Soft Will Power

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I am strong willed. I prefer to think of this stubbornness as a super power. I’d go as far as to call it one of my greatest strengths.

As with many positive attributes, it does have a dark side I encounter once in a while.

Lets take for example my morning walks. Walking is great! Walking is healthful for body, mind and spirit! So when the temperature cooled enough last September, I headed out on my first neighborhood walk in our new home. In the beginning I had a very nice 5.5 mile loop established. Every day I’d lace up my shoes, push play on a podcast and head out into the sunshine.

Speed walking over five miles a morning should have been enough. Not for this strong willed girl. I added on a little bit at a time until the day my walk had grown to 7.5 miles. Occasionally I’d have a few muscle aches and pains, but nothing that kept me from my routine.

Pushing myself further and further while trying to increase my speed took a toll and by the end of December my left leg said “Screw this action. I’m out”. All at once I could only hobble around trying not to anger my hamstring.

I don’t deal well with being sedentary. Surely I could go for short walks once I was no longer in the hobbling category. How wrong I was.  I would gingerly go for a walk only to come home in tears.

So, I sat. I hobbled and I sat more.

I was forced to look for the lesson I had been trying to ignore. What was the universe trying to teach me this time? (The universe has seen me take my strong will and use it as a weapon on my body more than once.)

Still pondering the universe, I went on a trip to the Grand Canyon where I could only walk on the rim trail. For an avid hiker, this felt like torture. But it was during that trip I understood. By slowing down, I could really take in the magic surrounding me.

All I could do, all I needed to do, was walk slowly and allow my eyes to take it all in.

This morning I was able to walk my original 5.5 mile circle. I am overjoyed and grateful for healing and the ability to begin again. I know how lucky I am to have a healthy body. Lord knows I’ve put it through a lot, and yet it heals.

I’ll always be strong willed. If my Grandma is any indication, it will only get stronger. And I’m okay with that.

I will, however, be prepared to be soft willed once in a while.

Still learning. Still growing. Still changing.

Still just me through it all.

 

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Bridges

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Last winter I knew the height of all the bridges. I slept on hard surfaces in emotional beds of regret. Last winter served me lessons I couldn’t refuse.

(walking the slick streets with my face to the wind just to feel alive)

And now I’m in January with perfect vision looking back. How I grew stronger on the tile floor. How I found a gift in the darkness.

Gratitude comes quietly to lift my head. Hums a melody I know by heart. Here I’ll stand for a little while longer considering the low bridges. How they saved me with their proximity.

How they led me to this place.

 

Just in Case

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I wait, breath held, in this clumsily constructed doorway. You’d expect better of a woodworker’s daughter. You’d think I’d be skilled at right angles and plumb lines. 

I ,too, thought that I’d be further along by now.

But I’m strong. You have no idea how strong I’ve become. And hopeful. I hold it in my sun spotted hands like the winged creature it is.  Still learning to fly.

Part of me wants to slam this amalgamation of days behind me. Part of me wants to leave it open. Just a crack.

Just in case. 

 

 

Loss in the Trees

 

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It’s so simple really… nature’s ebbs and flows and how necessary they are.  Yesterday a tree I’ve passed at least fifty times was suddenly the most beautiful specimen on my walk. Why hadn’t I noticed it previously?

The answer came to me later in the day. I thought back to the first few weeks of my morning walk. The flowers were screaming shades of purple all around me. For quite some time I felt bathed in bright colors and wondered at these bushes and trees that decorate the desert.

Overnight, the flowers were gone.

In their place, wildlife seemed to be calling for my attention. Roadrunners, surprised as I rounded the bend, delighted me more than once. Little rabbits bounded away in pairs and lizards sunned themselves. A few days ago I realized I’ve been seeing fewer animals.

Yesterday that tree captured my heart. I realize now that it stood out because the other things had gone.

Oh nature, there you go again being a metaphor for life.

Over the past year I’ve experienced loss. I’ve lost a dream. I’ve lost a friendship. I’ve lost faith and hope in humanity. I’ve nearly lost my will to keep going.  In this forest of losses, I began to see trees I hadn’t known were there all along. These new trees looked like hope. They wore leaves of love and fresh dreams. They spoke to me of deeper friendships.

They rekindled my fire and now my forest teems with possibility.  What will I find over the next hill?

What layers will appear when these trees too lose their leaves?

 

Fruition

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Every morning the past looks different. A new yesterday overlaid giving it an unexpected hue. I can worry away the minutes of today (and I probably will), but I cannot predict tomorrow or the next day or the next.

And yet, even knowing this, I worry.

Has the future ever turned out the way I imagined it might? Never. This is a blessing and occasionally a curse. The things I held onto with utmost certainty have often been the heart-strings painfully pulled apart. All the while, worries that had taken up my entire world, never see fruition.

What am I trying to say?

I don’t know. I only know as I sit here on this Friday morning on the first of September, I’m worrying. I’ve had two cups of tea as I’ve looked around at my new home. Once again I’ve realized I would never have imagined this new address. Even a year ago I would have insisted I could never live in Las Vegas. Yet here I sit. Alive.

