Hello, Past. You’re Looking Well.

One of the most incredible things about the journey of life is how often it takes you full circle.

I mean, we’ve all been there: running into the past in some form is not highly uncommon. On the contrary. It happens pretty damn often.

Well, today was one such occasion. I’ll say I ‘ran’ into the chap that I was dating a few months back, but really, it was no surprise. We had been in touch; I knew he was going to be where I was going to be; and, though this would be the first time we saw each other since our mutual break-up, I knew that we are both secure enough in ourselves to make, at the very least, cordial conversation.

There’s a twist in the story, though. It wasn’t like I was visiting our old stomping grounds while out with some friends. No. Rather, I was going to be with my son; the very same little human that was never introduced during our dating relationship. After everything was said and done, he was finally going to meet my son. “Huh,” I thought to myself, “Fancy that.” Ironic? Maybe a little. And I had no idea what to expect.

Arguably, the best part of life is the surprises it presents you with. My confrontation with the recent past was better than I could have ever anticipated. It was comfortable, familiar, and not one bit awkward. In fact, I even remember thinking that he looked really good. Why shouldn’t he? He’s still the same person, in many ways, that I was attracted to when it all first began. The coolest part, though, is that he is the first man of my past with which I feel comfortable sustaining contact or a friendship. While we were talking, I realized that, when I told him I was happy for him, I legitimately was. And when he mentioned that we should catch up over food, I was actually ready and willing. Not because I was looking for something that may or may not still be there. Not at all. We know we aren’t it. But, he’s still someone that brings a certain element of joy to our interactions, and why not invest in people who have that ability?

The same goes for a girl friend I knew in high school. We lost touch thereafter, and during a dark part of my life, I wrote her off and figured I would never hear from her again. But, during a time of transition, I wagered my odds and reached out to her. My God, am I glad that I did! Not only did I find out we were in similar situations at the time, but I also realized that she was both the same awesome girl I had known as well as being someone older and wiser and a hell of a lot of fun. Without taking the risk and seeing her, though, I would’ve never known that. Now, here we are going on a girls weekend tomorrow. And I couldn’t be more grateful to have her friendship.

So, I dunno, chaps. Sometimes the past should stay the hell where it is. And sometimes it should come around for another round of hellos. I never know who has what to offer until I confront the person, I guess. But I do believe that taking the chance is worth it every time. At least I will know what is on offer, one way or the other. And, more often than not, I am moved by the power of fate, destiny if you will, bringing people back as permanent, or even temporary, fixtures in my life. The fact is that every person I meet is very much a part of getting me where I am going. And these meetings, my dears, are an incredibly powerful happening, indeed.

 

The Passage of Time

It is perpetually remarkable to me how the passage of time knows no slowness; yesterday, there was snow on the ground, and many of us were wishing for a new beginning and a better year in 2017. Today, it is summertime in the Windy City, and half of 2017 has run its course. And I sit here and think, “Well, that went fast.”

In another life, perhaps, I would be on the tail-end of my Euro-Excursion; the three week trip I planned last December that would’ve started me in Berlin to visit good friends, seen me through a solo trip to Scotland, and ended in Greece, basking or burning on the shores of the Aegean in the company of a dear friend. Thanks to my new job, the trip was not one I could take, but I can’t find any remorse because I am incredibly happy and grateful to be where I am. I know that, in the big picture, there will be other opportunities for travel. Right now, though, I have to take advantage of other opportunities as they present themselves.

This weekend, for example, has been one of a lot of light and a lot of love. Friday evening was the finale to a year of mentoring an incredible young woman from Lebanon. I took her to a sushi dinner, we went shopping, and ended the evening with a pile of custard to eat. What is most remarkable about my time with her is that, though she is sixteen years old, she has the wisdom and grace that most adults strive to find. I am continually astounded by her astute remarks and beliefs about life. In fact, if I were ever to have a daughter, I would hope that she would turn out to be like this girl: a beautiful and enlightened, intuitive and gracious student of the world. It moved me deep within when she expressed how much I had helped her during her year on exchange, and that my advice had had the power to tweak her perspective. All I could ever desire is having the ability to reach someone with my words. And, apparently, I had done just that. Wow, such an honor. What she maybe didn’t realize, though, was how much she had helped me during the last year. It was symbiotic really; I mentored her, and she most certainly did the same for me. And I cannot thank the universe enough for sending her into my life. I will miss her physical presence terribly, but I am tremendously grateful to have had the time to share with her and look forward to staying connected in the future.

