Protected: The Big 2021 Letter
s e p t e m b e r.
September is one of those sneaky months.
Not quite summer, not quite fall.
As I look back over some of the Septembers I’ve spent in this space, and the Septembers out of this space… they were always, oddly, sneaky little transformative months that always ended up revealing a lot.
When I was in undergrad, it was the start of a new year, bustling with energy that I swore I’d be able to sustain for the rest of the year until that proved not true (h a.).
It was a time of moving and shuffling into a new place, (last year being no exception), of feeling on the edge of something but not quite fully in it. Feeling like something is brewing but not knowing exactly what.
Maybe that’s why I love September so much (aside from it being the tip of fall… (; …and my tendency to fall in fall)
because it’s this tumultuous mix of bizarre and beautiful, like a summer salad with raisins, or (whatever selection of fruit white people like to throw into dishes that shouldn’t have fruit in them).
September also feels like a very reflective time for me. When I look back on this space, when I look back at my writing, when I look back on almost 12 years of journaling, I’m hit with a fascination– a fascination in the sheer bits and pieces of reflection I’ve managed to keep up with over the course of my life, but also how, somehow, I’ve committed to mindfully keeping track of those bits and pieces for so long.
Just a few weeks ago I was at home in my childhood bedroom, cleaning things out, going through things, getting lost in stuff from the early 2000’s, but I found my 20-some notebooks & journals which I had been keeping since 2009. And every now and again I’ll sit down and leaf through them and laugh at my seemingly frivolous chronicling of my adventures and at-times obsessions with crushes and dead-end questions and frantic uncertainties and written over-thinking and heartbreak so honest that re-reading it brings those emotions back up from the deep recesses of wherever I repressed them to.
I’ve always told myself that I write to remember.
Because I move fast and I forget, and I want to remind myself of important feelings and epiphanies, learned lessons and small victories.
But a few weeks ago I just had to sit there with my younger self/inner child and say thank you, because those times of tracking Truth and memories were one of the greatest gifts I could ever give my present & future self. It’s somewhat fun, to go back and pseudo-psychoanalyze my past self and see patterns and pick up on trauma and corroborate what I was doing or feeling at the time with what I know now– what an incredible gift that is. Sometimes a painful gift, but a gift nonetheless.
And now I’m here.
Another September , and it feels like it’s taking the shape of Septembers before it, in its own little sneaky way.
the past 18 months
has felt like a seesaw.
aggressively, incessantly, tentatively
between moments of joy and heartbreak
injustice and justice
hurt and healing
serenity and outrage
intimacy and isolation
facade and deconstruction
deep knowing and unknowing
security and loss
aggravating stagnation and abundant growth
Desperately craving for a balance—
for the riders to lift their legs in unity
to balance, in thoughtful tension
to commit to know better
To do better
To be better
To hold Both / And’s & Yes / Also’s with gentle validity and solemn regard,
with all of the complexity and courage and messy love they deserve.
I don’t really do Maundy Thursdays.
Probably because I never really did growing up.
And touching other people’s feet (and having them touch mine) was never really my thing.
But we’re not touching or washing each other’s feet this year. We’re not touching at all. And if we are, it’s after rigorous testing, a community “green light” and extensive quarantine protocol.
In our virtual service, we were presented with a practice of a truth mandala — we each are present with 4 items which we have a tangible connection to: a stone, dry leaves, a stick, an empty bowl.
“The stone represents fear, how our heart feels when we are afraid; tight, contracted, hard. With the stone, we let our fear speak.
The dry leaves represent our sorrow. There is immense sadness within us for what we see happening in our world. With the dry leaves, the sadness can speak.
The stick represents our anger, our outrage. Anger needs to be spoken for clarity of mind and purpose. As you express your anger, grasp the stick hard with both hands, channelling your rage into the wood
The empty bowl stands for our sense of need, deprivation and our hunger for what is missing. Using the bowl we acknowledge our emptiness.
Using these items we seek to process the collective and individual grief that we are wrestling with in this Holy Week.”
Psychologists reference “fight, flight, freeze, fawn” responses to trauma, and I could definitely feel my freeze coming on during this service. There’s just so much, I’m thinking, I want to name all of it but the list is too damn long.
This whole past year has been traumatic.
