Archive | May, 2012

Celebrating 28 With The Decision To Serve

30 May

There’s been a lot sitting in my heart lately.  It’s been rattling around and causing me to ask myself a lot of questions.  I’ve been avoiding blogging and others because I’ve felt the need to go inward; to find my own answers.

Lately unhappiness has stopped by, but unlike before I can’t attribute it to anything concrete.  I’ve been walking around in this cloud, unable to identify what brought the fog, starting to ask myself, “why am I so petty?  Things are good, aren’t they?”

But see, that’s the problem.  Things are good; things haven’t been this good ever.  Every faucet of my life (almost) is stable: my job, my friends, my family and relationships all are running smoothly.

In Yoga there’s an expression that I love and believe to be true: You can only see your reflection in a still lake.  Only in calm can you see yourself, and I haven’t been thrilled by everything that I’ve been looking at.

My mistakes, my losses, all of what I haven’t yet learned to let go has been laughing at me, and with it are some other things like wasted time, fear, disappointment and all those other obstacles that we all struggle with and battle against.  These emotions have been stealing my sleep, and when that goes I know that changes need to be made.

So enters, “what needs to change?” I had a thousand answers, but they all seemed wrong; seemed like my standard pattern of unnecessarily uprooting what’s just finally beginning to blossom.

These thoughts were encircling me on my last day in Philadelphia (where I recently visited).  I was walking the streets on a beautiful day, after just attending a learning conference and spending the night with friends.

Here I was in an historic city that I’ve always wanted to visit, a city that birthed our very Constitution, and I was forlorn for no clear reason.  Then I saw a young girl, about eight years old.  She was wearing yellow shorts and using her metal legs to strut down the street.

It was shocking to encounter such an injury; like a bomb on a quiet day, being hit when you least expect it.  Not by sorrow, but by life and reality of others.  A reminder of how life can be; that it can take away the legs of a child, and yet she can still learn to walk – the  pain and hope all wrapped up in one little being.

This led me to buy the book The Heart & The Fist, a book about a Rhodes Scholar, humanitarian who decides to become a Navy Seal.  This man has done human rights work all over the world, and came to the conclusion that life is about both living from the heart and being strong when needed.  That is why he chose to become a Seal; to embody aide both in giving and in defense.

His words moved me, and the image of the young girl stayed with me and my best friend’s wise words echoed, “Our actions create our perception of our self and our perception of our self creates our actions.”

I realized that I’ve been unhappy because my calm lake is only reflecting my own face back to me; my life is only about me.  There is no greater purpose than my own satisfaction; the only person I’m serving is I, and since I’ve served myself well; have led myself to the point of stability it is time to start truly helping others with my own hands and heart.

So, with my 28th birthday a month away, I’ve decided to set the goal of raising money for a volunteer trip to either work at an orphanage or serve at a school.  At the moment I’m not yet announcing which one because there are so many programs that I’d like to do some more research before I pick one.

After I consult those who know more than me on these matters, I will make a formal announcement with all the details on this very blog.

Though this is just one small step in the larger journey of purpose, I am very excited to embrace this challenge because what better way to start a new year then by helping others?   What better way to begin a new beginning then by reaching out?  It is here, I believe that I will discover the tides of my own heart and hope that they will led me where I’m meant to go, a meaning that is more than just me.

How Far I Travel

24 May

How far I travel (to you)

My love, whose ceaseless hours

Punctured by the space I seek

to rectify through miles of white,

tasteless noise, inert, struck dumb

before the crumbled temple I kneel

 down with my mouth that screams

“enough!” I must go without for so

long, and it is such an effort

Though, in the laughing dark of

 melancholy I find you near me

 illuminating a being that I strive to be

 with you- a breath of infinite air that

 nullifies perception’s seductive mirrors

whom I cannot stop staring into.

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Wise Words

23 May

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.” -James Baldwin

Philadelphia

22 May

San Francisco doesn’t get heat right; that languid, seductive summer air that makes one want to get into trouble.  My last taste of it was my late Chicago nights and suddenly five years have passed.  I don’t know where they went because the seasons haven’t changed, but my floor is littered with ripped calendar pages.

Though that too is so 2008 or six and now it is 2012.  I just got back from a week in Philadelphia: a city that gets heat right.

I unexpectedly loved this city.  I had forgotten that it’s strewn with history and hasn’t yet been wiped as clean as New York.  I realized this when my obese cab-driver (named Penny-the- II) complained that his cousin, the mayor of San Ramon, wouldn’t let him come visit to hustle.  Apparently the mob is not just Italian.

He was waiting for me right outside of the airport, and I knew that I should’ve passed him by and flagged down a proper yellow but his swaggering nature was irresistible.  I knew he would have stories.

I was right, and on my way to the Crowne Plaza Hotel he told me about the love of his life, a Cancer like me who got hooked on dust.  The rehab he paid for didn’t help, so of course being the moral man that he was he had to say goodbye to his salon-owning lady.

“I still love Cancers, they’re great women, and being the sexy lady that you are, you never know who you’re going to meet.  You should go out and give me a call if you need a ride.”

