faced seemed all-consuming. The circumstance was all I could see, and I was blinded to everything else. Now, a year after the fact, that circumstance is one that was something I had to go through to be who I am today, much like silver goes through the fire in the refining process. It's also something I rarely think about these days. It's not something that plagues my every day, or even something that still hurts regularly. Yes, I can still be quite vividly reminded of that situation with a song or a memory, but the wound healed, like everything does eventually.

Throughout rough days or hard periods of life, I like to look back on these circumstances. They have changed through the years. In my early teen years, it was a lost basketball game, the end of a season, or circumstances that were out of my control. In my late teen years and early twenties, there were a lot of heartaches that seemed huge at the time. In my mid-twenties, there were so many questions of if I was on the right track, as I fell into the beloved "quarter life crisis" period. Now, there are still things I document, both good and bad. And, I hold onto the reminder that the bad days are temporary. They pass, and we move forward, with each step of life getting better than the last. Eventually, these things become less fresh and painful. Sometimes, there's even humor found in what we once thought was such a big deal. 


Think about it for a minute, we're all still the same people who once cried over broken crayons. No matter how big and bad we get, we once let silly things hurt us. Some hurts, of course, are bigger than that, and hurts get bigger as we get older...but they don't last, and eventually they become those things that make us question why it was such a "big deal" at the time. 



Don't even try to deny it...you've been here.

I haven't blogged in a while, but I felt the need to write down these thoughts today to serve as a reminder to myself and to others. If you, or someone you know, is going through one of those rough times in life, those times where the storm seems to be all that you can see, remember that there is more. Remember, that the sun will shine again, and that soon enough, this will be nothing more than a memory and a reminder of how truly resilient and tough we are as humans. Remember and hold onto the fact that, as my father reminded me often throughout the years, each stage of life gets better, as it comes with new experiences, new people, and new opportunities.

Times of heartache and change do come. They are parts of life. And, though we may hit rock bottom, or just come close, life goes on. 



Rock bottom, you'll know it when you get there...but, just like Ron Burgundy, you can bounce back, too. 

We bounce back, we learn, and we grow. What once seems big and overwhelming is truly just a drop in the ocean of life. We are resilient. Sometimes, we need the reminders of all the battles we have faced to hold onto a renewed strength for today, but take heart that today's challenges, fears, doubts, and hurts will not last. They are growing periods, and we will come out of them with some hard lessons learned and a new, stronger sense of who we are.

As a result of today's Timehop reminder of the places I've been and the things I've seen, I dug out the anchor earrings that I hadn't worn in months and put them on. They're with me all day to remind me to hold onto that resilience and know with certainty that, whatever the coming days, weeks, and months my bring, I will take it on boldly. And, most importantly, I'll come out on the other side stronger, as I have done for years. 

 
Today my earrings remind me that, even though this is how some days look, it's not how they will remain forever.

Whether you can look at your current situation with humor, or if maybe it's a little too real for that, take heart that one day, you will be able to look back at it and find the humor, along with new found strength. After all, we are all quite capable of bouncing back, even from rising odds.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

You're better than being someone's pillow.

There are times that, as giving and caring individuals, we lose ourselves in trying to make another (or a group of others) happy. It's in these times that we become overwhelmed, we willingly—albeit often subconsciously—submit to being used, and we end up hurt in the end. As always, I'm a big fan of remaining softhearted and generous; however, I'm not a proponent of being taken advantage of or being used. 

After careful analysis of these types of situations, I came up with the analogy that, at times, we allow ourselves to be pillows for others. It's never something we set out to do. It's quite the opposite actually. It happens gradually. Typically it begins with someone we care about, someone who needs our tenderhearted approach to life. It begins with an outpouring of gratitude and appreciation for the little things we do, and it's spurred along by how our world lights up when we see them smile. It begins slowly, and before we know it, we're in a cycle of dependence and we're not sure how to get out of it. 