From the sheer existence of a global pandemic (and very LACKING leadership) and all of the existing anxieties that are tied to isolation, disease, loneliness, depression, and drastic life changes…to the continued gross hate, violence, and injustices brought against BIPOC…to our broken world, and systems and people that, as they and their associated harm are uncovered for who and what they are, seem to prevail without any attitude checks or accountability.
And there’s talk of the “COVID Brain”. We’re more forgetful. Social situations are more draining. We feel foggy. We feel empty.
“Normal” is some unsustainable fever dream that was, and shouldn’t, for our Goodness’ sake, be chased again.
We are deepening our souls, making space for complexity and holding space for duality and yes/and’s, gathering up hurt and healing and joy and tears and anger and shock and grief in our arms like a single trip of groceries from car to fridge–
and our brains can’t hold it all.
They’re on a constant ride on a badly built, wooden rollercoaster, up and down, shaking side to side between fear, sorrow, anger and emptiness.
Fear is of our leaders, how incapable they are of listening to their constituents. Fear is for our families and loved ones, from whom we are disconnected and who we can’t immediately rush to if something happens. Fear is of the virus, its variants, how it spreads, how Teds won’t wear their masks up over their noses and claim it’s a hoax, an attack on our “American Freedoms”. Fear is for white supremist, capitalist delusion, how it seeps deeper still, treacherously into all of our systems and lets murderers go free. Fear is for our Black siblings, our Indigenous Siblings, our Fluid and Gay and Bi and Trans and Asexual and Nonconforming Siblings who are oppressed every day by hurtful systems and horrid, racially tinged, outdated legislation. Fear is not knowing you could be in an active shooter situation at any moment, knowing that lobbyists and corporate donor funding on crack is what’s standing in the way of you and your safety. Fear feels like it could break this stone in half in our very palms.
Sorrow is not being able to see or hold family. Sorrow is feeling empty, and feeling empty is sorrow. Sorrow is losing someone– to COVID, to a bullet, to illness, to substance, to suicide. Sorrow is feeling the weight of grief from the past year and not being able to exhale fully. Sorrow is feeling helpless when our world is witnessing so much pain, anger, and fear. Sorrow is feeling inadequate, guilty, like you’re not doing enough. Sorrow is wading through, finally, what toxic positivity has told you not to wade through.
Anger is at our systems, our leaders, our representatives. Anger is at injustice, hatred, and oppression. Anger is at a population that doesn’t seem to care about the value of human life. Anger is at petty small shit and bigger, heavier shit. Anger is at all that was lost. Anger is at all that we are finding out. Anger is at painful stagnation, powerlessness, and immobility. Anger is inward, anger is outward. Anger is fuel for what we will not stand for.
Emptiness is sorrow. Emptiness is the numbness we slip into when we’re tired of feeling anger. Emptiness is a need, a craving for something we know we can’t have yet. Emptiness is the joy leaking out of things that used to be joyful. Emptiness is our collective longing for what we all know is missing. Emptiness is realizing that your core values and beliefs are someone else’s punchline. Emptiness is intentional gaps of communication and lack of interaction. Emptiness is what calls us deeper into ourselves, sometimes too deep; emptiness is the desert we’re in right now.
And when all of that gets too much we try to reach for moments of joy to distract us from the constant anxiety brain cycle, wondering if it will last or feeling guilty we even had some in the first place, when so many are unable to feel joy right now.
We departed the service in silence– profound solemnity that holds space for betrayal and sorrow, and profound love and compassion.
We’re all holding each other through this. We will need to hold each other through this.
126.96.36.199. // a look back
On the one hand, I love doing these look-backs from year to year, noticing the stark changes (or similarities) in answers over time. But at the same time, sometimes it just feels like an arduous chore, an empty humble brag, driven by internalized capitalism and the “Need to Feel Like I Have Done Things™ With My Life” this year.
In reality, it’s a miracle I even *got* to do Things™ this year. It’s a miracle we’re even *here* this year. In all honesty I think my grandmother’s death last December may have been COVID related, as it snuck upon us like a quiet assassin. We’ve spent this year in uNpReCeDeNtED
~~killmenow~~ conditions, doing the best we can with what we have, trying to protect ourselves and the ones we love. Sure, there will be people out here saying this year was a really good one for them. That’s okay. There will be some for whom this year was akin to a trip to hell and back. And that’s okay too. I personally feel like my year was a bit of both, but to know that that experience is alive, valid, and okay is what is important.
