Sunday, January 16, 2011

Love After Love

2010 was a beautiful year. I'm beginning to think that years, months, days, life... they ebb and flow, are up and down. 2010 was no different. I spent the majority of 2010 fighting a huge depression. It was a lonely, isolating, fear-driven depression that erected large walls to keep people out. It was a terribly dark place to live from, and it took a lot for me to fight through it.

I went on a little adventure about a month ago. I signed up for a retreat absolutely desperate for something to change. It was terrifying to put all of the hope I had left in this little retreat, but I literally didn't know what else to do. It's called the Hoffman Quadrinity Process, and it was the most beautiful gift I could have ever dreamt for myself. It required me to leave the confines of my apartment and embark on a journey half-way across the United States to a beautiful site just outside of Napa, California, where I would reside for 8 days. I knew a little about the Process before I went, but I had few expectations. I honestly didn't know what to expect. I had a few glimpses into what we would be doing up there, but even today I have a hard time explaining it out of context.

I arrived at the retreat site after dark, and I was a bit of a mess. It was rainy, I was tired, hungry, completely out of my element, and so nervous about what I had signed up for. It truly was the calm before the storm, and as I got settled in my room my anxiety levels flew through the roof as I realized I had no cell phone or Wi-Fi signal. I desperately wanted to connect with someone or something familiar, but I was too self-conscious to walk back to the office to use the phone or ask for the Internet password. That first night was dreadful until my roommate arrived. I don't know how they do the roommate matching at Hoffman, but it's really a brilliant thing they do. My roommate and I hit it off right away, and it was such a relief to just talk to another individual who felt just as discombobulated as I did. We talked as we unpacked and settled, and we were both in bed asleep before we knew it.

The Process officially started Friday morning. They don't really waste any time getting to business, which I now really appreciate. There's so much about the journey that I've wanted to share and tried to share but failed because out of context it doesn't make sense. It's an incredibly experiential journey, and though you start with a group of strangers, you leave more connected to individuals than you could ever imagine.

It's a Process about looking at the negative patterns in your life -- the way you react to events, situations, people, etc. A big piece of the Process is physically releasing the energy, which proved more powerful and emotional than I thought it would be. The first three days were incredibly hard emotionally as you face some of your demons and patterns and negativities head on. The teaching staff is incredibly graceful and compassionate and are masters at their craft. They construct a perfect learning and growing environment where it's safe to fall apart, and they so very gently help you put the pieces back together.

I spent 7 1/2 days laughing, crying, feeling, loving, hugging, and breathing. I connected with myself in a way that I never have before. I love myself. I love my life, and I feel so connected to my future. There are so many things that I cannot wait to do. The biggest dream is Nursing School, which I've wanted to do since I was little. I finally have the courage and belief in myself necessary to go back to school. I plan on being enrolled by the Fall, and I am so ecstatic over it. It's amazing to look at my own life without me standing in the way of what I want to do. The fear is gone. The hopelessness is gone. The living for everyone else is gone. The beautiful thing is thought that all of these things will come back at some point or another, and some of them have shown up since I've returned home -- but they don't paralyze me anymore. They don't scare me, and I don't feel stuck.

Last week I had the opportunity to touch base with my teacher, and she read a poem to me that speaks so deeply to my heart. It's called Love After Love by Derek Walcott, and it absolutely sums up what my little (big) adventure in California granted me:

Love After Love
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
-Derek Walcott

So peel your own image from the mirror and feast on your life. It's delicious.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Really Cute Impulse Buy


I have been the proud owner of the cutest Pomapoo for about 3.5 hours. I've named him Oliver, Ollie for short. Turns out when you're secretly puppy shopping you will actually find a puppy you can't live without. And then he comes home and reality sets it. I am not a puppy person. I love puppies - other peoples' puppies. Having my own? Not so much. The thought was really attractive, but I haven't the slightest clue how to housebreak a puppy, nor do I have the patience when he pees on my brand new dry clean only quilt. I love this puppy enough to take him back tomorrow and let him have a family who will have that patience. And hopefully some puppy training skills.

Family & friends, thanks for letting me do this and not objecting. Oh wait, you all objected. I love you anyway.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Yikes!