It begins with the simplicity of being appreciated, with knowing that what we can offer is needed and valuable. And, somehow, it ends with us being ignored, with us making excuses for why the other person (or other people) are acting as they are. It's time for us to stop allowing ourselves to be used in such a way, but in order to do that, we have to take a look at what it means to be someone's "pillow." 

Think about it with me for a second. 

What is a pillow? By sheer definition, it is an item used for support, for comfort. 



Do you remember your pillow during the day? Do you think of it at all? I suppose you might...(kind of odd, and I would say extremely rare, but it could happen). 

When do you think of your pillow? Honest answer:  you think of it only when you need it, or when you want it, and it's not there.  

I mean, we all love our pillows. They're great! There are things you can only get from your pillow. It's there to provide you with comfort, to help you sleep, to make everything about your bad day better. It fulfills a very real need in your life, and you are always appreciative about a good pillow. You may even tell your friends or family how awesome it is, and when you get a good one (or get really tired), you may think about it once or twice throughout the day. But, the problem lies in the fact that there will never really be a time when your pillow pops into your mind until you need it again. You have no need to give back to a pillow. It's an object, it's there, and you use it when you want or need it.  

Once you've used your pillow, you'll move on with your day. You'll focus solely on you. Thoughts about your pillow won't enter your mind, and you won't be bothered with worrying about it at all—unless by some strange set of events, the pillow suddenly isn't there to provide you with what you need. (The pillow is greatly missed when its support is no longer around in a time of need). 

Is it starting to click yet? 

Haven't we all been that "pillow" for someone? Haven't we let ourselves be used, simply because we needed to be appreciated or simply because we genuinely delighted in making the one using us happy? (That's the worst part. Sometimes, we legitimately loved someone enough to just want their happiness, only to be their pillow). Haven't we realized that our needs were never legitimately considered or even acknowledged by another, yet we were expected to always be on call for their needs? 

If so, you've been a pillow. Stop. You are better than that. I am, too. We are not pillows, and we do not deserve to be treated as such. We do not deserve to pour out our support, our time, our energy, our full amount of generosity, only to be discarded as an object whose worth or needs do not matter. 


Continue in your nature to give. Be kind, be generous, be loving, be soft. But, no longer allow yourself to be a pillow. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

31 Thoughts I Had During My First Symphony Experience

This weekend, a group of friends and I attended the Santa Fe Symphony. Having never gone to the symphony or experienced opera live, it was quite the experience. As I typically do, I had a running dialogue in my head during the entire show, and I'm sharing here for those of you who have never attended this type of performance, so you know what to expect. 

Inner dialogue went something like this:

1) I'm in a dress. I'm at the symphony. I'm grown up AND sophisticated. 

2) Why are we the only ones here under 85?

3) My friends are all listing the instruments they like most (and the ones some of them played). I'm intrigued by that large drum in the back. Does that count? 

4) Oh, good, we're starting. 

5) Powerful opening number. I like it. 

6) Oh no, there were no words to that one. Are there going to be no words in the entire thing? I remember that being my least favorite part about The Nutcracker.

7) That conductor is impressive. She is really energetic, and it's cool how she leads them all. I will like this. 

8) She's addressing the crowd now. She's got jokes. I do like this. 

9) Is that older gentleman sitting by the big drum asleep? I think he's asleep. I hope he doesn't have a part in this song. 

10) Oh hey, pretty lady in the dress. You're here to sing? AWESOME!  

11) WOW! I can't understand a word she's saying, but I'm totally into it. 

12) I see what they mean, you don't have to understand the words to feel the emotion of the song. I can get on board with this.

13) Oh, look. The words to the song are written in Italian and English in the program. Good, now I know what she is singing about, and it's really pretty.

14) If I need to understand the words, does that mean I'm not cultured enough to fully appreciate this?

15) They're singing something from "Pirates of Penzance." That totally makes me think of Julia Roberts' reaction to the opera in "Pretty Woman."

16) Now I'm giggling quietly.

17) Oh no, I'm Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman." 


18) You can dress me up, but you can't take me anywhere.