Truth is I’ve been MIA from this space for a myriad of reasons– a whirlwind of work, life, riveting romance, becoming a cool-aunt to a new kitten, moving to a new place, not feeling like I had anything new or interesting or valid to say…. not to mention overall screen fatigue and feeling like I’ve just done so much reflecting ALREADY outside of this space, so it’s like I was battling a reflection hangover. But I do know within myself that I do have a desire to see, over time, how these stories and happenings play out– i enjoy looking back with fondness (or cringe-ness, or disgust) on this space to have some sort of proof that as the Earth moves, I’m moving with it.
This year has been hard. It’s been long. It’s been isolating, disappointing, lonely, and frustrating. And it has been humbling, rejuvenating, eye-opening, and mind-blowing.
If you had to describe your 2020 in 4 words, what would they be?
Evolutionary. Raging. Dumpster. Fire.
What new things did you discover about yourself?
I discovered a lot of my impulses. I discovered that I’m seldom alone with myself, so when I’m forced to do that, my body and its world are like, “what’s going on……Y U NO HAVE CONSTANT STIMULATION”. I discovered that I really wasn’t valuing myself in the way that I should have been, in the sense that I really did put myself and my needs on the back burner.
What single achievement are you most proud of?
Graduating in the midst of a fucking pandemic. The sudden shift to online learning for me was not good. I am so much of an in-the-classroom-seated-taking-notes-relying-on-professor-interaction type of person. I absolutely HATED my media law class, and, because I was not used to Zoom Fatigue and online learning, I thanked my lucky stars that I’d started out strong in the class and just accepted the D+ on my final because I just couldn’t do it anymore. If I had the chance to re-do it, knowing what I know now about myself and my learning habits, I could probably have implemented strategies for getting through it rather than just straight up saying “you know what, fuck this”, but who has that kind of re-framing, growth mindset when it feels like the world is going to shit, you know?
What was your favourite place that you visited in 2020?
Torn between Occonomowoc, WI and Woodland Park, CO — stunning natural features all around, warmth, and plenty of space to move my body.
Which of your personal qualities turned out to be the most helpful this year?
Which new skills did you learn?
– Cooking skills! Esp. related to vegan cuisine
– Learned how to set up a hammock
What, or who, are you most thankful for?
I am thankful for time to slow down, to be with myself and understand better. I’m also thankful for the Black womxn who propelled this election forward– they are the wind beneath ALL our wings.
If someone wrote a book about your life in 2020 what kind of genre would it be?
A post-apocalyptic romance self-help book.
What was the most important lesson you learned in 2020?
REST is just as important as the WORK.
Which mental block(s) did you overcome?
I don’t have to be doing something all the time– that’s a nod to internalized capitalism
There’s a saying about “you need to love yourself before you can love someone else” and I would like to report that as bullshit. You can still be in progress, and love someone else as well. Healing or not, loving yourself or not, you are still worthy of love, period.
I don’t need permission to do the thing I want to do.
What was your biggest break-through moment career-wise?
LOL graduating in a pandemic!
How did your relationship to your family evolve?
It’s still evolving. It’s distant. It’s developing. The pandemic doesn’t make this easier. There are boundaries. It is a continuum.
What book(s), shows(s), or movie(s) affected your life in a profound way?
1. The Body is Not an Apology, book by Sonya Renee Taylor
2. Daring Greatly, book by Brené Brown
3. So You Want to Talk About Race, book by Ijeoma Oluo
4. An Altar in the World, book by Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor
5. Jane Crow: The Life of Pauli Murray, book by Rosalind Rosenberg
6. Eat, Pray, Love, book by Elizabeth Gilbert
7. Find Your F*ck Yeah, book by Alexis Rockley
**If any of these titles speak to you, I encourage you to shop for them on independently owned, Black owned book shop sites like these (we must support our neighbors in these times!!!):
And, if it’s helpful, this article organizes all the Black-owned bookstores by state, so you can search close to you!
What little things did you most enjoy during your day-to-day life?
Coffee (:, developing a sleep schedule, memes from friends, being outside, looking out windows, spontaneous dates
What cool things did you create this year?
