Presto Chango

This picture doesn’t connect to this post much, but I took it about a month ago and hadn’t had a moment to use it in a post yet.

A lot has changed since I last posted. Not my M.I.A post from this weekend, but a real post. I was getting pretty down and slumpy, not knowing why things had just stalled out. I have worked super hard during this masters program and had felt that I made good impressions, but nothing seemed to be happening in the job market for me. I was applying and applying, but not getting calls. I knew that the teaching market was competitive, but every time I heard that someone had been hired, I was happy for them but I seemed to sink a little deeper into despair.

And then…

Everything changed. There was one excruciating week when I didn’t know anything, but my life literally changed last Tuesday afternoon. I am officially a teacher. A special education teacher to be exact and it is perhaps the most exciting thing to happen this century. That might be an exaggeration, but I doubt it ūüôā

It has been a bit overwhelming because I reported to school the morning after I received the life changing phone call and as a new special ed teacher I have had to be in a bunch of training, but I am not complaining at all!

I know people complain about teaching salaries, but it might as well be a million dollars to me. It will more than afford me a secure living and I have access to amazing insurance benefits, not to mention getting the honor to work with incredible kids everyday.

These last two weeks have been a testament to my personal growth this year. I have always been determined and persistent, I have never been very skilled at sharing and being honest with my struggles. It is incredibly difficult for me to lean on anyone. In my excitement, I posted on Facebook and asked for good vibes to be sent my way. As the week progressed without any word, I almost kicked myself for spouting my mouth at all because then I would have all those people to answer to if I didn’t get it. However, I tried and succeeded to push those thoughts away most of the time.

I also received an immeasurable amount of support from people because I reached out and I honestly believe that it made a big difference. In many ways the process was spiritual and faith affirming. And I was welcomed at my new school with open arms. It felt comfortable from the first day and that is a blessing too.

Even as my frustration was on the rise and I was questioning why things were shaking out the way they were, I knew that I can’t always know what is happening behind the scenes for my greater good. Yesterday, my dad reminded me of how miserable I was before I took this teaching journey. He reminded me about an awful tragedy that seem insurmountable at the time, but that moment when it seemed like my life was crashing down around me, actually was the catalyst I needed to guide me to my true path.

I know there will be challenges, but I could not be happier to have the opportunity to take this job!

Presto Chango – brand new day!

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Cherry On Top

Today has been a wacky day.

I haven’t slept the last two nights. At 6 am this morning, I finally went downstairs and turned on a movie. This afternoon, I thought I might be able to snooze, but no dice. I am in a fog. I hope things change tonight.

I had a wonderful conversation with my friend Warren this afternoon. It was awful and upsetting subject matter, but I am grateful to have a friend who can have these tough conversations. It is real life. It isn’t a sitcom where every issue is neatly tied up at the thirty minute mark as the theme song swells in the background. It helps to be vulnerable and know that the person on the other end loves you enough to listen and offer you support.

One of the biggest gifts of this journey, has been the opportunity to be open and vulnerable. It has been extremely difficult for be to be vulnerable in the past, even with my closest friends. Even though I haven’t made huge gains in all areas of my life, this is one element that I have had success in. I have learned that the world won’t self-destruct if I am vulnerable. I can be broken and survive. I can let people see that.

Sometimes, embracing that honest frustration and sense of brokenness that we feel helps usher in a new feeling. Warren asked me gentle questions and I had to admit that I’m doing all that I can. All of these areas of my life can not be controlled, not by me at least. I expressed that the only thing I can control is my attitude. I can think positive as opposed to negative. I can believe in my own worth and find a way to believe that other people will see that too. I have been worrying and stressing with all my might, but what I really need to do is focus on what I want to happen, not what I don’t. Like the Indigo Girls sing, ” The hardest to learn was the least complicated.”

Even on a day like this, when I think I can possibly have a happy ending, a little ray of light shines through and a prayer seems to be answered. As I was working on dinner I noticed a special ed job at an elementary school where another good friend of mine works. Obviously, nothing to report yet, but it can’t hurt to have someone who loves and supports me in the trenches to vouch for me to the principal. I got what I asked for, with such desperation as I tossed and turned last night – hope.

Now I plan to get a good night’s sleep and have a better attitude tomorrow. There just might be something sweet in it for me after all.