After gently letting him down, I was not interested, did not want a Philly Cheesesteak tour, and no, I did not want to write a book on him, he dropped me off and my exhausted self quickly fell into my hotel bed.

I awoke early to breathe in the bright light of the joyous East Coast summer.  The assortment of people that populated the streets registered every color, but unlike San Francisco, the dominant minority was not Asian but African-American.

I hopped on the SEPTA and made my way toward UPenn to meet education journalists, Mayors of the surrounding cities and policy makers; people who write and care about one of our nation’s system of education, and it is in trouble.  There was no doubt about that.  Each group had opinions on the right path to healing, but very few crossed.

An image of my paper-littered floor flashed through my mind, and the journey from college inhabitant to campus visitor was a surprise.  It had been six years since I had been on any type of campus, and I was swept of in the hopeful energy of those who had decided to stay for the summer, investing in learning.

However, I was, and am, now on the other side.  Clad in black high-heel pumps and my best sixties-style professional dress, I learned the education buzz.  I attended sessions on data mining and utilization; on how to better communicate with those reporters who always elude my Publicist self; I learned what a hot-button topic Charter Schools really are, and heard “Common Core” being mentioned again and again.

I sat in front of five impressive men wrapped in Ivy who had five different predictions of the impact of online learning in Higher Education; that “it’s only content delivery, it doesn’t teach empathy,” to how it is inspiring professors to set aside their research and sharpen their teaching skills.

In the evenings I sat at round tables and was asked for free professional advice from fellow communications colleagues who said, “Representing books is hard,” and I had to agree, as Huffpo Education Writer said, “I don’t cover books, that’s lifestyle.”

When I got a chance I snuck off to the campus food trucks for some shrimp dumplings to make up for what I couldn’t digest, and to stare at the students, guessing at their futures, wondering if one day their children’s children will end up in learning pods hooked to devices that once stood for people, listening to a voice over the machine.

I noticed that most education decision-makers were men and the majority of reporters were women.  I noticed that no one really seemed interested in the Mayan exhibit at the UPenn museum where the last evening reception was held, and instead devoured banana chips covered in guacamole: a delicious combination.

I went from table to table, forcing myself to appear confident because sometimes to the disbelief of many I do feel shy.  I casually looked at nametags and worked to extricate myself from meaningless conversations, and subtly manipulated conversations with those that were deemed meaningful.

Phrases like, “Wiley Learning Institute, the new Daniel Goleman book and Clayton Christensen,” helped me get my way, and at the end of it all the Wall Street reporter told me I was, “too well-dressed to be a journalist,” though my shoes were just Target.

After I met my college friend and his new Southern girlfriend for a glass of wine and absorbed the sequins, the three piece suits and the European man wearing a bright red sweater casually tied over his shoulders.  Repeatedly I was asked to keep my tab open and received looks of disapproval when I said no; it was all so East Coast and I loved it.

There is an aggressive energy, a desire to push forward and steam roll in the city of brotherly love.  The smoke billowows from tall towers and there are pits of dug up concrete; abandoned houses of beauty and the UPenn students receive alerts of West Philly violence.

One day I might throw away my scarves, lightweight coats and walk streets where all the buildings are phallic or built during our nation’s forgotten beginnings.  Though, for now, I am nestled deep in its liberal heart.

Yet I know a piece of me might take myself elsewhere; might slip into a different part of myself, and I will sit at a bar and sip wine and wonder back to the other coast where I danced in parks, wore feather boas and dreamt of what surrounds me.

Last Prayer – Inspired by The Cinnamon Peeler

16 May

Let us be each other’s scars so that we can never fully heal from the power of our words – let us carry touch through scent that cannot be covered – let our sound live in the city’s mist so that when we are shrouded we are enveloped by our own pleasure – be my wound that sits fat at the edge of the table that we lay upon.

My Spanish Summer

9 May

I remember being sixteen and spending the summer in Spain.  Each morning I would wake and look out my window, encountering a cloudless sky and the topaz Mediterranean.  I lived on a hill that rose out from the city square.  It took me twice as long to get home from an evening out because I had so many steps to climb.

The rectangular world that I had left faded.  I only reached it through a pay-phone and I rarely called.  How could I miss what was behind me when surrounded by such majestic beauty?

Being isolated from everything that defined me was very freeing; a sense of constant joy infused my soul.  Even living with a South African family who locked up their entire house did not mar any of my moments.  I didn’t care that some nights I had to knock on their door for an hour to be let me in, or that they only served me steamed rice and vegetables.   I didn’t even care that the milk was always sour and that they thought I was wild for never being home.

I sat for hours on beaches and learned about the world from other teenagers who inhabited what I longed for.  People who came from families that had beach houses in Nerja, who spoke four languages, who summered in Morocco and had tribal men drop flowers on their bare backs.

Each day my international friends smoked, swore and sought out their country’s daily newspaper.

Lu was having one last summer before he had to go into the army; he was vibrant, shimmering with constant energy.  Together we danced on a platform near the water on my seventeenth birthday.  I never kissed him.

Maria told me that the wrinkled, topless women on the beach taught her to love her own body.  She invited me to her town where her decrepit Mother served us a simple lunch of  freshly caught sardines and crackers.