19) This is actually pretty funny, and it's supposed to be comical. Cool. Now I don't have to feel bad about laughing. Everyone is laughing. Awesome. It's like comedy and culture collided. I like it. 

20) Onto a new song. She hit that high note like you wouldn't believe. I didn't know people could actually hit that note, and she's holding it. Impressive.

21) This reminds me of when Fiona sang to the bird in "Shrek" and it exploded. Uh oh, I'm chuckling again (this time not crowd-approved). Keep it together, or you're going to have another "Pretty Woman" moment. 



22) The older lady in front of me just shouted "Brava!" I think I'm off the hook for my chuckling. Phew, that was close. 

23) Intermission. Friends look at me to see how I'm doing. Do I look like I don't belong here, even to these guys? Ugh. 

24) Reassure them I'm enjoying it. I'm actually pretty moved by some of the performances, and I'm sincerely impressed with the talent.

25) Thoroughly enjoy all of the second half of the performance. 

26) Overture from "Romeo and Juliette" to finish off the show. Okay, I'm in. 

27) It's fiery, it's sad, it's intense. I'm enjoying it. 

28) Still enjoying this, but how long does this thing last? Not trying to be unappreciative, but I'm feeling less sophisticated all of the sudden. I'm flashing back to The Nutcracker....okay, that violin is really a beautiful sound, and they're all making wonderful music. 

29) Overture still playing. Don't fidget. Be sophisticated. Do it. Hold it together. You're a writer. You love classic literature. You've got enough culture in you to enjoy this. 

30) Performance is over. I can say I enjoyed that. Didn't really think that this beer and wings, sports and comedy girl would be fully on board, but it was a great experience. 

31) Friends tell me we should look into opera tickets over the summer. This should get interesting. 

Overall, it was a great experience, and there are some truly talented individuals. I think I'm going to brush up on some of my opera before we go next, though. Having said that, thanks guys for an incredible weekend! 




Thursday, February 12, 2015

Stairs

My mind has been somewhat restless in the past couple of weeks, and that has resulted in a touch of insomnia and a slew of strange dreams. Last night’s was, perhaps, the one that has stuck with me the most. When I finally drifted off to sleep, I dreamt I was in my childhood home, standing at the top of the stairs. I started to walk down, but I slipped and fell immediately.

Over and over throughout the dream, I was at the top of the stairs. Each time, I’d make it a little further down before somehow falling again.

A little backstory for those who don’t know much about the house I called home for twenty-plus years:  There were fourteen carpeted stairs. We’re talking thick carpet, which is easy to slip on. Throughout my years in that house, my room was always upstairs, directly in front of the staircase. I can’t tell you how many times I actually did fall down those stairs. My siblings and I learned the hard way that socks on the stairs were not a good idea, that pushing your sister down the stairs in a “bus” fashioned out of an old fridge box would result in her breaking landspeed records and quickly smashing into the wall, that if you were scared or excited and decided to run up or down them it was going to result in twisted ankles or bruises, and that you had to exercise caution oftentimes. In short, we fell, a lot.

For those reasons, the dream of falling repeatedly shouldn’t have bothered me; yet, when I awoke, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. It was a frustrating dream, for sure, but it stayed with me, making me think things through—probably more than I should.

However, after dwelling on said dream for admittedly too long, I’ve come to realize that it was quite symbolic of life. We have a starting point and often a goal in mind (the top and bottom of the stairs, if you will). No matter what happens, we’re going to fall from time to time.

That first fall—be it a heartbreak, a bad decision made, a complete failure at something in which you were supposed to excel, a crisis of identity, whatever—is the most shocking. It’s something you don’t expect and don’t see coming. All is well. You’re walking (or in the case of my dream, bounding) along, and suddenly an ankle twists, and you go down. You go down hard, sometimes to the point of wanting to sit and cry, reliving the nasty nature of your spill.

After that first fall, you’re more cautious. You see those pitfalls. You’re on full alert. You’re guarded. You know not to get too excited or move too quickly. You learn the lessons about the socks and about watching where you step. This time, you get a little further along your journey. Sometimes it happens when you’re still using caution; sometimes it happens if you’ve briefly forgotten and looked away. But, it still happens. You fall again. This time it hurts a little worse, because, dammit, you should have known better.