I'm taking a break from Facebook. And it's killing me. I didn't actually realize how much of a distraction/time-sucker it was until I wasn't staring at my home page all day. It's killing the part of me that feels like I'm missing out on something, but it's forcing me to fill my time in other ways. My work productivity is WAY up (sorry, Mom), and I'm catching up on the over 4 hours of TV I have recorded on my DVR. I also bought a book to read just for fun. Haven't done that in a while. I'm still at a stalemate with my apartment. I just can't bring myself to clean it. It's about 60% trashed. Cleaning is SO boring. My apartment is not gross. I need to put that out there. There are just clothes and shoes and work papers everywhere.

My break from Facebook was inspired by this super cool thing my church is doing. Heartland serves free coffee every Sunday. It's kind of a staple. The next 4 Sundays there will be no more coffee, which we'll somehow survive. The super cool part is that the money that would have been spent on coffee is going to Water.org -- a super cool organization that will use that money to build a well in Haiti. I love the heart of my church. After Dan announced the coffee fast he challeneged the congregation to fast from something that is distracting us from God. Facebook is my distraction. Totally lame to admit out loud, but I'm so not alone in this boat.

As much as I'm bugged by my inability to check my Facebook, I have loved watching Glee, Grey's Anatomy, and Private Practice. I'm already deep into a book I don't want to put down. I actually spent time last night before bed doing things to unwind. I miss my old bedtime routine, but without Facebook it's back. It's funny how quick the healthy things come back as soon as you squash the distraction.

I still feel super lame admitting all of this about Facebook. After all it's just an internet site, right? The best part of not having Facebook is that it's also forcing me to actually communicate with people. My phone is ringing a little more, and my inbox is a bit more active. It's nice to intentionally communicate with people instead of being instantly updated by a status. I have missed the intentionality of relationships without even realizing it was missing.

And this blog. This blog is back. I've missed it more than anything.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Lost For Words

I think sometimes I get so overwhelmed by how much I have to say that I spend months in silence. I remember writing that last blog post, and I remember feeling crushed by the reality of things and events at that time. Most obvious, my Grandma's passing. It's surreal and just plain weird at times how life just goes on. I'm constantly amazed at how life seems to go by faster the older I get.

I miss the slow and steady pace of being a kid. The care-free summers spent at the pool or riding bikes or whatever. I never bitched about being hot then; at least I don't remember bitching about the temperature. There are so many things that I sit out on now because I don't want to sweat or get eaten alive by bugs. I wonder a lot when exactly I started caring about bug bites and sunburns.

Anyhow, summer has come and gone. It was busy as usual. It wasn't exactly remarkable, but it wasn't unremarkable either. It just was. Life just is. There a a thousand things I want to say about my life; about things that have and haven't happened. I feel a bit like I just go in circles sometimes -- like it's all a bit too cyclical and repeatitive. I wake up dizzy sometimes, ready for change.

I feel like I'm embarking on a season of change. Big change. And it feels different than it ever has. I think it's what lead me back to my blog. I know I'll have words for it. Words I'll need to put somewhere. Here.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Love


My sweet, sweet Grandma Cooksey passed away a week ago. It is hard for me to imagine her no longer on Earth. If there was ever a strong woman on this planet who defined unconditional love, it was my Grandma. I love her so deeply. Though knowing I will see her again in Heaven brings absolute comfort, I would be lying if I didn't say there was a feeling of emptiness in my life.

Last week was the biggest emotional roller coaster I've ever been on. My Dad, my Grandma's baby, called me late Thursday afternoon, letting me know that Grandma had taken a turn for the worst. We flew out to be with her first thing Friday morning. There is no way I could have been prepared for the way she looked. She looked tired. She looked ready to be back with Grandpa, and I don't blame her. After almost 94 years of rocking and raising babies, preparing magnificent feasts and desserts, giving hugs, wiping away tears, smoothing hair, and sewing, knitting, or crocheting the most beautiful masterpieces, it was time. She was tired.

There was an undeniable love and peace present among my family members as we watched the matriarch of our family slowly weaken. It's a hell of a thing to watch a breath, not knowing if there will be another one to follow it. Then feeling like it was time for the last breath to happen and just waiting for it, but hoping the breathing never stops. After Grandma's last breath, the greatest expression of peace was on her face, and that will be imprinted in my heart forever.

I am grateful and blessed to belong to the family I was born into. Absolutely and completely blessed. We all have been through so much, and yet we still found time to laugh, tell stories, and share memories of the woman who made and held our family together. It was her most divine creation.

