Each day, on my way to work, I walk past an SRO (single room occupancy) building. My office is located in a very cool building with exposed brick and $1500 studio apartments, in an area that is being slowly transformed from a rough area full of not always legal immigrants and people who live outside of the mainstream into high rent apartments ,brew pubs and cupcake shops. Just beyond a comfortable stroll away, houses sell in the millions of dollars and people try to decide if they should head to the summer house for the weekend or spend the weekend sailing and at the yacht club. The men standing outside of the SRO, smoking, chatting, or just killing time make different decisions. They coordinate which kitchen is open on Sundays for lunch or dinner or perhaps how they will avoid a demon that whispers to them periodically, if not constantly. I have no illusions that the demons don’t call to every class of people but when I pass those men on the corner I see a loss of hope in their eyes. The ability to see the other side or perhaps to have seen it and know it may be possible to arrive there again. If we can hang on to hope, then there is always the possibility that life can be better.
My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.
Love is never what you think it is, is it? We imagine that it should be simple, it will fix our woes, fill our gaps, and warm us in the cold. We dream that all the good in life will be better and that words will be replaced by a knowing look and a connection so strong that there will never be a doubt that we are bonded at the soul. Can you hear me laughing?
Ahh, it’s good to dream! Sometimes I think those dreams are our undoing. Perhaps it would be better to think that real love will test you, enlighten you, and throw all of your own shortcomings in your face in order for you to rise to the challenge of being a more complete person on your own and when your beloved sees all of this, they will love you anyhow.
Better said by Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet”:
“When love beckons to you follow him,Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you. And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.
For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth. Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself. He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast.
All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.”
It can’t just be the flowers and love songs because when that passes, as it always does, what will be left? I have been very fortunate to have a friend and partner who has challenged me to be better person. A man who will not allow me to be any less than I should be and when forced to admit why, he will reluctantly admit that it is because he loves me, but not necessarily in the way I want to hear it. He is a man of actions, more so than words. My own challenge… not always getting what I want, instead getting what I need. In turn, hopefully I will push him out of his comfort zone to be something more than he is now. I tried the easy route of no challenges and it was empty. True love is a growing, learning, sometimes painful, experience. It’s the mother bird that pushes the baby out of the nest, not really knowing for sure if it will fly, but knowing it needs to and believing enough for both of them. To love and be loved in this way both breaks my heart and then mends it, it lifts me up and then brings me to my knees, it is more than I hoped for and better than I could have dreamed. It’s anything but simple.
“All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.
But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor,
Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.
Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed; For love is sufficient unto love. When you love you should not say, “God is in my heart,” but rather, I am in the heart of God.”
When women are depressed, they eat or go shopping. Men invade another country. It’s a whole different way of thinking.
I eat my problems.
I never had this problem when I was younger, or maybe I didn’t notice, but as I get older I can clearly ‘see’ that I do this.
Okay, what do I mean by this you may, or may not, ask?
I eat when I’m depressed. I swallow my words too. I stuff down my emotions. I ingest the pain I’m in and hold it all inside and then I have a sundae. It then appears on my hips. Voila! Just like magic; but not.
I never knew this about myself because it never showed up on the outside until lately.
So, is the answer to go to the gym more or is it to tell everyone to fuck off? Make myself happy instead of making myself ice cream? Take a break from making everyone else feel good and regurgitate all this negativity; shed the burdens; lose the weight of everyone else and have a salad instead?
Definitely time for a change.
Gluttony is an emotional escape, a sign something is eating us.
Peter De Vries
Necessity is the mother of taking chances.
It’s true. You can’t go home again. I tried and it didn’t work. I am not the same person and the house didn’t fit me anymore. I actually wonder what contortions of personality I had subjected myself to in order to make it fit the first time. Well, I obviously didn’t like it or I wouldn’t have left in the first place, right?
Have you ever romanticized your past? Thought longingly that, given the chance, you’d do it all so differently. You’d be kinder, patient, more appreciative with the known and familiar.
Think again, my friends. The unknown, as scary as it might seem, is ripe with possibility. The past, while comfortable, lacks potential. That well-worn path leads you in the same direction each time you follow it.
To the house that didn’t fit, that you discarded, or that discarded you.
Forge a new path. Build a new home. Be brave. Take a chance.
Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.
Mary Tyler Moore
It always seems impossible … until it’s done.
This week I began step one in the plan to launch the nonprofit I’ve been working on. I suppose it’s not really step one because I’ve been doing many things, including mountains of paper work and putting a board together, but this week began a more public launch. I made the first steps to teach in a community development organization. It’s important for me to partner with other local nonprofits in order to make mine successful, so this feels like the beginning. My NPO will have a workplace literacy component, so getting back to teaching adult ESL courses is something I’ve been looking forward to. The students are all recent immigrants and, as always, there are a few students that really knock me out. This time it was a couple from a small African country that had been in the U.S. a mere two months and were already a month in to an English language class. Their lives, and that of their two children, have been difficult, yet there was no trace of self-pity. They have been through things that would have crushed most people, yet they are optimistic. They have lost every material possession, yet they are grateful. There is a mix of pain and beauty in their eyes as they struggle with the language. It moves my heart in ways I can’t describe and makes me so sure that I am moving in the right direction. I am so honored to have the chance to touch their lives. People, my own age, starting over with nothing but their spirit and determination for something better. It is humbling, and it should be.