You dust yourself off again, and if you’re like me in the dream, you start back at square one. This time, you’re determined. Nothing is going to get in your way. You’re going to get where you need to go, and you’re not going to be stupid enough to fall down those stairs again. You remind yourself who you are and where you’re going, and you reinforce that confidence, assured that this is the time you succeed. Somehow, somewhere along the way, you still fall. Sometimes we see the fall coming, and proceed anyway. Sometimes, it’s out of the blue.  

I’m not being pessimistic. But, after careful review, I really do think this dream represents life, and it showcases the ways in which we are too hard on ourselves for our “falls.” In my dream, I fell about ten times. TEN TIMES ON FOURTEEN STAIRS! You’d think I could get it together, but I was on the struggle bus, apparently. I woke up frustrated and even a little mad at myself, before I could fully wake up and laugh it off.

The thing is, life is a relatively short journey—not fourteen stairs, short, but you know what I mean. It is short, and it has pitfalls. It has distractions and times when we fall flat on our faces. Sometimes, we slip. Sometimes, we’re pushed. Either way, we end up hurting. Life has times when, even though we’ve already learned the lesson, we have to start over and re-learn, often in painful fashion. It’s full of rough times that knock us down, make us doubt ourselves, and leave us bruised or battered.

Sometimes, we have to simply "face plant" before we can get back up. 

But, life is also an opportunity. It’s a chance to learn, to grow, to pick yourself back up, and to start over if you have to. It’s those knock-downs that remind us to start over. They strengthen us, they teach us, and they help us grow.

Sure, after that many times of falling down, we could get bitter. We could get angry. We could decide to never believe we’ll make it down that journey. We could grow bitter with others, and we could lose all ability to trust. Some do. Some don’t, and I admire those who continue trying, continue trusting, and use each falling down experience as a chance to get back up, and with renewed determination, begin the journey again.

To get where we're going, we have to take the risks and take those steps.

There will always be the chance that you’ll fall. You may make a huge mistake, you may lose sight of yourself, fall in love with the wrong person again, get fired from a job, realize you’re already halfway down a path you never should have been on, or revisit past mistakes only to make them once again. There is always that possibility, and nothing in life is truly certain. But, there’s also always a chance to start over, to stand up and move forward again. Without the falling down, there would be no lessons to learn, no way to readjust and grow.


Though we may fall, we must continue getting back up and moving on toward our goal, with the vision that even if we fall again, we are resilient.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

An Open Letter to The One Who Stole My Car

For all who do not know, my vehicle was taken from my driveway on Monday morning. I have been pretty quiet about it, simply because I haven't really known what to say and because it's an oddly personal situation. Also, it's because I'm tired of answering questions. Long story short, it was taken. 

However, it's a strange feeling to have someone come up to your house and take things that don't belong to you. It made me a bit of a crazy person on Monday morning, and it's made me even crazier to hear about how often this has happened over the past few weeks right here in Albuquerque. (It's insane that this happens so often, and we never hear about it until it happens to someone we know). 

So, the reasons for writing this post are twofold. This message is, in part, to serve as a warning to all in the area to be careful. For whatever reason, it seems to be a hush-hush thing, and I get it. I didn't really want to share with the world what had happened either, but I feel like we should all be aware. On that note, take all precautions to protect your vehicle, regardless of where you may reside. Also, should you encounter the unfortunate situation I did on Monday morning, be prepared. Have your VIN and your license plate number, along with all of your insurance/registration information, handy (perhaps in a document on your computer or in a file safely inside your house). Regardless of what information you know off-hand, this will make the hellacious process of dealing with all the reports you must make easier and quicker. 

The second point for writing this post is because, if this reaches anyone who might be considering taking things that don't belong to them, I'd like for you to reconsider and take another, more productive and less harmful avenue to make money, please. Without further ado, here is what I'd like to say to the one who chose to take my car. 