As I went into Saturday, I was rather wary and unsure about where the day would take  me. I was jointly attending my son’s preschool picnic with my ex, and time with him is truthfully never an occasion I look very much forward to. However, I was determined to spend as much time as possible getting to know the other parents and building new relationships with like-minded people. Et viola, that is exactly what I did. Though he was present and part of some of the conversations, I focused my energy on putting my best face forward, fully embracing the moments in which I could potentially make a new friend, or learn something from the other parents. It went better than I ever could have expected, and I walked away from the gathering with a sense of hope and gratitude for the exchanges that I had been able to be a part of.

Thirty minutes later, I was parallel parking in front of a cute building on a quiet street in Pilsen, Chicago. One of my best friends had recently moved into an apartment there, and I was going to see it for the first time. As the breeze sailed in through the windows of her charming and spacious apartment, we sat on the couch and talked about life and all its facets, while sipping a cold beer. I mean, honestly, does it get any better than that? An Uber ride later and we were on the North Side, pushing through the garden gate of a friend of hers to drink more beer and socialize while the sounds and smells of Division Fest provided entertainment on the other side of the fence. For the second time that day, I felt extremely welcome by the other attendees, and I was able to meet a lot of really awesome people. The motif of the day, I realized, was that meeting new people and having meaningful exchanges bring incredible value to a day, hour, or moment.

As we walked through the festival, hanging on to each other so we wouldn’t be swallowed and separated by the crowd, I found myself smiling at strangers and they smiled in return. I noticed in detail the smells from the food vendors, and picked up on tidbits of conversation as we passed by other groups of festival-goers. It was incredible to be so present in the moment.

While in the line for Döner Kebap and curry fries (where I also found Club Mate!), we mused about the quandaries presented when dating a total stranger. It was a group conversation of both men and women, and it was as funny as it was informative to trade ideas and stories about such things with others who were seeking the same things as we were: namely, food, companionship, a laugh, advice, and connection with other humans.

Back at hers, after the sun had set, we sat on the back deck and drank red wine mixed with soda. The antennae of the Willis Tower glowed in the near distance, and we continued our more private conversations from earlier in the day. It was still remarkably perfect weather, and we were able to lose track of time as we laughed, conversed, and listened to music. Though it was late and I had been up early, the powerful feeling of rejuvenation prevailed, eliminating the feeling of exhaustion that seems to be present quite often on weeknights.

Times like these show me how incredibly fortunate I am. I am very much aware that my life is nowhere near perfect, and there are many instances that cause me stress overload where I need to remind myself to take a few deep breaths in order to save the situation. However, there are also so many beautiful moments that are so full of happiness and light, that hanging on to the energy from these is powerful enough to keep me afloat during the times when I feel like the dark rabbit hole is threatening to pull me back in. Sometimes, it takes a lot of effort to maintain a healthy mind, other times, letting go and being effortless is all I need to do.

As time goes on, though, I make a habit of reminding myself that there are so many reasons to be happy. Even if a day sees plenty of blockers, there is at least one moment that can be flooded with happiness or gratitude. And that one, single, solitary, moment makes all the difference.

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When Scars Become Art

IMG_7129Perception is an interesting thing. Particularly when it comes to body image: How I’ve seen myself for the last three years, for example, turns out to be completely different than the image other people have been observing. That’s not all that uncommon. In fact, it’s probably rather normal. I know that I critique myself much harder than anybody else would critique me. But, I also know that the perception one has of oneself can be incredibly strong; strong enough that I believed it to be the only truth.

Until recently, I would not have even considered showing my belly area to the light of day; not even for one second. Like many women who have carried a child, the skin in that particular area has undergone some serious changes; changes that I had viewed as absolute unsightly destruction. In fact, I would cringe anyone happened to catch sight of what was underneath my shirt.