– An intro video to our ESC Corps based on the Full House intro!
– Some nonsense logos & branding ideas
– vision boardssss
– a ~podcast~
– christmas cards
What was your most common mental state this year (e.g. excited, curious, stressed)?
I can’t answer this question. Whenever I try to think of the answer, it just sends emotions rapid firing through my brain that really are all entangled together. Stressed-out curiosity, intense excitement and severe loneliness & uncertainty, etc. What was good was that I got a bit better at practicing to sit with all of those feelings.
Was there anything you did for the very first time in your life this year?
- Fly a plane!
- Throw a full-ass-fledged picnic!
- Do a protest in a pandemic!
- Have a full-time, big-girl pay job!
- Try veganism!
- Cook spaghetti squash!
- Moved to Colorado!
- Have a birthday in quarantine!
- Be in quarantine!
- Be single for the longest stretch of time!
- Be a cool-aunt to a new kitten!
- Hike mountains in CO!
What was your favorite moment spent with your friends?
Senior Gala, picnics at the park, goodbye meals, mini staycations, my birthday in quarantine, etc.
What major goal[s] did you lay the foundations for in 2020?
- My service year in Denver, CO!
- Paying off credit card debt (one card, at least!)
- being marketable to companies on linkedin/personal profiles??? idek
- Deconstruct my faith & my whiteness
Which worries turned out to be completely unnecessary?
- The move to CO
- what other people think, lol
What experience would you love to do all over again?
FLY THAT PLANE! among other things
What was the best gift you received?
A hand-illustrated portrait of of me and one of my best friends ❤
How did your overall outlook on life evolve?
I am aware of the fact that at any given moment I can sit down here, and my mood will not only influence the speed with which I type, the tone that I convey… but in many ways my outlook on life is looking in 2 directions– one with a rather pointed cynicism towards systems and people in places of power– rather, I think it’s a dissatisfaction. The other end of that arrow points towards possibility and cautious optimism, as I try to discern my place in this life. Nothing is all sunshine and roses– there’s sunburn and there are thorns that need addressing and so while I think a positive outlook is more my “default” setting, it’s definitely not all there is. We need to put in some work, y’all.
What was the biggest problem you solved?
I hate some of these questions, actually, that force me to single out specific things, or moments, but then I also think that some of them may show up in future job interviews, so that’s……..that I guess.
One “problem”, I guess, was just my ignorance to my privilege and my unexamined whiteness, as well as the harm that was coming either directly from my actions, or the actions of groups/systems/structures within which I participated. I really really recommend people engage in this kind of work, because it is very important when it comes to how we view ourselves, our society, and, perhaps most importantly, how we show up for, take care of, and support one another.
This year really did offer me the time and space to sit with that, do some re-evaluating and gathering of data on how my daily actions, the way I live my life, the way I engage with politics (or not!) and social justice efforts has the potential to cause real harm or heal harm.
My work and my experiences over the past year have forced me to learn, to read, to step into realities other than my own, and have forced me to be more cognizant of all of this nuance, this important inner work that forces us to think outside of ourselves and our biases. With this awareness, it’s been easier to lean into that latter ideal of healing harm and working to contribute in a positive way to my community and my work.
What was the funniest moment of your year, one that still makes it hard not to burst out laughing when you think about it?
*insert memory with MJ here*
What purchase turned out to be the best decision ever?
For some reason, I think first about this mustard yellow coat– a christmas present to myself to remind me of my bad-a$$ b!tch vibes. It’s warm and it was on-sale….but the more I think about it, it was Wireless Bluetooth Headphones that take center stage– they enabled me to find joy in running again, and fill my meditative 2-mile walks to work with podcasts and music that feeds my soul.
What’s one thing would you do differently and why?
I JUST heard this question come up in a podcast, and when I tell you the guy being interviewed was like “I can’t answer this, because then I wouldn’t be where I am right now” talking about the ripple effects of our decisions, etc………….. sooooo the one thing I would have done differently is spent less $$$ on food delivery.
What do you deserve a pat on the back for?
Starting group therapy, working to pay off debt, setting boundaries, and graduating in a pandemic.
What activities made you lose track of time?
