Thoughts on a Monday Night

First day of official unemployment for the first time since I was 15.
Exciting yet discomforting, I am both happy to have free time to do the things I want, yet unsure about my immediate future plans.

I’ve seen a lot of changes in myself taking place since I’ve actively begun working on daily meditations for my social/emotional well-being. My dad’s illness has almost demanded it. I’m constantly pursuing the “now-ness” of everything so I can delight in the present moment.

I used to think that joy/happiness/satisfaction was somewhere “out there.” That my inner state was contingent on my exterior surroundings. Once I accomplish this, or once I obtain that I’ll be happy, I thought. The opposite, however, has slowly transformed into my truth. I am both happier and sadder than I’ve ever been in my entire life, but changing my mindset has allowed me to find joy in all my sorrow. The world to me is now so different. Tasks that used to feel trivial, and moments once viewed insignificant have all become something special. The simple act of looking at flowers has turned into marveling at the pink hydrangea plants on Allegheny’s campus, blossoms sprinkled with water droplets. Running outside to my car at night has become pausing in my steps to soak in the sky at sunset. Getting a tan at the beach has transformed into feeling the sun kiss my skin as I dig and wiggle my toes deeper into the sand. My dad’s illness has taught me that the “now-ness” of everything is a miracle. And my joy and my happiness manifested once I stopped chasing it.

“Joy is a choice that comes from accepting and living fully each moment of our lives, knowing that each day and each event is important . . . Receive it [the present] now, then pass it on with a smile and a kind word to all who come along your path.” Melody Beattie

Passing this along tonight for you, friends.

It’s okay to not know

I’ve been feeling lost in a state of transition lately, so, for all my fellow brothers and sisters feeling some level of discomfort in your unknowns, I thought I’d put this out into the universe for you. For us.

Cheers to feeling liberated in the depths of our unknowns.

“Sometimes we don’t know what we want, what’s next, or what we think our lives will look like down the road. That’s okay. If the answer is I don’t know, then say it. Say it clearly. And be at peace with not knowing.

Sometimes the reason we don’t know is that what’s coming is going to be very different from anything we’ve experienced before. Even if we knew, we couldn’t relate to it because it’s that new and that different. It’s a surprise.

Sometimes the reason we don’t know is that it would be too difficult, too confusing for us right now. It would take us out of the present moment, cause us to worry and fuss about how we could control it or what we have to do to make it happen. Knowing would make us afraid. Put us on overload. Take us away from now.

Sometimes our souls know, but it’s just not time for our conscious minds to know yet. Sometimes knowing would take us out of the very experience we need to go through to discover the answer we’re looking for. And sometimes the process of learning to trust, the process of going through an experience and coming to trust that we will ultimately discover our own truth, is more important than knowing.”

The process of moving from what we don’t
know to what we are to learn is a process that
can be trusted. It’s how we grow and change.
It’s okay to not know. It’s okay to let ourselves
move into knowing. The lesson is trusting
that we’ll know when it’s time.

 

Found in Melody Beattie’s book titled, Journey to the Heart.
“It’s Okay to Not Know” (171-172)

3.7: beautiful

I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about what it means to be beautiful.
Mainly because I haven’t been feeling it.

Grief really takes a toll on one’s appearance. I look at myself in the mirror, and I just look tired, exhausted, frazzled. The circles under my eyes appear darker at every passing moment. No matter how much makeup covers my face, I can still see grief lurking underneath. “Your eyes say so much” my coworker tells me.

While browsing the internet yesterday, I decided to look up the word beautiful.

Merriam-Websters Dictionary defines beautiful as:

1. “having qualities of beauty: exciting aesthetic pleasure”
2. “generally pleasing”

I was disappointed with this, so I clicked on the link below that read, “see beautiful defined for English-language learners.”

Aha, I thought. This could be interesting.

It read: “Learners definition of BEAUTIFUL:”

  1. “having beauty: such as
    1. very attractive in a physical way
    2. giving pleasure to the mind or ones senses.”

Eh.

I then decided to look up beauty.

Beauty is defined as being (1). a combination of qualities such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses: a combination of qualities that pleases the intellect or moral sense.

I felt myself wanting more, so I grabbed Glennon Doyle Melton’s copy of Love Warrior and turned to a passage I had underlined in Chapter 15.

The underlined passage read, “beautiful is being full of beauty.”

Full . . . of beauty.

It continued:

“Beautiful is not about how you look on the outside. Beautiful is about what you’re made of. Beautiful people spend time discovering what their idea of beauty on this earth is. They know themselves well enough to know what they love, and they love themselves enough to fill up with a little of their particular kind of beauty each day.”