I had the opportunity to speak at the funeral, and I am so thankful for that opportunity. For friends and family, here is what I said:

Note for those who were present: I only took notes for my speech. I had a general order with 2 specific passages I wanted to read verbatim. Everything else came from my mind and my heart, and that may be reflected in inconsistencies below. Regardless, the message is the same.

"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things...So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love." 1 Cor 13:4-7, 13 ESV

It feels a bit strange to be reading the love verse at a funeral, but Grandma, to me, was the ultimate example of unconditional love. She had a way of loving each of us to the core. There was a time in my life almost six years ago to the date when I was asked to think of an example of unconditional love. I had been shrouded in darkness, and though I knew my parents loved me, this question of unconditional love provided one answer. My Grandma. I knew then that no matter what I was doing, she was hundreds of miles away loving me wholly and completely. She loved all of us wholly and completely. And she still does.

I was a lap child growing up. I loved sitting on my Dad's lap, but more than that I loved sitting on my Grandma's lap. I have hundreds of memories of me walking into her living room on Ann Street and watching her tap her knees lightly as an invitation to sit on her lap. A sit on Grandma's lap meant tracing the veins in her hands while her arms were wrapped tightly around me. It meant my back being rubbed and my hair being smoothed as only she could do. One of the saddest days for me was the day I was too big to sit on Grandma's lap. I treasured those moments then as much as I treasure them in my heart today.

There was a time I made a trip to Illinois to visit Grandma and Grandpa with Ryan on the train. Ryan was sleeping in the basement, and I was assigned to the back bedroom. I was scared of my own shadow as a child, and the prospect of sleeping alone in the back bedroom left me terrified. I will never forget Grandma coming in to tuck me into bed one final time. This time she was in her night gown, her teeth were out, and her night cap was on. She knew I was scared and asked if I wanted her to sleep with me. Of course I did, so she obliged.

It has been an honor to love and care for Grandma this week, like she has always loved and cared for us. I'd like to close with a passage from an essay by Kelly Corrigan in her book, The Middle Place:

"We’ll bury our mothers and our fathers {and our Grandmothers}—shuttling our children off for sleepovers, jumping on red eyes, telling each other stories that hurt to hear about gasping, agonal breaths, hospice nurses, scars and bruises and scabs and how skin papers shortly after a person passes. We will nod in agreement that it is as much an honor to witness a person come into the world as it is to watch a person leave it."

Grandma, I miss and love you more than words justify. You are the light in my eyes and the beat of my heart, and I cannot wait to see you again. Give Grandpa and Jesus hugs and kisses for me, and I 'll see you all again.

Monday, February 22, 2010

And so it begins...

It has been hard for me to update my blog since 2009 rolled into 2010. 2009 was a hard year, and the "New Year is here, let's reflect on the last year" mode sent me into blog silence. I don't do resolutions. Any attempt I've made to make resolutions before has been a farce because I never have done them and never will do them. I don't believe in setting myself up for failure at the beginning of a new year. That being said, I do spend time reflecting. I'm not so sure I'm done learning from what 2009 had to teach me. Just this evening I was scanning a friend's Facebook and was able to remember a night exactly a year ago and how I felt in that moment in time. I was a shell of who I am today. I was not just broken, I was smashed in to little tiny pieces. I had no idea where my life was going, and I had little clue to where my life had been in the last 6 months. I was reviewing my blog tonight to see what I had to say this time last year, and it's no surprise to me that there wasn't a post in February. A January update included a little about what was going on, but I'm not quite convinced I was aware of my true reality when I wrote that. My first thought is this: Thank you Jesus for getting me through 2009.

2009 wasn't all bad though because when there's bad there's a whole lot of good. I grew closer to some friends, let go of toxic friends, admitted I was wrong, admitted I was right, loved more, hated less, and learned more about myself than I have in a decade. And though, I don't do resolutions, there are things I did in 2009 that I will keep doing in 2010.

I will still doubt myself all the time when I have to make decisions, but I will not act on the doubt. I will fake it until I make it.

I will still sleep with a fan on because I love the air circulating around me, though I cannot handle feeling the air on my face.

I will still put my foot in my mouth at least once a week and feel like an ass for about an hour. Then, I will call Twin, and we will laugh or tweet about it.

I will continue to not bite my nails, as I now have real nails for the first time in my life and getting those nails manicured regularly is awesome.

I will still get mad when something does not go my way.

I will still question God when something unexplainable happens (good or bad), and I want to know why.

I will still hate waking up before 8am on any day of the week.