Playing ukelele, writing coverletters (more of a time suck, but still an interestingly engaging process nonetheless), watching some top series on Netflix, walks, running, hiking with people, creating with my hands, and listening to podcasts.
What did you think about more than anything else?
“How do I survive”, “how can I take care of myself right now?” “what do I need?” So yeah I’d say the answer to this one was: myself / my wellbeing
What topics did you most enjoy learning about?
Internet privacy! Human emotions & psychology, practically everything ever about Sonya Renee Taylor’s & Brené Brown’s work, social justice movements, #mutualaid, restorative justice, racial healing & reconciliation
What new habits did you cultivate?
Drinking water every morning, walking to work, adopting veganism, getting better at meal-prep, scrolling on my phone when waking up, using an alarm clock instead of my phone to wake up in the morning (to mitigate the issue of the former item, there)
What advice would you give your early-2020 self if you could?
So I actually wrote myself a letter (to future me!) from 2019 to 2020, and reading that felt like a fever dream. So, as for right now, writing to me ~~in the pAsT~~, what I’d say probably goes something like this:
dearest 2020 steph,
shit is about to HIT THE DAMN FAN LOL. I’m gonna need you to do me a favor. Put down your phone, drink some water, go outside, and maybe practice some furious journaling during this time because things are MOVING and SHAKING and HAPPENING and paying ATTENTION is so important right now.
Take time to look at the best in others. Take time for yourself, and spend less time feeling guilty about all the things that you think people “expect” out of you. At the end of the day, you don’t have to come home to anyone but yourself.
Don’t settle, don’t linger to hard on past mistakes, take repeated behavior at face value (don’t merely trust words); some people will make their choices, thus allowing you to move forward in a direction that actually serves you— leave shit to explode in the periphery, and then do yourself a favor and don’t even bother looking at the periphery ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ simple as that.
Take some time to step into & live your truth. Surround yourself with people who understand complexity & nuance, and who are willing to root for you even when you feel utterly defeated (or you’re hard-core PMSing) or when you can’t see your own power. And spend time with them. Send the text. Make the call. Schedule the zoom. Connection will be key during this time. Don’t be afraid to let your guard down a little. Let yourself be surprised. Lean into love that others have for you.
Stay curious, and stay adamant about loving & seeing people where they are. Be prepared for some hard days. This work is not easy, especially the work you will do day-to-day. Curiosity mingled with compassion & daily gratitude is your best way forward.
Seek justice in all that you undertake and do not wait for others, or systems, or groups, to give you “the green light”. Surely your momentum, your courage, your outspokenness will inspire other kinds, where it is needed most.
Take time to breathe and don’t beat yourself up too much about eating cheese occasionally. You’ve gained a myriad of experience this year that will serve you well in the next one.
all my love,
Did any parts of your self or your life do a complete 180 this year?
yeah, u could say my white privileged ass def turned itself around. And I moved to a new state. That’s a pretty big degree-age change, too. Add on veganism there and it’s like i’m a ~~wholE nEw hUm@n~~
and I date a dedicated, insanely talented chef and VERY attractive NASA man now so there’s that 😀
What or who had the biggest positive impact on your life this year?
I would say this move out to Colorado has had a laundry list of positive impacts on me. Being able to be in a new space, living with those I love dearly and who inspire me every day to be better, living out work I can get behind, all while aligning my Truth with my personal desires and personal growth…. all of that has been amazing. And I look forward to continuing that this year.
May your new year be rife with meaningful intention, doused in self-love & respect, and lit by the lights of love & justice, between friends, family, neighbors & co-workers.
i have a tendency to fall in Fall
head first in ecstasy
and it reminds me
of your sweaters, losing track of time, and all
of warm Chai musical moments
that pulled out the crazy in me
the blind in me
the “i don’t mind” in me
the “never enough time” for me
so yes i have a tendency
to fall in Fall
face first in bittersweet agony
and it reminds me
to believe in me.
an august in-between
it’s been a hot minute since I actually sat down and took stock and did an “update” in this space, so here we are.
I started August on the beach– running & sunning & trying to be present ahead of spending the last few weeks at home before I made The Big Move™.
And then The Move™ The short version of the story:
I hopped on a plane
to LAX to Denver, CO on the 23rd of August to start a year of service within a program that is similar to the Peace Corps, but instead within the Episcopal Church. After almost a year of deciding, discernment, interviews & placement I decided upon Denver– and will be serving within a partner agency that supports homeless populations in finding work & giving them a hand up where they need it.