I thought about this particular kind of beautiful last night as I stepped onto my yoga mat.

This, I thought, is what makes me beautiful: this is one thing that fills me up with beauty.

I know myself well enough, I thought, to know that I love yoga. I do it for no one else but myself. I love yoga because it’s a practice, and some practices go well and some practices don’t – just like some days go well and some days don’t. I love yoga because it’s a space where we are encouraged not to judge ourselves, but rather, love ourselves and thank ourselves for practicing.

I love yoga because, believe it or not, I am not naturally flexible, and have to work very hard at it. But, when I do find that extra inch of length in a stretch or pose, I am amazed by my body and that makes me beautiful.

There are other things that fill me up with beauty:

  1. Dancing: whether choreographed or unchoreographed.
  2. Writing and sharing my words with other people & knowing that, in sharing, I helped someone else feel less alone.
  3.  Feeling sunshine on my face and having sand and salt water in my hair.
  4. Drinking hot tea after a long day and curling up with a good book in bed.
  5. Talking to another human being and feeling that I am as much of them as they are of me.

It seems simple, but it’s amazing what you start to feel when you “un-learn” society’s expectations of your beautiful and you start to re-learn your own idea of it. It’s not like I haven’t always known that beauty’s not purely based in aesthetics, but the idea of myself sure did change as I started naming all the things that filled me up with beauty.

Here I am, a new English language learner.

I love this new outlook on what it means to be beautiful. I love that it not only makes me feel beautiful, but that it makes me want to soak up other people’s beauty: people’s art, people’s music, people’s craft – whatever fills them up, I want to fill myself up with it.

My friends, what is your beautiful? What fills you up with beauty?

 

Loving you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.28: sitting in the dirt

I’m not gonna lie, I’ve been struggling with this week’s Motivational Monday topic a lot – obviously, because it’s Tuesday.

I’ve been caught in the fog of my dad’s illness this week, watching, yet again, as another deterioration takes hold. He is starting to lose motor function in his dominant hand. I watch and I know what’s happening – switching from his right to his left hand during dinner, struggling to turn the car key in the ignition, taking twenty minutes to clip his toe nails.

I watch and I know, and it scares me.

I think experiencing grief makes a person more privy to the way that others respond to it. In the memoir, Love Warrior, author Glennon Doyle Melton outlines her experience in sharing grief with others by observing the patterned responses people reply with after hearing of her sufferings. She depicts these responses as different “roles.” I won’t get into all of them, but here are just a few:

The “Shovers” – the ones who respond with “everything happens for a reason” because grief is too uncomfortable, and they need to make it comfortable – for them, not for you.

The “Comparers” – those that compare your story with one of their own because that’s how they can relate to your pain. And all pain is (supposedly) similar.

The “Fixers” – those that see your pain, hate your pain, and want to do everything in their power to take away your pain.

And so forth.

Now before you bite my head off, I’m not saying that any of these responses are particularly bad. In fact, I know I’ve stepped into these roles before while facing another’s grief. But these roles shield us from vulnerability; they distinctly separate us from the suffering that’s taking place. They allow us not to get too close to grief because grief is hard and it hurts. It’s uncomfortable and it’s not fun. But grief is also highly subjective to its own person. Your grief isn’t like mine and my grief isn’t like yours. And that’s okay.

I took some time to explain all of this to my boyfriend, Alex, last week. I explained that I knew people were just trying to help by asserting themselves into these roles, but sometimes I just wished they wouldn’t. I explained that sometimes the best help comes from those that don’t try to do anything at all. These are the people that are just there with you – not to dismiss the pain, not to compare the pain, not even to fix the pain – just there with you in the pain.

My boyfriend responded with “yeah, just sitting in the dirt.”

(Now let me preface this by saying that my boyfriend is incredibly smart and has been an ANGEL during this entire process with my dad. He also studied rhetoric in college, currently works at a church in Washington D.C., and is an aspiring theologian).

When I asked him what he meant by “sitting in the dirt,” he told me a story from the Bible’s Book of Job that references Chapter 2 Verses 12-13. In this story, Satan has afflicted Job (a man of faith) with sores from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet to prove to God that Job’s piety came only from his good fortune & blessings. But the part Alex was speaking of came after Job’s three friends found him in his suffering. The verses read:

When they [Job’s three friends] saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.”

