Once upon a time, I was a writer. I wrote a lot and well- poetry and prose poems, mostly- pieces that were dark and vivid and beautiful. I put my heart and soul into words, the experience of living my life, in my body and mind, through the trials and tribulations of my day-to-day existence. The things I wrote were deeply personal but, as I was told often, also astoundingly universal. People related to what I wrote and felt it and they enjoyed reading it.
I was also, at the time, an active alcoholic and drug addict. I struggled through each and every day and went to bed at night praying to die in my sleep. I was almost always miserable, the degree of my pain just varied a little, depending on how chemically altered I happened to be. My life was always a mess because I didn’t know how to live it like a responsible human being. And that’s the place I wrote from, that cavernous torture, that complete hopelessness. My words were the best thing about me (I thought) but they were manifestations of the fact that I was dying a slow, horrible death. Continue reading
Happy HUMP* Day! I had fully intended to do some writing this past weekend. Maybe even a lot of writing. But… well, our house continues to slowly succumb to the wrath of winter and there was a lot of work to be done to help keep it healthy. There was some flooding in the cellar, leaks in various ceilings, monster blocks of ice dripping down the outside walls. Luckily, I live with 20 other people, so there were lots of housies willing to pitch in. But it took a lot of time and effort and I had a bit of a cold, on top of it, so I didn’t wind up writing anything.
On Friday evening, I did manage to brave the T (Boston’s public transportation system, which has been horrifically crippled by the weather) and spend some much needed time with some of my dearest pals. Since moving into my house a year and a half ago, I’ve felt increasingly disconnected with these ladies, who mostly all live in one neighborhood of the city. It’s not very hard to get out there to see them but I don’t, unfortunately, have the time to do it all that often. So, despite the fact that getting anywhere on public transit right now is a big hassle and despite the larger fact that at rush hour it becomes a nightmare, I knew I had to get myself to my friend’s house. I think it’s so important to make time to connect with the people who mean so much to me. These friends of mine understand me in a way that’s hard to describe. It’s just… a feeling of safety and belonging that bolsters me, that restores me and allows me to breathe more easily. It’s the security of knowing I can lean up against another person and be sure that I’ll be seen and felt and comprehended at a deep level. I don’t feel weird or different or even particularly special when I’m with my closest friends. I just feel loved and appreciated, exactly as I am. That’s something I’m feeling really grateful for right now, that connection and safety.
This is always a tough time of year for me. It’s dark and cold and slippery and by the end of February, it feels like winter is never going to end. So I’m very thankful to be reminded that there is light and love and laughter in my life, even amid the icy bleakness.
What are you grateful for today?
*Helping Us Muster Positivity
Many years ago, in an attempt to do some self-improvement without having to actually do any work on myself, I joined a zen meditation group. My time with them didn’t last very long, because I wasn’t really able to devote my energy to it in a good way. Meditation fell away, for me, for a while and then reemerged as a part of my spiritual journey that is pretty constant and important, but much less all-or-nothing than it was then.
But something that happened during that brief stint so long ago has stuck with me. There was an opportunity, every few weeks, to spend some time with the leader of the sangha. I remember sitting down with him and rambling for a bit about how I wasn’t any good at meditation, yet. How my mind wandered, how I couldn’t get into it, how I did not, at all, feel very zenlike. But how I was determined to improve, determined to get better, sure that I could if I worked hard enough at stilling my mind. After I’d finished, he looked me calmly in the eyes and said, “Or maybe there’s not a better to get to.”
I thought it was pretty preposterous at the time. Of course there was a better and I was definitely going to get there! If I didn’t, I was never going to be a better person. I was never going to be the version of myself I aspired to be and I would never have the life I desired. I had to get better, I had to find zen. It was my only hope. Continue reading
Here in Boston, we’re experiencing quite a winter. We are buried under it, slipping on it, plodding through it, feeling the house shake with it. It has been, so far, the third snowiest winter in the city’s recorded history and it seems like another couple of good storms (like the one currently shaking my windows) could push us easily into the number two spot.
I spent over an hour this morning reestablishing the path through our kitchen courtyard, so that we’ll be able to continue taking our trash and compost outside. The courtyard is not really very large but it was exhausting work, mostly because we’ve run out of places to put the snow. I spent a lot time arranging it under the bike shed. We built the structure in the fall but it’s now just serving as a storage area for nature’s (mostly unwanted) bounty.
