Archive | February, 2014

Why I Went To South America and The Gifts It Gave Me

24 Feb

I want to talk about what my South America trip meant for me and why it was important to go.  A lot of people thought I walked away from my life because I didn’t want to work, or that I was this erratic, free-spirit who just impulsively took a chance.  However, one doesn’t dismantle six years of a life’s work in complete carelessness, despite how the decision may look to the world.

Deep within me sat the knowledge that I had built my life based upon the person that I had been six years ago.  This person was uncertain, insecure, depressed, wounded and confused.  She had some sense of self-worth, enough to leave negative circumstances in Chicago, but everything else, goals, dreams were covered in Fog; it’s no surprise that I ended up in a city known for it.

It took me six years to heal myself, in fact, I am still working on it.  As I moved through jobs and apartments, I discovered Yoga, talked with friends and therapists, cried and forgave a lot.

I also learned what nourished my self-worth and happiness; what inspired me; where my boundaries sat and what kind of life I wanted to live.

However, transformation is not just one leap to the next.  It’s a slow evolution that’s often painful and sacrificial.  It’s a willingness to set life (or yourself) on fire, to let it burn and then to build up from the ashes.  My trip was my pyre.

I had to let go everything to make space for what was to come next.  I knew that without this space the cycles I was in would keep repeating themselves: apartment, job, relationship, job, apartment, relationship, and that these things would always fall apart because I wanted to be on a different cycle.

Of course, I wanted to have fun, but I also wanted to distance myself from everything to increase my own perspective on my country, culture and society.  To understand the small dot that was myself in relation to the unfamiliar and  challenging.  I was reaching for challenges that I thought were constructive instead of letting them just come to me.  To test my boundaries for growth – not just because I was rebelling against the structures that I had built for myself or running away.

Now I am sitting here, in a Studio in beautiful Boulder, CO, enjoying my own space. I have taken on a project that I believe in and often times I cannot believe that what I’m actually doing is called work.  This opportunity came to me because I started to move away from situations that did not align with what I truly want to do with my life, and because I am not frantically scrambling or searching for some safety net to cocoon a potential fall.

In the past month, I have gone snow-mobiling, snow-shoe hiking, met a Zen Buddhist Priest and climbed another mountain.  All these activities were pursued because of what my travels brought me, which was a constant practice of constructive challenge.  A way to keep life interesting with growth.

The situation I am in is temporary, and I have a responsibility to myself to begin planning my next move.  But I am allowing that move to unfold with patience.  I’m not letting other people pressure me with all of their, “Shoulds.”

I don’t have all the answers, though I am confident that I can look within myself to hear where my heart is leading me.  That is what South America gave me to me, as I knew it would.  

My Father’s Battle

21 Feb

I know that every time I walk away from my family I am leaving a Father who’s slowly dying.  I knew this when I chose to move to San Francisco in 2008, I knew this when I left for South America and I know this as I type this from my studio in Boulder.

Of course, we are all slowly dying, though we don’t like to think about it.  People, in jest, always say, “well I could get hit by a car crossing the street,” but the truth of that is it’s actually true.  Anyone’s life could end in the next five minutes, and probably somewhere in the world someone has died as I’ve typed this blog.

I first experienced loss when I was nine.  My best friend, Rebecca, got hit by a car and became mentally retarded.  She experienced a living death that I did not quite understand.   As a child, life felt like it was forever, and there I was standing across from my disfigured friend trying to be brave.

From that point on I lived with a fear that haunted me for years.  I was afraid to leave my parents because I thought that they would die if they weren’t in my sight.  I refused to be separated from them, and they began to get angry; they didn’t understand my need to be sewn together.

Eventually we went on vacation, and I began sobbing in a restaurant in Florida, “Didn’t they know a Hurricane could come and sweep us away?”

My Mother took me aside and said, “Samantha if you don’t knock it off we are going home.  And if we are going home, you are going to be locked in your room for the rest of the year.”  That’s when I began hiding my fear of loss.  I sang songs to myself, carried trinkets of comfort and wore a watch so I would always know the time.

Years began to pass and I got older.  Suddenly, I wasn’t a child anymore, but an unhappy teen who desperately wanted to life live on her own terms.  Loss slowly faded from my mind because I had so much ahead of me.  Everyone around me was focused on the/ir future, and I could not wait to get started on mine.

I did what I was told to do.  I got accepted into a good, if not prestigious University, and created a happy life for myself within my student bubble.  I made friends, volunteered with children, got a job at Hollister and maintained a high GPA.

When I turned 19 things began to change.  I was home for the summer, from University, and heard my Mother’s scream from the laundry room.

“This is the worst thing that could have happened to us.”  That is how I found out my Father had epilepsy and had lost his job because of it. Epilepsy turned into degenerative strokes turned into congestive heart failure turned into lupus anticoagulant turned into something I don’t even know the name of.  Now my Father takes 42 pills a day.

Every employer I’ve ever worked for has seen me fall apart over my Father.  Each time I was convinced that he wouldn’t live long and his Doctors agreed with me.  One of his doctors recently told him “it’s a miracle that you’re still alive,” though I think his determination to live is what’s really miraculous.

We are always faced with choices in life – both obvious and subtle.  I’ve found that the most important choices are usually the ones that are most difficult to make; these are the choices that define our lives.

This past summer I flew back to Chicago to take care of my Father and my family told me that I should, “Go LIVE!”

This is how I cultivated the courage to quit my job, with no back-up plan, and travel South America.  And I knew then, as I left, that I was completely liberated from my fear of loss; that even if I felt afraid (and I was terrified) that it wouldn’t stop me from living.

The reason I’m sharing all of this is because me living with the daily possibility of loss is no different than anyone else; it’s just my possibility is more obvious.

My Father’s suffering causes me pain, and I know that losing him will hurt more than I can imagine.  But I know he fights to live because he wants to; that’s his choice.  I support his battle to the best of my ability, but if I sacrificed my opportunities on the alter of his health he would stop fighting.

Happiness starts arriving in our lives when we make space for it; when we have the courage to be true to how we believe we should live no matter what we might lose.  After losing so much, more than I can share in this too-long blog; after living with loss since childhood, the only thing I am certain of is that we must go on.  That no matter what happiness is always possible, even in the midst of tragedy.