I will continue my love of designer handbags, and I will purchase new ones despite what everyone else says about the price because it's no one's business but mine. And purses are like art to me.

I will still use Facebook and google to stalk people. I'm really good at it too.

I will continue to build relationships with distant family members, as being a part of an extended family is my favorite thing ever.

I will still sleep with my blankie.

I will still hate new social settings because I am so socially awkward it hurts. But I will go, and I will act like I'm having the time of my life, even though I really can't wait to leave.

I will still sing along to my iPod at the top of my lungs when no one else is in my car.

And last, but not least, I will continue to date despite how awkward the whole process is.

Thank you 2009 for the things I learned and the ways I grew. I'm so glad I never have to see you again.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Season Finale

Every season comes to an end, inviting a freshness of new growth and change. I am so pleased to announce that a season that began for me about a year ago is finally coming to an end. I first posted here when all of this started. Truth be told I have struggled a lot with being fired from my old job. It destroyed a part of me. It was one of the most devastating things I've endured, but at the same time God has turned so much of it into good. I have met new faces, enjoyed hanging out with new kids, accepted my faults, gained insight about my heart, and faced some of my own demons. It's been one hell of a ride, and it's just finally winding down.

I have felt absolutely lost several times in the last few months. It's been hard for me to nail a direction down, and quite honestly, the needle in my compass is still quivering, but it's settling. I will be going back to school in January. I'm still not sure what path I'm going down, I'm just going to start with learning to be a student again. I have been incredibly blessed to have a job doing medical billing for my Step Dad's practice, which I can do any time from any where thanks to the internet. I continue to get my kid fix thanks to the awesome families I sit for. I really do have some great kids in my life. They keep me young, keep my perspective fresh, and remind me to not take myself so seriously.

Today was a big day that was the first big step in moving through this season. Last night, I offered to help a friend paint her house today(this never actually got done). She called me this morning and told me her 3 year old really wanted to see me and asked if I would go pick him up at preschool. Not a problem. Save for the fact that his preschool is my old job. The place where it all went down. The place I can't drive by without getting the sickest feeling in my stomach -- where I can't even think about without the bitterness and spite boiling up. So I told my friend I would be there. I had a couple of hours to prepare. I honestly did my morning crossword puzzle and got ready as normal. Then I stopped and asked/begged God for guidance and help on this one. I knew I couldn't go in there without Him. Plus, I called my tribe and let them know what was up. They all supported me. The biggest encouragement came from my friend who invited me along. She told me she believed in me, and she would be right beside me, solidly.

Preschool got out, and we were right on time. We ran into another parent in the parking lot, which I don't think was an accident. God has done this time and time again, the whole putting people at the right place at the right time type thing. I was nervous as hell, but when I saw her pull up I knew it was another person who knew my heart, trusted me with her children, and would also be standing right there. It was so nice to walk in with those two women.

My brief time in the building was mostly uneventful. Two of my former co-workers appeared genuinely happy to see me. One stopped to give me a hug. Two acted like I didn't even exist. My ex-boss saw me too. The look on her face was truly priceless. I'm sure she didn't wake up this morning expecting to see my face in her hallway. Either way, hello's were exchanged, the secretary said hello, and we were out the building.

Like I said, pretty uneventful. The fact that I went inside, huge. My dear friend pointed out later in the car as I acknowledged the two who didn't acknowledge me that they probably felt guilty. Honestly, I think that's exactly what happened. It's not like I want everyone to feel guilty for so wronging me -- which is said with complete dramatic flair. I don't know what it's like to be a part of the character assassination that happened last January because I wasn't there, but I know what it did to my heart, and I can't imagine the people present left unscathed.

Tonight, I forgive them. I forgive my boss for her inability to manage people -- the very words she spoke to me in our conference before I was terminated. I forgive her youth and lack of experience. I forgive the women who gossiped. I forgive the ones who listened to the gossip but didn't stop it. I forgive the parents who heard the gossip and questioned me. I forgive the women who didn't stand up for me. I forgive myself for not being perfect and for not taking care of the small deals that paved way for a big deal. I forgive us all for being human. I forgive God for the times I felt there was no way He was there. He was. I see it now. I just forgive, and there is so much freedom in that.

I'm really excited for the upcoming year. 2009 has been hard. That's not to say 2010 won't have it's own challenges, but I look forward to a brand new year to do grand new things and to practice what I've learned in 2009.