Viewing myself in a confident and positive way happened only just recently. It was a process that took quite a long time. I had to dismantle the image I had built of myself to allow the new idea some time and space to grow and replace it. There were several outside factors to all this, but what it came down to, I realized, is that wearing anything–be it a bold outfit or a patchwork of scars–with confidence is going to make all the difference for the image I maintain of myself, and also how others perceive me. Frankly, I never (and when I say ‘never’, I truly mean it) thought I would be wearing an outfit that brazenly shows off my imperfections, let alone posting the photos thereof to a public space online. Yet, here we are.

I know that a lot of men and women alike struggle with body image in some ways or others. And a lot of us suffer silently. For me, it took a long time to believe that the changes undergone by my body were not things to be dismayed or disturbed by; rather, they show a part of my story: The reality that I carried a child, and the metaphor of the scars that were left as a remnant of the events of my past. In both of these instances, I would not be the woman I am today without them. So, like in any situation that depends on choice of attitude, I’ll choose to wear the scars with pride, confidence, and a smile. And I’ll continue to feel comfortable in my own skin. After all, everyone has scars; some are just more visible than others.

When You’re Ready to Wake Up, You Will

It’s a simple  metaphor really; waking up from a restful sleep when the body is ready.

The truth of it, though, is that I need to wake up from so much more than sleep sometimes.  I find myself in situations that I desperately need to come to some realizations about so I can open my eyes to what life and the universe is trying to tell me.

I think the best example of this is a relationship I was in for several months. It was unexpected -a truly pleasant surprise- and we had everything we could ask for in the beginning; fun, peace, potential. He was interesting and inspiring, extremely intelligent and sharp-witted. Conversation came easy and was always enjoyable and stimulating. We related well to each other and I even found that he challenged me in positive ways. As time went on, I felt myself being moved to do things for myself that I hadn’t realized were possible previously. He awoke in me both potential as well as actions that had been dormant for too long. Additionally, the amount of respect we had for each other was the oxygen to my life’s blood; it was incredible.

But, after awhile, I began to realize that he and I were two brilliant souls who didn’t share the same energy. It went beyond having different priorities, philosophies, and mindsets; I believe a partnership can work in spite of those things. No, it was not any of that. Though we still had peace and respect in our relationship and it was a pleasure to spend time with him, it was also the truth that we were both searching for something that the other would not be able to give. We both knew what we had in the other; it wasn’t that we weren’t good enough. It was that we were not in alignment. And we never would be. But this was not a fault of either of ours; it was just a fact of the universe.

At times, when I was really honest with myself, I could feel the small jolts pulse through me that acknowledged this fact. Apart from the subtle things that his body language revealed, in addition to the words he chose to express, there were also subtle signs from random places in the universe that were all gentle prods for me to break the slumber and face the day. This is where it became paramount for me to wake up. Because I think he knew it before I did. Yet he was patient enough for me to come around to it, too. And, in my own time, I did. I woke up.

Something amazing I find about life is that events or people come, they make an impact, and then things move on. The crucial moment is realizing when to let them go. In this case, he came into my life to show me some really powerful things about myself; things that, without our chance meeting, I maybe wouldn’t have realized, or they would’ve taken me much longer to realize. He was a catalyst for change in me, and together we did great things. But letting him go was also a great feat because, had I held on to him, peace would’ve turned to misery, and all the positives would’ve unraveled to become something neither of us would’ve enjoyed any longer.

Every day is full of chance meetings. Being open and receptive to them is something I have come to enjoy immensely. I’ve had conversations with strangers  at tables across from mine at restaurants or in the line at a store, and they sometimes end up being the most uplifting minutes of the day. The fluidity of the exchange between humans can be the most beautiful happenings. For that same reason, letting go can be incredibly difficult, seemingly impossible at times. However, when you are ready to wake up, you will.

Then, greet the morning with a “good day”; and a good day it will be, indeed.