Alex’s reference to “sitting in the dirt” or “sitting on the ground,”  was a comparison to those that “sit” in painful times with others. They don’t compare, they don’t avoid, they don’t fix, they just sit with you in your grief and they are vulnerable – just like Job’s three friends.

American author, scholar and public speaker, Brene Brown (aka my hero), says something about people that “sit in the dirt.” She says that vulnerability is our “most accurate measure of courage.” It’s easy to avoid hard emotions, in others or ourselves. But to sit with someone in all life’s shittiness and listen to them, and know that there’s nothing you can do to make it better – that is courage. That is sitting in the dirt.

 

My friends, I don’t have any motivation for you this week other than to try and sit in the dirt with someone if you see them suffering.

We thank you.

 

2.20: conversations

Ah, I’m late! But I’m sticking to my goal of writing each week, so here I am.

This week, for Motivational Monday, I would like to focus on the topic of meaningful conversations. 

One of my favorite quotes has always been by the remarkable, Bill Nye. It reads, “Everyone you will ever meet knows something that you don’t.” As I’ve watched the current climate surrounding conversation in our country become more heated and less civil, I can’t help but think  that many of us have forgotten what it means to have a truly meaningful conversation.

In her Ted Talk entitled, “10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation,” speaker Celeste Headlee quotes famed therapist M. Scott Peckby by stating: “True listening requires a setting aside of oneself. And sometimes that means setting aside your personal opinion.”
If interested, you can watch the full-length video here: http://www.dailygood.org/story/1268/10-ways-to-have-a-better-conversation-ted-com/.

If not, here is the portion of her speech that I believe to be most appropriate in reorienting ourselves back towards engaging in meaningful conversations.

“All of this boils down to the same basic concept, and it is this one:
Be interested in other people.
You know, I grew up with a very famous grandfather, and there was kind of a ritual in my home. People would come over to talk to my grandparents, and after they would leave, my mother would come over to us, and she’d say, ‘Do you know who that was? She was the runner-up to Miss America. He was the mayor of Sacramento. She won a Pulitzer Prize. He’s a Russian ballet dancer.’ And I kind of grew up assuming everyone has some hidden, amazing thing about them. And honestly, I think it’s what makes me a better host. I keep my mouth shut as often as I possibly can, I keep my mind open, and I’m always prepared to be amazed, and I’m never disappointed.”
Celeste Headlee

How awesome would it be if we all assumed, like Celeste, that everyone we meet has something amazing to offer?

I encourage you this week to listen with the intent to understand, not reply.
In doing so, try to be open and receptive to those that carry a different opinion than yours.

Most importantly, prepare yourself to be amazed. Sometimes the most important messages come from the places least expected.

 

Loving you.

 

 

 

 

Monday 2.13

Hi Everyone,

I wanna try something a little different today. When I lived down in Florida, I was given the opportunity to distribute Motivational Monday emails to my team of Literacy AmeriCorps members every week. Monday after Monday, I’d scour the internet for positive messages, linking them to current events and attuning the messages to, what I felt, was the current emotional landscape of my community of service members. It was a small gesture, but I enjoyed it so much, and actually received a lot of positive feedback in return.

Since my blog came into existence back in 2014, I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the hard stuff in life. It seems like I’ve always been good at talking about the hard stuff. But I’ve had an awakening recently and I’d like to experiment.

Starting today, I’d like to turn my blog into its own Motivational Monday archive.
And I’d like to expand my audience to you.

So, if you’re interested in reading short devotionals from a hippie chick living in Northwestern Pennsylvania, you got it.

I’d like to start off this weekly practice by talking about themes, specifically in relation to the new year. Being that today is February 13th, and we’re already way past New Years, this post might seem irrelevant. But I’d like to challenge you to think about it anyway. Besides,  many of you probably started off 2017 with a few resolutions in mind, and maybe they’re still around motivating you . . . or maybe they’re not.

But I’m not here to talk about resolutions today. Today, I’d like to ask you a different question. As many of my previous Motivational Monday-ers know, I subscribe to a website called DailyGood: News That Inspires. And it was while browsing this website that I found an article with the following questioning title: What Will The Theme Of Your Life Be In 2017?

You see, what’s cool about humans is that we are all storytellers. From childhood through adolescence, we are constantly creating our stories. And our stories, in turn, create ourselves. Kira M. Newman, author of the online article says,

Incorporating our goals into the larger narrative of our life can give us more energy to pursue them, and to become the person we want to be . . . not only do stories tell us who we are, but they can also become resources we draw upon in times of difficulty. Recalling stories of strength or resilience helps us confront new challenges, reminding us of how we solved problems in the past. Telling stories can connect us with others, creating intimacy and strengthening relationships. The best stories provide meaning and purpose by linking seemingly random events and experiences into a progressive journey.”

