Tag Archives: change

Self-inspired

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1) Whatever it is, it’s part of a bigger picture. Assume you have no idea what that picture looks like.
2) People are good, even when they mess up (including you).
3) Every person has value. (You aren’t omniscient – don’t expect to see it.)
4) If you truly believe in something you will never ever give up on it. Ever.
5) There are people who care about you – always.

I wrote that a year and a half ago after finishing one of my favorite books: Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. I was looking through my old blog this morning and found it, and realized that it still has a lot of meaning to me. Imagine that. I can relate to something I wrote. But it was me then, the past me, who doesn’t know the things I know now. And yet, sometimes the simplicity of organic thought is able to pervade time.

I was born with an uncontrollable urge to constantly control everything. It has been a slow process learning that I can’t, and that trying is really exhausting and not very rewarding. I have trouble opening my fists and letting what may happen may, desperately clenching onto things I shouldn’t. Not physical things- I don’t keep much ‘stuff’ around, but things that people say to me, my relationships, those looks of contentment and resentment you get from people who think you didn’t notice. I don’t have one of those “f you’ attitudes, as much as I wish I did, as much as I pretend I do. I want closure from those feelings, those looks, those relationships. I’m slowly learning (although not there yet) that most of life won’t give you closure no matter how much you beg for it. Everything won’t be packaged neatly and tied up with a bow. It will be destroyed along the way- dropped, man-handled, pissed on by homeless people. But, you carry it with you all the same. Not because you hope that someday you’ll get your pretty little ribbon on top, but because somehow, the piss and shit you pick up along the way ends up meaning more than all the other stuff; more than the package you carried in the first place.

I’ve changed a lot in the last year and a half. I’ve learned a lot and forgotten a lot, and got pissed on more times than I’d like to remember. But, when I look at the things that mattered to me then, they still resonate now. I’m still able to feel inspired by the same things. The core of who I am hasn’t changed, although the things I accept as my own certainly have. I don’t need what I once did. The comforts I cherished, the friends I thought I would have forever. Because I’ve still got me. The things I thought I needed are replaced by new things. Life does certainly have a way of going on whether we like it or not. So, in honor of the five things I thought I knew a year and a half ago, here are some slight modifications given what I’ve learned since:

1) Whatever it is, it’s part of a bigger picture. Assume you have no idea what that picture looks like. Embrace the chaos.
2) People are good, even when they mess up (including you). Some people are also shitty. Don’t try to change them – go about your life.
3) Every person has value. (You aren’t omniscient – don’t expect to see it.) But don’t give your time to people who don’t value you back- be around people who treat with you with respect.
4) If you truly believe in something you will never ever give up on it. Ever. EVER.
5) There are people who care about you – always. Give those people your love, and let them love you in return.

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The Prague Metro

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It’s a Tuesday. I look out the window, up at the sky, contemplating if I should go with rain boots or moccasins. Typical overcast day, the sun trying its best to break through the thick ceiling of clouds and failing to do so. I see the people four floors below, walking to whatever it is they try to convince themselves matters. Slowly marching toward the unavoidable underground fate that awaits us all. They are wearing hats and scarves and boots, so the march today is a cold one. I go to my mirror boudoir, and stare into the eyes looking back at me. The light from the window behind me, pouring into my room, casting a halo around my reflection. These eyes are so much older than the ones I remember. I curse myself for not being braver, for not seeing more than I have, for not accomplishing something great. Not loving enough, or hurting enough or helping enough.  The blank expression of the person in front of me isn’t the person I thought I’d become. I tell myself that today will be the day that I become something, but it’s only Tuesday. Seems like the weekend would be better for such dreams.

I open the mirrored door, ridden with oily fingerprints, and reach for my winter coat. I run my arm through one sleeve, then the other, finick with the broken zipper until I get it binded, then zip it up to my neck. I reach for the brown suede boots and slip my feet into them, heading toward the door with key in hand. Then, down the four flights of winding stairs and automatic lights to the front gate. Someone’s left it open again, so I pull it open without having to use the key. I slam it hard behind me, harder than I meant to.