Between Us 

Rhythm. The sound of the heart beating life through the body.
Rushing. The blood pushes through the veins and vessels.
Reaction. The body functions as it is meant to. 
Silence. The moments in which the inner workings of the body are the most pronounced; every nuance can be felt at a magnitude that is otherwise impossible to detect. The silence speaks in this way; it speaks as the heart pumps, as the blood rushes, and as the organs and systems function without strain. This is peace. These are moments when the soul speaks to the body; tells it truths that otherwise are unable to be heard. Perfect stillness allows for all encompassing realization and acceptance. There are things to be heard, if only one finds the right moment to listen. 
I haven’t known peace for years. No, I was used to the utter turmoil that every moment had the potential to become. Every molecule in my body was set afire, threatened to be burned asunder by the disrupting battles that seemed to take place without pause. Negative sensory overload does not bide with peace or understanding. It only knows upheaval and chaos. 
What happens when the moment for peace finally does come? What is to follow?

 A quiet unlike I have ever known. The opportunity to just be; to exist without any force pulling in any one direction. The body performs, the soul is free, the mind is calm and uncluttered. The energy is free to move through clear space, passing smoothly from his skin to mine. 
I have come to know that people say many things; things they mean in all earnest but can never deliver on, things they say to be soothing or reassuring but without any truth behind them, and things that were meant in the moment but were forgotten shortly thereafter. They say many things, but I have learned to allow intuition to guide me based on what they do; how they perform, what their energy says to me, what their eyes are revealing, and how the silence between us feels. 
Words are powerful; but there is nothing more honest than the moments of quiet discovery where silence says what words cannot. And I listen with my whole body in these moments. They tell me everything I need to know. 
It is one thing to accept another person’s flaws or past. Of course these things are inevitable and are often the stones upon which our lives have been built, brick by brick, turning us into the individuals we are and are trying to become. In that way, they are important to be acknowledged.

But, it is another thing entirely when they are acknowledged, and yet are not given the weight of importance that they previously had been given. When they are reduced to merely the stones, rather than the foundation, there is freedom. When scars become just another feature of the skin, when true and terrible stories become memories without power, when there is congruent honesty in both words and movements, so then is there the great and insurmountable presence of peace between us. It comes without ceremony or announcement of its arrival; it comes merely as a gentle sigh, a small alignment of two bodies, a space in which there are no further needs or desires than to just be free to passively celebrate the equilibrium of the moment. 

Thoughts on New Beginnings

 

New beginnings are about a lot of things. Mostly, though, they are about the moments to rise from the ashes of the past, see the world for what it is, and let go in order to let something else in.

The turning of the new year, for example, was more of a metaphor than anything else; my new beginning was born on a warm day in July, over six months ago, and I haven’t turned back since.

No. In fact, things have only become sweeter. Though there was suffering, I remained on my feet with a happy soul to cling to. Looking back over the last year, I realized every trial I came up against brought me further in my journey, prodded me back onto my path.

And now, here I am. And here is good place to be.

I realize, the more I go along, that it takes tremendous strength and courage to walk away from something that is not of my soul and to continue to walk on. But, the feeling that comes with it, the one that I wake up with everyday, is the validation that gives life its meaning. Knowing I am right where I am meant to be, regardless of what happens, is a freedom unlike any other. And this knowledge, coupled with a positive mentality, has made all the difference.

A Silent Battle

He:

What is she thinking?

The question pounds intermittently through my brain.

I’m looking at her, I see her, see her tiny movements that display great defense. She wont look at me. That’s never a good sign.

She asked me how I felt. I, stupidly, told her. And now, here we are; across the table from each other but might as well be 100 miles apart, across an ocean, or better yet, 1,000 leagues beneath the sea.

While she is slowly coming apart at the seams right in front of me, I’m desperately trying to reconcile with the truth and heavy weight of my own words.

God, I never meant to hurt her.

I wish she would just look at me. Goddamnit! Just look at me!

Hurting her, causing her any type of distress, was the last thing I ever wanted. She’s been through enough.

I just wish I could give her what she needs; wish more than anything that I could find that something we are both looking for. If only I could; I would hang on to it and never let it go.

Letting go: I guess that’s what we’re doing. Neither of us want to. It’s a fight; a fight between head and heart, between reality and romanticism.

She’s finally looking at me. Her eyes are portals to the truth. The truth of the situation has crippled both of our abilities for speech.

How did we end up here?