The End of the War

Norbert Rosing – National Geographic

I’ve been nudged toward teaching for a long time now. For years, I skirted the issue, thinking that I could never be happy in a classroom when I was told what and how to teach. I’m still don’t like the idea of being told how or what to teach, but I’ve learned that teaching is what I’ve been put on this earth to do. I love writing books and songs, and I feel I was put here to do that too. But my storytelling is really another form of teaching.

As I write this, it seems egotistical, like Look at me, I’m so smart, but that’s not it at all. I learn just as much, if not more from the students. I am a lifelong student. The world is my classroom. This blog is a class.¬† My life is one long (I hope) journey of discovery and as I learned today, there is grace and divinity even in the times when I am the most frustrated and confused.

This man I mentioned, who told me I should teach said that I had a natural, nurturing side that wants to help others, but my brand of helping is to teach people how to do for themselves. I thought that was true and wondered how he could possibly know so much about me.

One of my best friends was at a coaching workshop this last week, and he brought this up to me as well. He said, “I want to fix it, you want to help people see it and fix it on their own.” I thought about life coaching about five years ago when I still believed I wouldn’t be happy in a classroom, but I backed away from that idea too because I felt I had no right coaching people when my own life was such a mess.

I’m learning that I end up being a teacher or a coach, even when I don’t mean to. Despite myself.

This summer has been difficult. Not letting myself go to a negative place about the possibility of not getting a job. I try to turn it around, but in so many quiet moments, I know I’m making myself feel miserable and trying to pin it back on me. Your resume isn’t good enough, you don’t have enough connections…The irony of it all is that I ran away from my path for so many years and now I want it more than anything and it’s just outside of my grasp.

However, I was the student today. I learned that I am a teacher, whether I get a job or not. I learn as much as I can everyday and try to make sense of it. Even as I struggle to make sense of it, someone else is learning from my experience and finding peace with themselves. Then I learn an even bigger lesson. That’s the beauty of teaching. The brilliance of being present and aware.

This peace may be fleeting, but I have a feeling that things will work out. I may not get a job in August or I might have so many offers that I won’t know how to pick. I might finish my degree and then try to teach internationally. I do know without a shadow of a doubt that I am doing what I’m here to do and I have one very special person to thank for that today.

Thank you for reminding me that the war can be over, if I want it to be.

Raindrops Keep Falling…

I’m still feeling a bit down in the dumps, unfortunately. I’m working through it, but I have to say I’ve hit some speed bumps that are testing my patience and my faith. Same old story, right.

The rain has been falling literally and figuratively these last few weeks. We have had some horrible storms recently in Colorado. Worst than any that I remember since I was little. Nothing like some of the terrible flooding that has been happening in other states, but intense nonetheless.

I think part of my melancholy is that things are happening in my life that I can’t control, I’m doing all I can. However, I haven’t been very good at spending time on the activities that make me feel sane like writing and making music, and that lack of creative outlet is making me feel worse. I can change how I use my time and stewing about non-existent job offers or lack of romance isn’t helping…clearly.

I have had a hard time understanding that I can’t hold myself to standards of other people’s experiences as the status quo. I always look around and outside of myself for measurement as to what I should be accomplishing. Yet, I know deep down that I march to a different drummer (and a nice horn section too!) and I never do things in a sequence that is “normal” or similar to anyone else’s experience. I need to remind myself that there is nothing wrong in going your own way, in making new ground and taking the road less traveled.

My mom gets a Unity publication of daily meditations. Yesterday, interestingly enough, was an essay on trust called, “Let Go, Let God.” This is a phrase often used in recovery and it used to rub me the wrong way because surrender is so difficult for me. In all honesty, I scoffed a little when I saw it sitting on the counter. I almost didn’t read it. I’m glad I changed my mind. It held some insightful reminders.

Letting go brings me peace and freedom. As I let go of worry about a job, the economy, my health or a loved one, I allow Spirit to work in these situations. When I let go of self-doubt and unworthiness , I let divine inner wisdom be my guide. Letting go does not mean I do nothing. It simply means I am less willful and more willing. I let go of the need to control or solve every problem and marvel at the way life is forever moving in the direction of my highest good.