Although the air has a hue of grey and the cold is biting at my earlobes and finger tips, I’m happy to be here. To be outside, the crisp air filling my lungs, recirculating my blood. I’m walking up the hill toward I.P. Pavlova. Past the small potraviny that charges too much for bread, past the large non-stop potraviny where I buy most of my groceries. I see strawberries in the window. Still overpriced and out of season. I begin salivating for spring time and fresh produce and the promise of a sun that will break through the clouds and warm my face. I long for the feeling of a hot sun beating down through chilled air. I take a sharp right turn and run across the street toward Namesti Miru; the green line. I cross when the pedestrian walking signal is red because I know it’s about to change. I’ve only been here a few months, but I’ve figured out the traffic enough to know when it’s my turn. The Czech people stand waiting at the same light, knowing better than I, yet they stand obediently waiting for the little man to turn green. Bred by communism, afraid to step before the little green man grants them permission.

Up the hill toward Namesti Miru, walking quickly, passing up the clicking of women’s heels against cobblestone streets. I defy another red man, walking into the park toward the metro entrance. I pass a man sitting on a bench, his hands cupped in front of him, a hat covering most of his face. He’s smiling slightly, lips bent up with admiration and jealousy,as he watches his dog chase pigeons through the grass. Fat birds teasing the Labrador by flying just out of his reach. They are bored, unamused, yet desperate to collect the microscopic crumbs around the garbage can. The dog runs, his tongue hanging out of his smiling mouth, jumping and spinning and playing the way that dogs do. It makes me smile unintentionally as well, joyous envy for his carefree leaps. I think to myself that there is a lesson here somewhere; the fat rummaging pigeons, the crumbs, the careless leaping dog and the old man with the hat.

I walk past the people standing at the tram with their briefcases and backpacks and morning cigarettes. Past the hotdog stand that smells like a highschool football game. Soggy wieners steaming in metal, filling the air with the smell of cooking flesh, mixing with the choking smoke of tobacco. If you ask me what Prague smells like, that would be my answer: sausage and Marlboros. It sounds repulsive, but the smell soon becomes addicting. It becomes morning, afternoon and night. It is the vivaciousness of the city and the people and everything that life here embodies. Burning meat and smoke.

I quickly move down the stairs into the metro, the cold air rushing past me, chilling the sweat around my hairline. On the escalator, and a long journey down. Some days I run down the stairs, but today I’m just standing, watching the people on the escalator on their way out. A young man stands on the step behind a woman, equal height. He kisses her on her cheek, and her eye and her neck and she smiles and kisses him on the lips. I glance at them, catching eyes with the man and becoming embarrassed, waiting for his gaze to fall back on her so I can look at them again. I can’t help but stare, to watch them, their delicate kisses, as if they are the only ones in the world, as if their touch will last forever. I remind myself it won’t and move my gaze in front of me, looking down to the end of the escalator and the still ground waiting below.

When I step off the escalator and onto the platform, I turn lazily, waiting for the metro that will take me into town. The clock says 8:54. The car clock says that it has been 1:52 minutes since the last car. It’s Tuesday, so another will be along shortly. To my right, an old woman stands, her arms crossed in front of her, lazily staring at the walls in front of her without really looking at anything. Just past her, another young couple stands in embrace. The girl this time, pushed up against the wall and the boy with her, burying his tongue deep in her mouth. Their heads swaying back and forth, shamelessly, as if everyone in the metro is doing the same. I wonder what it’s like to feel that free. To feel such a passionate burst of affection so suddenly and ardently that you cannot wait until you are alone. We must act now, in this moment, without shame. I wonder if that’s love. I tell myself it’s just two stupid kids.

Then, the cold air starts moving past me, brushing my hair slowly across my face at first, then with more force. That’s the thing about the metro. You feel it before you see it. The breeze becomes heavier and colder and stronger, my hair is blowing wildly over my shoulder and across my face and I let it. I close my eyes and breathe in the cold air and let the stray hair tickle my cheeks and nose. Then I hear the rumbling of the car coming down the tunnel, subtle at first, then louder and more intense. Then a small flicker of light bounces off the walls, until the headlights are in view. The people step closer to the platform, nearly in sync, anticipating the opening doors. The car pulls before us and screeches to a stop. The doors open, and the busy people with their briefcases and backpacks step out, going wherever it is that people go on a Tuesday.