 

So, my friends, I ask you: what will your story theme be in 2017?

Maybe you’re someone who really wants to rekindle/strengthen friendships – a theme of connection.
Maybe you have a lot of goals for your next career move in 2017 – your theme could be professional growth, or focus.
Maybe you’re finally ready to go back to school, or just want to take some classes in a subject you’ve always wanted to explore – your theme could be learning.

Whatever your theme is, I challenge you to incorporate it into your daily routine. Practice your theme often, and reward yourself for the time you spend dedicated to it.

As for me, well, I’ve spent the last 23 years being my own worst enemy. So my theme for 2017 is love: self-love, intimate love, platonic love, universal love.

I have a feeling that this chapter of my life will be the most fulfilling story yet.

 

Much love.

 

The link to the full text article What Will The Theme Of Your Life Be In 2017? can be found at http://www.dailygood.org/story/1475/what-will-the-theme-of-your-life-be-in-2017-kira-m-newman/.

 

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Waste hours

There are many things in life that, once used, cannot be taken back.

One of these things happens to be time.

Time seems to be a constant theme in my life lately. Once a concept that seemed so endless and abundant, now has become limited and scarce.

Here’s the thing about time: it’s intangible. It exists only through man-made quantifiable measures like months, years, hours, minutes, seconds, milliseconds and so on. When my dad was first diagnosed with ALS in December, time scared me. The unforeseen amount of time I had left with him left me feeling helpless and paralyzed by fear. Time was suddenly running out.

The other night, I found myself reading another chapter of Sarah Caldwell’s book titled Just to Make you Smile (previously mentioned in my last blog post). While I was reading, I concluded that the book was probably something people discovered and reflected over not during a loved one’s diagnosis, but after their passing. In that moment I felt fortunate to have it. Because here’s the thing, I don’t want to wait until my dad is gone to read it. I want to learn from this sweet girl’s heartbreaking experience, and I want to take her advice. I want to do the best I can while my dad is still here, and we have time.

So, I surrendered myself to time that night. I realized that I don’t have control over it – none of us do. We could be here today and tragically gone tomorrow. It’s not something we ever like to talk about, but it’s true. Our time here is as mysterious as it is sacred. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s only when we are faced with situations like my dad’s that we start recognizing the power of time. Fortunately, my experience has helped me gain insight that I’d like to share with you now.

For many of you that know, (or for those of you that read my blog post titled If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles), my friend Doug Kallin passed away tragically a little over a year ago. Shortly after his death, I met with Doug’s best friend to talk about the heartbreaking circumstances surrounding his passing. During our conversation we talked about the shock we felt, details of Doug’s life, and his music. You see, Doug was a musician and had been studying Music Education at IUP before his passing. Looking back on it now, I must’ve been in the right place at the right time because it was during this conversation that I learned about one of Doug’s songs called “Wasted Hours.” His friend told me what the song’s meaning meant to him and when our conversation ended, I wrote the phrase “Waste Hours” along with the initials D.K. on a sticky note that I put inside the top drawer of my desk at school. I’d come across it from time to time, but it wasn’t until the other night, after reading part of Caldwell’s book, that I actually listened to Doug’s song for the first time.

It began:

If I knew then what I knew now,
Things, they would’ve been different somehow.
Feeling nostalgic I realize,
Those days were the most I felt alive . . .

 And then the chorus came:

 And all the wasted hours,
If I could, I’d waste them again . . .

 There it was. Wasted hours. It was so simple, yet in that moment, that phrase held more meaning to me than anything else in the world.

So here’s what I did:

In honor of Doug’s song, I took the sticky note that’d been hiding in my desk drawer (now residing in my apartment in Florida) and I stuck it to the back of the parking pass that hangs below my rearview mirror inside my car. Every time I get in, I read its phrase:

Waste Hours
D.K.

And what does it do? It reminds me that time is scarce. It reminds me to spend time, or waste hours, with the people that I love. Because the truth is, we are already on a predetermined time schedule, and we don’t know how much of it we have left.

My dad’s illness has taught me that we are all so fragile, and time has no mercy.

So please, if there’s something you want to accomplish, if there’s people you want to spend more time with, if there’s an apology you need to make: do it today. Please, don’t wait.

 

xo.

 

 

To listen to Doug’s song, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZHxjr_AmlE