But of course, COVID had hit.
The plan was to continue with the year– the previous corps group had their year pulled out from under them, it seemed. But they got through it and urged us to do the same. In order for our program to be successful, we developed painstaking COVID planning, part of which included with us getting to Denver to drop off our living supplies & then all 5 of us quarantining at a lodge in the woods for 2 weeks, to make sure we could operate as a pod (seeing as we would be sharing a house among the 4 of us later.)
And so, with packing and moving and finishing up my summer work position and saying goodbye to the people & places I’ve lived for the biggest, most important chunks of my life thus far… it’s been a ride.
And this summer has just, all in all, felt very in-between.
When nothing is certain, anything is possible and I have no idea what to expect after this and I’m not planted anywhere or with anyone permanently right now and it’s all just sort of….suspended in air.
Exhilaratingly, immensely freeing.
With that said, here are some happenings in those categories I used to do in this space:
read/reading/re-reading // We were shipped a few books to finish ahead of the start of our service year– all great titles in their own right, though there is pLEnTY of room for criticism (esp. when it comes to Daring Greatly, written in like, 2012). But all books, reading them now, in this time, offered some great critical perspective:
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Jane Crow: The Life of Pauli Murray by Rosalind Rosenberg
An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor
Daring Greatly by Brené Brown
Another one I’ve been reading is:
From Social Media to Social Ministry by Nona Jones, as well as The Gift of Being Yourself by David Benner
writing // this POST! [<3 finally, it’s been so long!], reflections, and letters home.
learning // to hold and sit with a variety of opinions, experiences, and Truths at one time. And learning when to step away, when conversation is no longer respectful nor constructive. And learning to lead with love & trying to assume the best in people from the outset and if it goes down from there, then let it down gently. Firmly, but gently.
doing / working on //
- getting better at napping
- filing & paying my taxes
- celebrating the artistic work of friends
- photography as a spiritual practice
- editing services (well, I was, for the majority of August, I’m done now.)
- Getting adjusted to this altitude!
- Building a labyrinth! 😀
- Climbing mountains.
eating // the delicious cooking of the chefs of Cathedral Ridge, which has been a wonderful whirlwind of vegetarian & vegan options.
drinking // coffee, LOTS of water (altitude sickness is a thing!!!), & La Croix
listening // to so many new, beautiful things.
being inspired // by this space, and the people who fill it. We’re all from different places, bringing our own lives & experiences to one table and doing our best to show up for each other in this *iNsANe* world we are occupying right now.
laughing // with my newfound community — at bad first date stories, happy-wholesome moments in The World’s Toughest Race, and just at ourselves as we navigate the wilderness.
thinking // about ~so many things~. The pandemic. This experience. This experience within a pandemic. the joy & pleasure of slowing down and not having to work at break-neck speed every day. About my family back home. About my smoller brother starting college.
trying // to take it slow, get used to the altitude, stick to a decent sleep schedule, mentally prepare for the weeks ahead, compile a list of last-minute house things I’ll need from Target, and, as lovingly as I can, interject & interact with the racist things people have been putting on social media. Between the conventions going on right now….The RNC definitely has put a LOT of shit on blast and some of this fear-mongering & hate-provoking rhetoric has to stop. It’s so….dehumanizing at times and I hate that the political arena is so focused on slinging that mud and hate around.
hoping // that this too shall pass, that we innovate with love and consideration, and that we have the courage to collect our siblings and forge a better way, using what we now know and what we have within us.
loving // this time to disconnect & connect in nature, finally being able to see that Colorado blue sky that I’ve merely been hearing about– with some rain, the sky has cleared of smoke and we can finally see a jagged mountain range off in the distance that before I had no idea was there.
praying // for the people affected by fires, for those suffering from flagrant injustice, for those enclosed in drought, for those traveling, for those affected by COVID-19, and for our country, as we navigate hostile & triggering media & political environments.
I cried when I hugged my mom before security and the gate.
I have a whole row to myself, a window seat, a plastic bag “snack” kit, the world’s smallest cup of coffee and 3 sugar packets.