And isn’t that what matters in the end?

I guess I do know what I’m trying to say. I will continue to worry.  I will continue to live. And I will continue to be amazed by it all.

Playing Alone

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When I was a little girl I liked to play alone. In my mind, elaborate story lines and characters swirled. The only way they would go exactly as I’d imagined was for me to act it all out on my own with invisible friends.

My little sister didn’t like this arrangement. So, the only way I allowed her to play with me was if she said and did what I told her to. Every word out of her mouth was what I wanted her to say. Whether we were playing with dolls in our room, or running around outdoors playing pirates, she was my puppet.

One day we were sitting on my bed playing with our cabbage patch dolls. My doll said something to her doll and I waited for a reply. My poor sister looked at me helplessly and asked what I wanted her doll to answer. In that moment I realized I didn’t want my perfect stories anymore. I wanted the play to be spontaneous and unpredictable!

I think of this day often. I think of it every time I realize I’m let down, angry or frustrated at another human response (or lack of response) to something I’ve said or done.

Lately I see it all around me unfolding in the story lines of lives intertwined with mine. I see family relationships torn apart, siblings not speaking, children pushing away parents. I see friends pulling away from each other.

Maybe it’s simplistic of me to think it all starts with the common thread of expectation. Maybe it really is that simple.

We expect a very specific response to an email or a text. We have an idea of how a father should always react. We are sure a sister only says certain things. We hold fast to our picture of what real love is and when our love doesn’t match, we rip it apart.  We get so wrapped up in our own pre thought out ideas of how everyone else should be acting, that we lose the entire plot.

The plot is, there is no plot.

Without the freedom to be their very own human selves, we actually wouldn’t like our loved ones very much. We would miss the spontaneity it brings to our lives.

So what I’m wondering is if we can try to let go of our expectations? Can we allow our people to be flawed and love them anyway?

Nobody likes to play alone. Not even me.

 

 

 

 

Salve

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What a world.

What a scary, beautiful, disastrous, heartbreaking mess of magic.

It’s okay if all you did today was breathe (I say to myself like a salve for the bruises).

It’s okay if all you did today was breathe (I say to you like a salve for your broken heart).

 

 

Reaching

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Most of the time, my definition of strength is complete self reliance. Admitting I need help or attention…the epitome of weakness.

Life throws random difficulties at me and I respond by hardening my outer shell. Oh life, your parking tickets, rain, loneliness and depression can’t reach me in here. Nothing can get inside. I’ll even crawl down into this deep hole to hide from you. Nothing can harm me through my thick armor down in my dark pit.

Nobody can know I’m hiding so I smile bigger and I laugh louder. Distraction is key.

Eventually I remember I’m afraid of the dark. I don’t like being alone. I’m very brave and I’m very strong, but why wouldn’t I want my hand held? Why wouldn’t I reach out to someone who loves me and ask them to hold me up when I get too tired?

I’m still learning. I’ll always be.

But, I see my fingers stretched out in front of me more often. I see how this does not make me weak. Quite the opposite.

When my confessions are met with love and validation, when I’m bolstered by even one person who reminds me none of us are going it alone…. my heart opens and I know I’ll be okay.

And so will you.

Doubts

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There are days when I feel like all I’ve made are bad decisions. I take a raw look at my life and what I see is a mess.  I see a disaster so complete and so expansive that nothing could clean it up.

Then I look up.  I look to the sky for answers. If I’m lucky, the sun peeks through. If I’m extremely lucky, wild geese take flight overhead.

Lesson: Keep looking up. And if the rain is relentlessly falling, let it mix with the tears and wash them away.

It can’t rain all the time.

Can it?

Out of the Nest

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It’s hot. No really, I mean it’s HOT in Vientiane. Six weeks ago when I arrived, walking the city streets was easy and enjoyable as long as I had a little bottle of water with me. I could walk for hours, popping in and out of shops and markets to see as much as possible.

The heat will continue for a while. This morning I was asked via a text from home what season we are in. “Dry” was my response. “So, it’s summer?” the reply. I laughed a little to myself because I would have asked this same question before. We have two “seasons” if you can call them that. It’s going to be dry and hot and then it will be wet and hot.

The temperature hovers around 100 degrees every afternoon. When I leave the air conditioned bliss of the apartment, I’m sweating through my shirt within the first half hour.  I can carry water with me but the extreme sweltering takes it’s toll and I head home sooner than usual.

Staying close to home for so many days left me feeling as though my world had gotten very small. I’d started to forget the magnitude of where I live and what it means to me. Yesterday we were able to hire a Tuk Tuk for a ride up to a distant shop and back home. The ride was a vital reminder of the scope of Vientiane. I’m living in a world far far from anything resembling America. I was thrilled to return home with ground cinnamon. Who knew I would ever spend an entire afternoon for the luxury of cinnamon in my morning coffee.

Expanding my perspective with this long bumpy ride around the city was exactly what I needed as a bit of a reset button. I have to push myself out of the nest daily or risk regressing.

The only way I’ll learn to fly, is to continue jumping (or being shoved) out of my nest.