Viola had a constant cigarette in her mouth, wore thong bikinis and was always looking seductively into a camera.  She taught me how to say, “Vaffanculo!” to the men that stared at her.

Patricia drank Guinness and made fun of her twin sister for her nightly snogging, which is Irish for making-out.  “The twins” got their picture in the local paper because they dramatically fell off a speaker at a club.

Amina wore tiny jean shorts and had a pot for a belly.  She gave me a Norwegian birthday card and laughed when I blushed at her sex stories.

Each person, each friend opened up a doorway for me into their life and country.   Disconnection was still possible in 2001, and while I had read what lay beyond my own borders I had never experienced it.  I had never stayed out past midnight, nor run from Spanish gangs, nor learned how to cross a street full of traffic that had no limits.

However, despite our many differences I realized there was a collective; an entirely human spirit that flamed within each being; a spirit that yearned for love, for release of drudgery and pain, which cared for family and had suffered through life’s nicks and bruises.  It made me feel less alone and hopeful.  It made me believe that we could take each patch and weave it together to blanket life.

Now we are all so connected that often I feel a deeper sense of disconnection.  Having a constant window into one another’s lives has blurred our uniqueness, making similarity in difference less of a discovery.  Instead of a quilt we are often peeping Toms (me included), peering into our neighbor’s backyards.

I can still hear the thud in my heart as I made my way down the many mountain steps to the square where we met each evening; the fear that the others would not show up and the relief when everyone always did.  I remember the night of the broken shoe-strap when I scrambled to make it at our assigned time because I knew if I missed everyone I would have no way of reaching them, and yet, somehow they were still found.

I remember what it was like to be utterly free of any device connecting me to anything.  Still, I have lost touch with those I learned so much from, and their last names have faded from my memory, but I want that.  I want an untouchable snapshot of my youth that only lives within me.

In my mind those friendships will always be perfect, my body always made for a string bikini and I will happily accept my present as is in every moment.

Here Comes The Bride

2 May

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My life is full of weddings right now.  This is because I’m in my late twenties, the time to, “get serious about life and commit.”  While I’m happy for my friends, watching them go through the wedding process has made me question this unquestioned tradition.  It’s made me wonder why, as girls, we’re encouraged to dream about this “special” day.

From my viewpoint, planning a wedding seems like the opposite of a good time.  Not only is there the pressure of perfection, but weddings shake the earth of most relationships, causing family fighting and stress about a myriad of trivial details: like flatware, table seating, invitations, and flowers and on and on it goes.

Also, weddings have gotten increasingly expensive – often the equivalent of a down payment on an apartment or a 20-somethings entire retirement fund.  Just yesterday, my Mom confessed, “I’ve started saving for your wedding, if you choose to have one.”  I’m not even engaged.

These days every single institution in our society is being disrupted by technological innovation, even the way we basically communicate, so why when I’ve tried to share these thoughts with others have I received such negative reactions?

It is because it is almost unthinkable to question this ceremony, and I’d like to say that word again, ceremony: a formal act or set of acts performed as prescribed by ritual or custom.  Ceremonies are here to help us mark important moments and/or transitions in our lives, and I believe they are very important in any society’s culture.  People need moments to reflect, to celebrate or grieve, ceremonies help us do that.

A ceremony can be as simple as lighting a candle and saying a prayer.  They don’t have to be a $50,000 party thrown for other people that causes anxiety and stress; that is not a celebration of love.  It is a full-time job as an event planner.

What most people don’t realize is that the tradition of having a lavish wedding is relatively new in Western culture, really only dating back to the 20th century.  Until then, most weddings were simple affairs that were held in peoples’ homes.  The guest list was usually comprised of only family and very close friends – though, of course, there were always Royal acceptations.

Little girls weren’t being given dolls in wedding dresses and told, “This is your dream,” because Mattel hadn’t yet been created.   But, more importantly, don’t we want our daughters to have bigger dreams?

Finding a life partner is great, but any idiot can get married; that’s why the divorce rate is so high.  What about self-discovery, or creating a work of art, or starting a company, or becoming an accomplished chef, or teacher?   There is so much one can do with life, and people are often wrongly encouraged to find their happiness within others – not themselves, which is the most important place to find happiness – and no marriage can really work in misery.

Also, as time goes on many people are deciding to just live together and be life partners without the certificate.  Other people are choosing to live life alone.  Don’t these people deserve to be celebrated as well?

Maybe I will feel different if I get engaged, but I doubt it.  At least, for me, while I do want to get married, I’d rather run off for a weekend and sign the paper.  Then take my parent’s money (that they’re saving for my wedding), and instead of spending it on one evening, invest it in my entire life with my future partner.

However, if I don’t get married then I will definitely throw myself a party because I’ll deserve it.  I know with or without someone I will continue to grow my life, and if I don’t get to share that with someone then I’ll celebrate with everyone.

Now friends you are probably crossing me off your invite lists, and that’s ok, but if you do keep me on I promise I’ll celebrate you with a smile because ultimately how everyone lives life is their choice; that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth questioning or contemplating what’s right for you, and also, what is truly worth celebrating.