I’m honestly getting kind of worried about the bike shed. Our house director and residency manager spent a lot of the week working to clean the roof of our house (a task that became necessary after several leaks sprung up in the tops of window frames). And several housemates spent lots of time shoveling the front sidewalk clear of the snow that came off the roof. But there’s no good way to get at the roof of the bike shed so for now it’s staying where it is. I helped build that thing and put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into it (literally), so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it holds up.
So, really, all this winter wonderland stuff is getting old and I’ve been dreaming of milder weather. Bare feet in the sand, warm breeze, citrus, short sleeves. I decided I wanted to bake something that made me feel summery. Don’t get me wrong, I love the traditional flavors of fall and winter. Cinnamon and ginger and pumpkin make me swoon. But sometimes I need to shed my coat, kick my dripping boots across the room and enjoy something that makes me say, “Snow? What snow? I don’t know what you’re talking about!”
Enter these vegan Orange Coconut Cupcakes. They are delicious, with subtle fruity flavor. It’s true that they do look like fluffy white mounds but one one bite will transport you to a sunnier place. They’re the perfect treat after you’ve shuffled home over icy sidewalks and you just can’t bear the thought of going out again until the snow melts away.
It’s funny- when I talk about gratitude, when I start expressing the things I’m grateful for, I usually speak of the good things. Which makes sense, right? If we’re thankful for something, it’s probably because it’s something that pleases us. But part of my spiritual practice, one of the hardest parts, is that I try to be grateful for the stuff that doesn’t please me. I say to people a lot that it’s really easy to thank God* when things go the way I want them to. But I also try to say thanks when things don’t turn out the way I’d hoped. And that’s tough.
So right now, I’d like to say that I’m thankful for my job. I really don’t like my job. Sometimes I cry in the morning while I’m getting ready to go there. Frequently, I cry in the bathroom at work. Or in the file room. Or very occasionally, in front of people (it’s super classy). It’s just a very bad environment for me. But I am grateful for it. First of all, it’s a job; it pays the bills. And there are people there I enjoy (when they aren’t completely annoying me). And I get to show up every day and be useful and valuable (even when I feel undervalued). It also helps me to work on compassion and patience and calmness. It reminds me to stay in the present moment, to love everyone, to just do what I can to make the world a better place. Those are all good things. It doesn’t make me like it any more most of the time, but I do understand that it’s something to appreciate.
When I pray, I frequently say to God, “thank you for my life, even the parts I hate” because I know that all these parts are things to be glad about, because they were given to me as gifts. I don’t have to understand them, only remember that they are, in fact, gifts. On this HUMP** Day, what are some aspects of your life that you aren’t totally fond of that you can still be grateful for?
* I use the word God for the guiding force in my life that’s bigger than me. Please swap in whatever works for you- Higher Power, Universe, Love Energy, Holy Spirit, whatever.
** Helping Us Muster Positivity
Well, okay, that whole post a week thing hasn’t been happening. I just never feel like I have enough time to sit down and write. Between how exhausted my job makes me and all the commitments I have when I’m not at my job, I just… I just don’t often find the time and energy to sit down and write anything.
I have been trying to really be good about not getting too stressed out, about being present and kind and optimistic. This week, I was not as successful but I think it’s mostly because I was fighting off a physical illness as well. My boyfriend, Ryan, got a bad cold and my body attempted to catch it. It seems I managed to fight it off pretty well but it did manifest, for a couple of days, as feelings of depression and general doom. I had a lot of moments of believing that life is pointless and that I’ll never be anything important, never do anything valuable, never realize any sort of momentous greatness. As if momentous greatness is the aim of life, as if just being present for myself and the people I love isn’t already an amazing gift.
It’s really easy for me to get caught up in the idea that in order to have any impact, I have to have a huge impact. That in order to change any little corner of the world, I have to save the whole dang thing. I convince myself sometimes (like this week) that my contributions aren’t enough, that striving to just be present and kind and optimistic, is worth nothing. I think it’s an easy thing for me to believe because we are so often presented with profiles of people who are doing huge things. Inventing and curing and discovering and creating. I become convinced that if I haven’t done any really big things, it must mean I’ve done nothing. Continue reading
Happy HUMP* Day everyone!
My amazing Mumma had a birthday earlier this week, so I want to use my Wednesday gratitude broadcast to express how thankful I am for her. She’s super cool and smart, so kind and supportive, but also doesn’t tend to spare my feelings when she knows it’s for my own good. And she’s completely hilarious. She’s one of my very best friends and also, I believe, the best mommy ever!
What are you grateful for this week?
*Helping Us Muster Positivity