The last line resonated the most with my own life right now. Although it seems like nothing is coming my way, I can’t see how I’m being led to my greater good right now. I will see it and understand it eventually. The sun will come out again. Maybe even tomorrow. As the music swells in the background.

Shame On You

Shame – noun

The painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another: She was overcome with shame.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† I’ve never really thought much about shame until this week. I understood what shame meant, but in a distant arm’s length way. Like stealing or lying were actions to¬† be ashamed of, stuff like that.¬† This week I have come to understand shame in a new, personal way. I feel that the book The Gift of Imperfection¬† has been a gift. I’m learning about belonging and my quest and sabotage of love in my life.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† According to Brene Brown, shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging. This definition of shame rings true. I have been experiencing deep shame for a long time. She goes on to explain that shame keeps our worthiness away because we’re afraid that people won’t like us if they know the truth about who we are or even if they realize how wonderful we are – sometimes, she adds, it’s just as hard to own our strengths as our struggles.
      Wow.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† I have been thinking about how, since the fifth grade, I have been comparing myself to everyone around me and measuring myself in a constant battle of okay/not okay. My lips are nice and I have soft hair, but my stomach is too flabby and skin hangs over my elbow unless it’s extended…I could go on and on. I am now seeing that this is shame. Shame and fear preventing me from ever seeing or experiencing my truth.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† I think understanding shame and learning how to break out of this shame cycle will be a huge leap for me. I feel like the light has been flipped on finally. Shame, who knew? I’m excited to keep reading and applying this gift of a book in my life.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Also, I have not crumpled under the pressure of my online profile. I’ve even made contact with someone, which is still scary and I’m trying not to retreat back into my shell. I actually think I will be reactivating another profile soon. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe today.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† I watched an awesome speech by Bill Cosby this morning, that was funny and touching about being authentic and not falling into the shame that is beneath you. It’s a bit long, but worth watching if you have time. You can link to the video here.

Root Cause

I had a chance to work on the second lesson in Marianne Williamson’s book A Course in Weight Loss. It was very enlightening. The lesson talks about the only way to change a situation is through kindness and acceptance, not criticism and negativity. Marianne writes about how each person has various elements of their personality, just like there are various shades of the same color. We have hunter green and lime green, but we can trace those shades back to the root…back to green.

People also have different shades and our overweight or “fat” self is a part of us. Until we embrace that fat self, it will continue to get bigger in an effort to get our attention and be acknowledged. She has you write a letter from your skinny self to your fat self and then let your fat self respond with a reply.

It felt silly at first and I couldn’t imagine what I would gain from writing these letters. How very wrong I was!

I said a prayer before I began and asked that all the important stuff that needed to be acknowledged be brought to the light in these letters. I was amazed at what my different shades had to communicate. The letters are funny, sad, and gut-wrenching. They are honest and gritty, but filled with heart.

I learned that my skinny self is ready to have a life of first’s, passion and confidence. To feel at home in her skin, not at war with her body. She is strong and sassy and is ready to take the reins. She is willing to get hurt and takes full responsibility for her dreams coming true. My fat self is wise and skilled at protecting us from heartbreak. She eats the feelings that we are unwilling to express and takes the brunt of the world’s injustice because she hates to see us in pain. She knows things need to change, but she was only acting on what she thought was best for us.

These letters are a bridge between where I have been stuck and a new future on the horizon.

I have many shades. I am many selves all wrapped up in one vessel. I am strong. I am learning. I am changing.

Trying to Find My Way Home

This is my first official picture. It was taken a couple of hours after I was born. I have been looking at it a lot lately and wondering to myself how I can get back to that pure innocence and trust that I would always be cared for.

I don’t usually post until Wednesday, but seeing that it is almost 11:30 pm on Tuesday, I am figuring that it’s close enough. I finally finished the first lesson in A Course in Weight Loss by Marianne Williamson. I have been working on it essentially since the beginning of 2011 and tonight I was able to write out the last of my feelings and fears that have been holding me back from living in truth and authenticity. Marianne asks you to write out all of your thoughts and feelings on twenty-five words that represent the bricks in the wall you have built around your heart as pounds of excess on your body. These words include shame, embarrassment, inferiority, greed, selfishness, disdain, burden and heartbreak. She asks you to not go unconscious and to write it all out.