The airport was like a graveyard. In this respect, I’m thankful. I don’t know if I could have arrived 30 mins before boarding, still in enough time to get my bags checked AND do security. Everyone was wearing masks, and
I can see out and down, and notice just how starkly the geography changes, from staggering roads and winding suburbs to geometric plots and winding rivers. And smoke. The visibility is not very good, because of the fires that have, quite literally, been burning up the atmosphere.
The hills of Virginia undoubtedly will pale in comparison to the towering rocky mountains of Colorado. The last time I was on a plane, I was headed to Ireland, with 6 weeks of supplies shoved into a carryon and a backpack.
This time, I spent way too much on baggage (annoying) — all I have brought is my best estimate at what will be enough to last me a year.
With the window as my main form of entertainment (after boarding we were informed that the “Wifi doesn’t work on this aircraft”) and my mask snug on my face for the next couple hours, I find myself rolling around in my own brain and trying to process the past 2 – 4 weeks.
After a few months of pretty much straight, vigorous work in a job within my field that was half handed to me (??like omg wow?), I have a moment of breath.
…With the exception of last night, as I searched FRANTICALLY for my passport for an hour as I simultaneously tried to finish my last bits of celebratory rosé while The Incredibles played on our boxy 2000’s TV.
(I practically know all the words to that movie.)
But I can breathe, in and out, re-organize the books in my brain shelves and take stock of all the “yes ands” and “while also’s” that, naturally, accompany the multitude of feelings passing through my body right now.
I felt out of my body this morning— perhaps it was the stress of getting to the airport, or only being able to sleep from 2:30am to 6am, or just the general fatigue-numbness that comes as a result of literally everything being so uncertain right now.
I have no expectations because if there’s anything this season has told us is that we can’t expect anything, that plans change, that plans fail, that there is turbulence that just prompts you to strap yourself in and power through it. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
It’s an incredibly exhausting space to be in. However, for my slightly ADD self, the fact that it seems there’s always something different happening keeps me engaged and curious. Two sides of the same coin, I suppose.
We’ll land 30 mins early, according to the pilot. I’m praying for some deep breaths, no luggage mishaps, open eyes & an open heart.
there are moments
when I’m hit with a pang to write. I’m very out of practice in this space. This is me trying to practice, lol.
*aNyWaYs*, I’m reading a book called “An Altar in the World: a Geography of Faith” by Barbara Brown Taylor. (I highly recommend this book, however! please PLEASE for the love of God, do not purchase it from the main stuffer of Jeff Bezos’ pockets; please seek it from an additional book store.)
There’s a lot to take in. Brown offers a multitude of spiritual practice topics throughout the book, with detailed info of each intertwined with personal anecdotes, and, though it’s a *tad* bit dated (published in 2009), I’d recommend a critical reading of it, contextualizing it with a heightened consciousness & awareness of the time within which we live, to anyone.
But there’s a chapter I’m arriving on called “The Practice of Feeling Pain”.
I can feel my inner child cringe.
Cringe because this chapter was not a part of my middle school or high school years. Or early college years, for that matter.
I find myself mourning my younger self, who worked relentlessly to not be outwardly emotional. To be endlessly positive and cheerful. To please
and please others.
To separate myself from My Self.
To be perfect. To strive for perfect. Unreachable.
Had someone told me years ago that pouring this pain into a cylinder and shoving it down like a French pressed pot of morning coffee was a form of high functioning anxiety, I wouldn’t have believed them.
An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor, p. 172
“Plato once said that pain restores order to the soul. Rumi said that it lops off the branches of indifference. ‘The throbbing vein / will take you further / than any thinking.’ Whatever else it does, pain offers an experience of being human that is as elemental as birth, orgasm, love, and death.”
Nobody told me that pain could be a tool Instead of a stinging, negative stimulus, like electric shocks that we’d trade anything to numb.
Nobody told me how important it would be to feel, to sit with the pain.
Nobody told me how brilliantly and tenderly it would crack me open to reveal the Real underneath.
Nobody told me that there’s a distinct difference between pain and suffering.
Nobody told me that embracing discomfort, embracing confrontation, engaging with hard questions and questionable truths were the key to opening a connected understanding.
Perhaps that’s something we have to learn ourselves. The swarm of jellyfish we have to swim through, not over.
The obstacle that is the way.