To whomever felt the need to make my vehicle their own:

You're an opportunist, I realize. And, perhaps you have some backstory that I don't know about. To be completely honest, I really don't care at this point. I don't want to know why you did what you did, or why you thought that it was okay to do so. 

I'm sure you also do not care about me or my things (clearly), but there are some things I'd like you to know. I'm sure that, by now, you've had a chance to sort through my belongings in my car. To you, they probably appear pretty simple:  a jacket, a basketball, some books, an iPod, gloves, sunglasses, a few notes and pictures, etc. However, to me, they meant something a little different. 

That jacket was my favorite. No special stories, nothing of that nature. Just plain and simple, it was my favorite. It was also a North Face, and I kind of miss it in this winter weather. 

That basketball was also my favorite. It was used in many pickup games with some of my favorite people. It was used when I needed to destress and blow off steam at the courts. Sure, I have others, and that one probably looks a little worn to you. It is, but that's because it was well loved. You see, I was given that ball by my high school coach. It was a game ball from a district game, and it was pretty special to me. 

Those books…I wrote those. They were my author copies. Read them. Maybe you'll learn something about working for things instead of taking them.

That iPod was really nothing too special, I suppose. It's several years old, and it's probably not worth much. However, I turn to music in rough times. There are playlists on there from every bad breakup, from every life change, and for specific people. It's kind of a snapshot of the life I've lived over the past few years. It's been a mainstay through the good and bad times. 

The gloves that were in my passenger seat were a Christmas gift from my mother.

The sunglasses, albeit cheap and maybe even gaudy, were a souvenir from my 25th birthday trip to Las Vegas. They're hilarious and have always been a conversation starter, as they're neon green. Nonetheless, they block the sun, and I loved them. They always made me laugh and remember the good times I had with my best friend on that trip. 

The notes and pictures…unfortunately, you've been given an up-close look at my life, my friendships, and my relationships by some of these things that were in that car. I can't help but feel violated over that aspect of the whole ordeal. It's my hope you tossed those things out somewhere instead of holding onto them or even going through them. Regardless, there's a chance you'll see the pictures of those I love: one of my dearest friends, my nieces, my brother, etc. I hadn't taken that folder of pictures inside yet. I'm pretty sure there were even a few of me as a child. Those notes...I actually didn't know were in there until the other day, but they are. The other day I discovered, there's a letter from the first one to ever break my heart that fell out of an old file folder at some point (I never got around to taking it in the house), and there's a letter I had written to a good friend that hadn't been dropped in the mail yet. Those are pieces of me, and I hate that you have them. 

I'm quite sure there were other things in there, but I can't really recall (aside from my CD collection that had been added to off and on since about 1999). All I know are the things that were the most special to me. Sure, it's stuff. Stuff can be replaced, and the memories remain. But, next time you decide to take something that doesn't belong to you, it would be really cool if you'd stop and think for a minute that, just maybe, the person you're taking it from is, in fact, a real person. Please find a shred of your humanity as you're out there, and think about the fact that you pretty much always have another option aside from taking things that don't belong to you. 

On one final note, I'd just like to let you know that the vehicle you stole was the first big purchase I ever made. When I bought it, my hands were shaking, because I was so excited and SO nervous. It was the biggest commitment I've ever made. I'd also like you to know that for the first year I had it, I smiled every time my payment statement came in the mail. It was a badge of honor for me to be able to work for and pay for something new. I hope that somewhere down the line you, too, can actually work for something for yourself and find pride in that. It's a truly exhilarating thing to grow up a bit and work hard for something you can call your own. 

Sincerely,

The girl whose things do not belong to you

P.S. That iPod was full of fun, empowering female songs (as well as plenty of other items). I hope you feel like a legitimate badass driving around town listening to Britney Spears, Beyonce, Miranda Lambert, and Cher. Or, if you're currently stripping my beloved car for parts, turn up the iPod and let it be your background music. I'm sure it'll make you feel big and tough. Good day.