I did write it all out. It took many months, but I did write it all out. Seventeen pages to be exact. It is freeing and liberating to finish all of that work. It was work. Hard work. I would spend hours working through a couple of words and then not touch it for weeks or months. It was too much to work through. However, now it is done. It is out of my body and my mind and I can move onto the next lesson.

I had an epiphany today during a conversation with one of my best friends. We sat outside in the shade on her parents deck and discussed our lives and their complications and wonders. Later on in the afternoon, we discussed someone from our past. He had hurt both of us in different ways and in varying degrees. The kindest words I can use to describe our tumultuous relationship would be to say that he destroyed something in me. Do me a favor and scroll up to my first official picture. He destroyed my sense of innocence and turned my heart into a battle field for many years. After our demise, I learned how to build walls and deny trust. I learned how to avoid vulnerability at any cost, because it just wasn’t safe.

I also learned from the actions of others around me who continued to allow this person to remain in their lives that I didn’t matter. My life and my pain wasn’t worth enough for them to stop spending time with him. I didn’t matter at all. As I verbalized this today to my friend, I was struck with how profoundly sad it was. I gave all of these people the power to shrink me. I gave everyone else the power to harden me with lies and shame.

I have been trying to find my way home again with this project. I have been attempting to break through the bricks I have stacked around me in an effort to protect myself from any more harm. I know it is impossible to get back to the little person pictured above. I know that even the people who love me the most aren’t always good at taking care of me and my best interest. However, I am learning or trying to learn how to take better care of myself.

I long for the chance to lay all my baggage at someone’s feet, shrug my shoulders and say, “This is me. Warts and all. I am scarred inside and out, but I am capable of great love. What do you say?”

They will look me up and down with eyes that drip with kindness and compassion. They will open their arms and their heart and say, “Welcome home, baby.”

This journey will not end anytime soon. Em, thank you for being honest with me, even if I get defensive and start to push away. Thank you for being quick to apologize and embracing of my whole self. You are helping me to dismantle all this hurt and find my way home again. Thank you for pushing me to be brave.

Faith, Wisdom and Hope

This last week the irises began blooming in my back yard. I’m always blown away by how beautiful these flowers are. The irises are transplants from my late grandmother’s garden in Colorado Springs. It is so nice to see them return every year. They remind me of her and her grace. I miss her still more than I can imagine.

I photographed them yesterday and then did some research about their symbolism. I found some interesting facts. I learned that irises symbolism faith, wisdom, hope and valor. All qualities I loved in my grandmother. They take their name from the greek word for rainbow. This is also important imagery – a link to one of my other grandparents who passed away when I was five.¬† The Greek Goddess Iris was the personification of a rainbow and acted as a messenger for the Gods –¬† a link between heaven and earth.

I learned that irises are commonly found in Mary gardens. This was very interesting as I am extremely connected to Mary symbolism and am named for her. The french also fashioned their fleur-de-lis symbol from an iris. I took this next picture before I did my research and now I see it so clearly.

The Chinese  recognize the iris as the dancing spirit of early summer and when their soft petals sway in the breeze, it reminds them of butterflies. I had no idea how much deep symbolism was to be found in the beautiful fliting flowers in my back yard. I knew they made me happy, but I had no idea how central they were to my life symbols.

As I type this, I sit on my front porch protected by shrubs and invisible to the passersby. The light of the evening lilts through the leaves and the soft breeze cools me inside and out. A bird I can’t identify warbles a sweet song. It is very peaceful.

The iris represents all that I am after right now – beauty, grace, faith, wisdom and hope. A butterfly growing tall and strong in the summer sun.

Building a Lasting Foundation

This is a small Saint Francis shrine that my mom has outside her house. A couple of weeks ago, a frantic blue bird began building a nest on top of the shrine. In her urgency, she built a lopsided mess. It fell less than a day later. I never saw her again. I wonder if she was able to build a second nest in time for her babies. I wonder if they have a safe home.

I thought it was fitting that she built her nest on the patron saint of animals and the environment. I also thought it was a lot like my own life lately. I have been frantically trying to build a nest for myself (and perhaps, my future babies) and in my urgency, I may be building it all lopsided. I may have spent all this time and energy on something that is bound to come crashing down.