Her:

What am I going to do now? Silly question. I’ll do what I’ve always done and carry on. Somehow.

After everything having been so optimistic  and feeling so positive, how did we get ourselves into this conversation?

It wasn’t supposed to go this way.

What is he saying anyway? Does he even know? Does he realize what his words tell me? That I’m not good enough, even on my best day.

But I am good enough. Or, I will be good enough. For someone, somewhere, someday.

I wish he knew how much he means to me; that he’s had a tremendous hand in helping me become a woman that I love to be.

You never know who the universe is going to bring you, and you never know how long they will stay, but they will leave something with you that will likely remain with you for the rest of your life. He most certainly will leave plenty of positives as a result of our chance meeting. I’m grateful for that. Because I will be OK.

I will.

In situations like these, honestly and respect are the two best things anyone can hope for. He afforded me both, and now I have to let him go.

I wish it could be different, but, deep down, he knows I’m not the one. And he deserves to find that person. And so do I.

Peace is sometimes hard to come by, but not with him. Not even now, where we are overturning everything we thought we knew.

Ausstrahlung

There is a word in the German language that, until recently,  I couldn’t quite define. More of a multifaceted feeling than a tangible element, Ausstrahlung can be defined quite beautifully and accurately by Roald Dahl’s astute definition.

This is both my favorite word as well as my favorite feeling. It is the “qua”, the something, that is undefinable yet unmistakable. It is the light, the radiance, that shines out from within. And that, my friends, is true beauty.

The Power to Be Moved

On a beautiful day in July, 2016, I found myself in a place of dynamic solitude; a place that I often had come to when I had been much younger and was distraught over whatever stumbling block life had placed before me. As I sat, contentment in my heart and peace in my soul, the words came to me as gently yet as assertive as a gentle wind. There, on that rock above a modest waterfall, with these words, a perspective that would forever change me was created:

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When Life Gives You (Moldy) Lemons 

Monday’s, especially the morning of, usually make the shit list for a lot of people. It’s an interesting, fairly understandable social phenomenon that usually makes me try all the more to make the start of the week a positive one for both myself and the people with whom I come into contact.

This particular Monday morning, however, had me feeling sour, dour, and otherwise unenthused about the coming week. Here’s why.

That word ‘rejection’: we’re all familiar with it, know it intimately in some facets of our lives to be sure. Well, (and here I am going to do something that I will try very hard to refrain from doing in the future) to generalize, anyone who has been out and about looking for a career–or job of any kind for that matter–may have noticed that this process is laced with rejection. The silent kind where one hears absolutely nothing after sending an application or having an interview, the flippant and generic email informing that the position has already been filled, or (my personal favorite) the formal letter that comes in the mail in a standard-sized envelope, which already tells you everything you need to know before you open it.

Additionally, of course, there’s always the unavoidable and somehow inescapable rejection of the dating world. Finding that balance of how much to put out there, what to say to be honest yet intriguing, and when to run for your life is not the easiest of feats by any means. And, often enough, you think you nailed it and still end up being ghosted, dumped, or given some bullshit line.

It’s all rejection. And it all finds its target to some extent or another.

So, this morning, while being fed up, frustrated, and quite frankly on the verge of either crying and refusing to stop, or finding some cave I could curl into and, thus, take a hiatus from life, I somehow managed to throw myself a private dance party, which, in turn, gave my blood enough of a rush for me to step back from the morose alley my brains and heart had been hanging around in. I sat down with my notebook, stared at the page for awhile, wrote something acutely depressing on one page, and then realized that I was doing nothing and nobody any good by being a defeatist. In a literal burst of inspiration that came out of some optimistic sliver of my mind, my hand began to scrawl something meaningful across the page. That’s kind of how it happens for me: I get going on something without being certain of where it will lead me until I’ve finished. What I ended up with was something that I was not only proud of, but I also believed it with all my heart and thought it might do a few people a little bit of good to read it as well.

And here we are.

I also realized, during the day (which continued to produce a roller coaster of emotions), that my art, my writing, is something that I would like to share. Not for my benefit so much as for a means to connect to others. Producing something that may speak to or touch just one single person is where it’s at for me. After all, who says Art can’t change a life?

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