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)
On Saturday evening, I received a text from a friend asking if I wanted to travel to Sharpsville, PA with him, his mom, and a girlfriend to watch a mutual friend of ours perform in the play, Noises Off, at the Pierce Opera House the following afternoon. I told him that I was planning on taking a vow of silence for Project ALS and their “Don’t Talk A-Thon” campaign, and wasn’t sure if my silence would put a damper on their plans. With the words, “We support each other no matter what the other is doing,” I hopped on board. And boy, what a day it was.
To start, I’d be completely lying if I said that my day of silence was anything but challenging. That, and mentally exhausting. At first, I felt very peaceful knowing that I was supporting my dad and those that can no longer use their voice due to motor neuron deterioration. Being a rather expressive person, and having experience traveling to various countries where English wasn’t a primary option, I was anxious to see how I’d manage myself in public. At first, I found it easy to communicate with my friends through extreme gestures and facial expressions in the car. I brought along a pen and paper to use when I wanted to scribble something down, and although I felt a little self-conscious, I was thankful to be around supportive friends who encouraged my efforts.
And then we got to the Opera House, a place where people didn’t know me, my dad, or my story. Slight panic set in as I tried to purchase my ticket at the box office, and the gentleman standing before me asked, “Adult or Student?” I looked at my friends. HELP ME my eyes pleaded. They didn’t catch my drift, and understandably so. They’re used to hearing me speak.
“Adult,” I whispered, disappointed I had to use my voice for the first time. “Keep quiet,” said my mom’s friend. “I’ll talk for you.” Easy enough, I thought. I was relieved to know that I wouldn’t have to break my vow again.
It didn’t turn out to be that easy. It’s amazing how many times a day we talk to random people without even noticing. Standing in line for the bathroom during intermission, a man approached me to ask how I was enjoying the performance. I was thankful that he phrased his question in a way that I could just smile, nod, and silently laugh along with his comments. I later found out that he was the director.
After the bathroom line incident, I tried to avoid eye contact with people for the rest of the play. When I went to purchase a bottle of water at the makeshift concession stand, I simply pointed to what I wanted, nodded, smiled, and gave my money to the employee. When the performance ended, and our friend came out to say hello, I distanced myself slightly, letting everyone else give him praise for a job well done. Smiling along, I started to feel a swell of anxiousness growing inside me.
On the way home, we decided to stop at an Italian restaurant right down the street from the Opera House and grab dinner. While we were waiting to be seated, a man approached us. He said he recognized us from the play, and wanted to introduce himself. Apparently he had some connection to the production. As he made his way around the table, I prayed he wouldn’t notice me. But he did.
“Hi, what’s your name?” he said as he extended his hand towards me.
I reached forward to meet his hand. Open mouth, not sure what to do, I remained silent.
“GABBY. Her name’s Gabby,” my friend almost shouted. I was grateful that our host came and got us after I let his hand go.
When we got to our table, I grabbed my pad and pen to write down my order. Last minute, of course, I changed my mind, and re-wrote the new order on another page for my friend to use. When our waiter came, he looked at me first to speak.
So my friend started talking. “She’ll have the gluten free pasta with pink sauce, and . . .”
NO, I expressed, waving my hands wildly. She was reading from the wrong page. I flipped the page for her, and she continued, apologizing. After everyone finished ordering, I couldn’t help but wonder what our waiter thought of me. Being a retired waitress myself, I know what it’s like to just go with the flow no matter what happens at the table. But for some reason, this whole scene made me very self-conscious.
And then I realized what I felt – loss of autonomy. I felt the natural frustration that comes with the inability to do things for yourself. I was relying on other people to help me, talk for me, order for me, to say what I was thinking. During dinner, I felt myself growing more and more impatient. I just wanted to speak. To not have my friends guess what I was trying to say. I was sad that I couldn’t interject with my usual side comments during funny conversations, and writing took so long that I eventually gave up. I was surrounded by amazing and supportive friends who included me in all their conversation, but I still felt like I was losing my identity. Normal, lengthy statements were reduced to simple head nods, or drawn out gestures. To make things more complicated, the cast from the play we had just watched made reservations at our same restaurant, and many performers approached our table, even recognizing us as cast members from Beauty and the Beast. I sat there, smiling and nodding, trying not to draw attention to myself, and avoiding eye contact.
I felt terrible. I couldn’t interact with people in my usual, friendly way. I was quiet, and shy. I started to think how exhausting this must be for my dad. To be part of the conversation, but not really part of the conversing. To be in, but also be out.
My friends must’ve sensed my frustration because they told me how brave I was being.
I never occurred to me before that I was being brave. I thought I was just trying to support my dad. But maybe they were right. Maybe it was brave to go out in public knowing that I could talk, just making the decision not to.
During the car ride home, I thought about my dad and how he does what I did one day, everyday. He doesn’t have the choice between speaking and not speaking. It’s my dad who’s the brave one, not me. I did 16 hours, he does everyday. I was challenged one day, he is challenged everyday.
When I got home, I wrote down a note and took it into my parent’s bedroom for my dad to read.
“Wow. This is challenging,” it read.
He smiled, and wrote back, “I’ll say.” We laughed.
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.
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:”
“having beauty: such as
very attractive in a physical way
giving pleasure to the mind or ones senses.”
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.
“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:
Dancing: whether choreographed or unchoreographed.
Writing and sharing my words with other people & knowing that, in sharing, I helped someone else feel less alone.
Feeling sunshine on my face and having sand and salt water in my hair.
Drinking hot tea after a long day and curling up with a good book in bed.
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?
The loss of a pet is strange thing. On one hand, it brings feelings of immense grief just like the loss of a beloved human would. And on the other hand, you feel silly for becoming so upset about such a small piece of life. This past Sunday, I found myself at home eating my specially made banana pancakes, and talking to my dad about the new kitten my roommates and I have invested so much of our precious time and energy into this year. As we were chatting, he brought up our family cat, Hannah, and talked about how he had spent the past 15 years taking care of her (dad takes care of everything). As my dad finished speaking I said, “Yeah, I’m just kinda waiting for you guys to tell me that Hannah’s gone” (cynical I know, but she was 20 years old). And that’s when he just kinda stopped. As soon as he looked at me, I knew. “Oh, she passed” he said. Just like that. So to keep a long story short, I spent the rest of my morning eating my tear-soaked (now soggy) banana pancakes as my dad told me the story of how my beloved kitty of 20 years had passed. I love my dad to death, but he has really terrible timing when it comes to breaking bad news.
The rest of my day I just felt very sad. Old memories kept flooding into my mind like water. Memories of my childhood, my family’s old house on Gravel Run, the move to our new house on Erie Street, adolescence and special family events. I felt so silly for being so upset. “It’s just a cat” I kept saying. No, Hannah wasn’t just a cat. She was my entire childhood. I realized in that moment that grief falls under the umbrella of nostalgia, or as the Brazilians call it, Saudaudes. Saudades has no direct translation into the English language, but loosely, it can be defined as an immense yearning for a certain place, time or person. And no matter who, what, when, where and why, everything we lose leaves a void. The loss of my baby girl Hannah brought back so many memories and so many feelings of childhood changes and life transitions. And my little girl was right there with my through every event. We were, of course, only one year apart in age. So it is this quote that I give to you, my readers, about loss. I hope it brings you peace, for whoever or whatever it is that you are missing today.
“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight” Kahlil Gibran