I know that teaching is definitely one of my callings. I feel blessed to be so close to that being a reality. But in the process of doing all that needed to be done to complete my teaching license, I have been ignoring the parts of my nest that really constitute a foundation. Like sleep or healthy boundaries, good nutritious food and creative expression. I also have been putting all my trust out into the ether and not enough trust in myself. I have been building a faulty nest that isn’t safe for me or anyone else.

Things are way up in the air right now. I have been trying to exert my control over situations and relationships that I have NO way of controlling or manipulating. I don’t mean that to sound negative, but I have been trying to orchestrate my life for so long that it’s incredibly unnerving to just allow things to unfold. I’m learning how to react and respond to what is actually happening instead of retreating inward and deciding what reality really is.

I stood up for myself last week with a friend who was being unreasonable. I had to. I hated saying it, but I had to. I couldn’t pretend that it was a situation that was perfect for me even though I knew he would be hurt. I may have fatally injured a relationship I cherish, but I also understand that if this could fracture us in such a profound way, maybe our friendship had been built on a faulty foundation. Maybe it only seemed sturdy because I was always agreeable to his demands and needs. Once I exerted my own needs, maybe that was the last straw…

I want to focus on myself. Not in a selfish way, but in a healthy way. A lot of my support systems are changing. One of my best friends and biggest supports is more than likely moving soon. It is the right thing for her family, but I can’t help but be sad and scared about not having her here to help catch me when I fall.¬† But I think it may be exactly what I need. I’m building new relationships that are proving to be important to my evolution as a human being. These relationships are healing me – I don’t know what will happen in the long run, but I do know that I am building something strong as we slowly peel back the layers and get to know each other.

Part of building a lasting foundation is taking the time to look at what you have to work with in reality…not in fantasy or delusion. I’m wanting to build something lasting and strong. I know that in order to do that I have to slow down and take a breath. I need to continue to protect myself and erect healthy boundaries with some people while also being brave enough to let other people in and learn to be vulnerable and trusting. I need to trust myself and believe in my own talent and skill. I need to carefully pick each branch and twig and find the proper place for it in my nest, constantly reevaluating the filler that doesn’t assist me in my quest. I need to look at this nest, this life, from every angle and build a foundation that I know is safe and sound.

Bloom

The Risk To Bloom

And then the day came

when the risk to remain

tight in a bud was

more painful than the

risk to bloom.

Anais Nin

That has been one of my favorite quotes since I first read it almost ten years ago in the Artist’s Way. This morning, I came down stairs to find these beautiful tulips on the table. I felt inspired to photograph them and knew that I wanted to focus this post on Anais Nin’s brilliant quote.

During April I have felt that I am finally taking that painful leap to risk blooming. I have been placed in situations, especially in terms of healing my heart, where I have been very tempted to operate with my usual sabotaging behavior. However, because I am committed to this project, I have stayed present and am happy to report that it is making all the difference.

This afternoon, I read a recommendation for a daily reflection book called The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo. I was so impressed with the sample, that I had to buy it. I downloaded it to my iPod and was trying to scroll to todays date, when I went too far. I landed on May 15th and lo and behold, the Anais Nin quote was staring back at me. That was definitely a sign.

Mark Nepo talks in the essay about how roses that won’t open are called bullets. These bullets are thrown out because they have turned in on themselves and will never release their fragrance. As I read this essay, I was shaken by some of his words and saw myself in them like a mirror, “Unlike roses, however, the human chamber can be shut down for years, and still, it takes but one breath from the true center and we will flower. We can flower in an instant, as soon as the pain of not flowering and not loving become greater than our fear.”

I’m still scared, but the blooming process has begun and my heart has begun to open again.

I have been very inspired creatively this week and I am excited to report that I wrote a song today. I haven’t even finished a lyric in over a year. I was in the car with my parents and I got this image in my head of a heart with a padlock on it. I thought to myself that would be good in a song…and it just started to pour out of me. I was glad to have my iPod with me because I sat in the garage and wrote in my notes as my parents went inside. I sat there for about 15 minutes and let the song come through.

It felt freeing and it is one of the best lyrics I have ever written. It is my truth for the moment and it’s nice to see that truth in song form. Now I have to play around with some melodies and see where the song will take me next. I’m excited to see inside as¬† the petals unfold.

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