It made me wonder about people I know. People with every opportunity, yet they continue to be angry for all that isn’t handed to them. Instead of working harder, they continue to find fault with everything around them rarely looking at their own hand in the way their lives have turned out. Is it easier to place blame? Well, maybe in the short run. Is it narcissism that causes some people to blame everyone around them for their own circumstances? Is it having so very little that causes others to just work that much harder when life is unfair?
It didn’t take long but I’ve learned more than I taught, and I’m sure that nothing is impossible unless you decide it is.
When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.
I’ve been away from home for a little over a month. It has been wonderful and mind clearing. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking abut what I wanted the life I live every day to look like in places I’ve never been to before and may never see again. For me, that is when I do my best thinking. In my own home I see the past, the things I should be doing, and all the future events on the horizon. In another space all of the good, the bad, and the ugly is cleared away and I can focus on decisions and directions. So, the first thing I learned is that I know myself. I feel much clearer and my priorities are in order. I have a plan and I’m a person that loves a plan. I’m never happier than when I know where I want to go and I have mapped out my options and am on the brink of starting something new. In June I was overwhelmed and confused. In August I’m a force to be reckoned with. Travel as therapy. Do you think I could get my insurance carrier to pay for that?
“It’s a funny thing about comin’ home. Looks the same, smells the same, feels the same. You’ll realize what’s changed is you.”
-The Curious Case of Benjamin Button-
The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark. Michelangelo
Is it acceptable to still want to be something when you grow up, even at 49? Is it best to have a plan and expectations or is it better to do as I do most of the time and just have an idea and fling yourself at it? Do we still get to do that at this age? Of course I’m not saying that I don’t think about what I want to do, but if I consider what has worked in the past, I’d say launching into something full steam as if it were really already under way has been the successful approach. Starting this blog and proclaiming to people all over the world what I was in the process of doing surely made me feel as though turning back would be defeat.
This new business and non-profit is the first endeavor I’ve undertaken where my main concern is not how I will work it around my children. My youngest of four is almost 17 and the oldest nearly 30, so it’s all about me this time. What a glorious age this is. I love the woman my age too. They have done so many different things, many while raising children, and often supporting a home, that they just don’t have time to be afraid or if they are they kick it aside and march on. They’re supportive and compassionate without being patronizing. They know themselves or they are clearly on the path and don’t mind telling you what they think. Women in thier 50’s, give or take a decade, are to be envied. When I turn 50 next year I feel like I’m entering this exclusive club of creative, smart, funny, self assured people who don’t have time to take any crap from anyone and God help you if you mess with anyone they love. They are fiercely loyal and understand the value of a good girlfriend. They know what they want and also how to get it. I just love that.
Another incredible part of life at this age is I get to do some of the things I’ve dreamed about. July’s adventure is a trip to Italy. I’ve dreamed of this trip and I see no reason to waste anymore time. If you miss my ramblings I’d suggest you check out:
Oh, it’s just ridiculous how much talent and insight is out there. I could never include them all. These people and quite a few others have become a sort of blogging family for me. I feel very blessed.
Positano, Florence and Tuscany. I’m going to eat, drink, be merry, and contemplate my future as if I were 16 and it was all ahead of me, because it is. Only now I’m smarter, have no time to waste and I’m aiming higher.
There is no greater harm than that of time wasted. Michelangelo
Sometimes in your life you will go on a journey. It will be the longest journey you have ever taken. It is the journey to find yourself.
In the early part of this year I knew exactly what I would do in June. Isn’t it amazing how easy things seem when we don’t have to move on them quite yet? As a special education teacher I have the same students for fifth and sixth grade. Of course I become very attached to them, and I would hope them to me. So, I planned to finish my year two of teaching the same students and see them off to 7th grade, tie up the loose ends, and resign my position. It was a plan.
As the time came close I started to talk myself in to being able to work at the school and start my new endeavor too. I also found myself doing a lot of negative self-talk and scaring myself into just staying. I found all of the reasons not to let go of the secure and familiar, even though I knew letting go was what I truly wanted.
I gathered my courage and resigned. People were shocked! They tried to persuade me to stay. I have to admit, that felt good. It almost worked, but then I’d be staying to feed my ego or retain some false sense of security that a job with a pension and benefits offers. We all realize that people lose these things every day, so there is no security there either. I did give it more thought. Some might call it obsessing over it.
When I was very still and listened to that voice inside of me, the voice who knows all of me, I knew what I needed to do. I knew what would happen to me if I didn’t listen to that voice. Each day that followed I’d cease to be the person I truly am. I’d be denying that spark inside of me that wants to accomplish more than I have. I’d be foregoing the journey to find out all that I really am and what I am meant to do in favor of choosing to safe road of predictability.
So I jumped and I feel light enough to fly. I resigned yesterday. Let the journey begin!
Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won. It exists, it is real, it is possible, it is yours.