The old woman with the lazy stare is standing across from me, waiting to step on the car. She’s older than I realized at first. The roots of her hair white, the thin skin of her hands hardly able to contain the veins standing above the surface of her skin. She has no wedding ring, and I wonder if she is a widow. I wonder if that’s why her expression is so lazy, as if she’s seen all that she expects. As if she was once a young person on the metro, embracing her love, having her eyes and nose kissed, and now she has no one. She steps onto the car, revealing white sox and black tennis shoes under her long skirt. I step on behind her, disgusted with her, feeling sorry for her, and I tell myself not to look on her anymore. I spin facing the doors I just stepped through. They close, and I see a reflection in the glass windows of the doors, a pair of eyes much like those of the old woman staring back.

I’m startled when I realize they are my own, and the car slowly pulls away from the platform.

Buongiorno Milano!

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Shopping Center

Milan’s cobblestone streets are flooded with Italian women wrapped tightly in fur coats and men in designer jeans and studded belts. Nodding heads on subway cars look more like Ralph Lauren billboards than tired passengers heading home from a day of work. This city has a pulse and it beats rapidly, deeply through the night and early into the morning. Where I can pass as a local in some places, Italy knows better. My pale skin, pale hair and blue eyes cause long stares and incoherent words under soft breath. Men whistle as they pass by, staring too long with eager lust in their eyes. But even the greatest offense sounds beautiful when it is muttered in Italian.

This language shakes and breathes and dives in and out and up and down. Every word sounds like a call to action, a battle cry, a plea to join a cause. And the people lift their arms high, and put their hands close to your face and speak with a passion I’ve not experienced in my most heated moments. Hymns sung to Beethoven’s Fifth in an intense and frightening way to an ear that knows no better. The metro hums with chatter and booming laughter and a sense of famiglia encapsulates the city and all of the people inside it.

Duomo di Milano

Duomo di Milano

We visit the Duomo, a beautiful, skyscraping cathedral, if there ever was such a thing. Never have I seen so much art in one place. Every inch is ornate and ironic in the most beautiful way: the walls, covered in sculptures up to the ceilings, which you can barely see with human eyes; stained glass windows stretch beyond my grip of sight; the floor, a maze of complicated patterns and colors; paintings hang, two-up all the way down the church on either side. We try to make sense of everything our body is trying to absorb, but we fail and become overwhelmed, groggy from the dim lights and evaporating holy water. We leave the church, letting ourselves get lost, wandering narrow streets; every turn a new discovery, a new way to get lost again and again. We are asked for change, harassed by people on the streets collecting money for ‘Africa’ or to feed their hungry babies. We push past, pretending not to understand, and stop at a tobacco shop to enjoy a freshly rolled cigarette on a cold patio, surrounded by like-minded  locals.

And on a Thursday night, we walk into a small bar, where we are greeted by a group of men, laughing and eating cichete and drinking the local birra. Ciao! Ciao! Ciao!! echoes around us in a room with walls covered in old newspapers, slot machines lining the back perimeter. We swiftly and quietly order “due birre” from the bar and take our place at a small table in the corner. We quickly learn that’s not how Italians make friends. We are stoned to death with questions, and brought endless plates of formaggio and freshly sliced prosciutto,  deviled eggs, cheeses, salami, bread and  chips and dips. Every time we finish one plate, another one comes to replace it. Arthur works on a computer in the corner, ridden with unnecessary programs and a long history of user error. He tries to navigate Windows in Italian, and the men joke, calling him Bill Gates, gesturing to his over-sized head. They string together sentences in Italian and broken English, furrowing their brows when we don’t understand, then burning paper and building charades with toothpicks to help us along. They laugh because we don’t understand much; Armando, who knows the most English translates what he cans, and makes inappropriate gestures to either party in between his translations. The men tease each other with gay jokes and pepper their sentences with ‘fuck’ as often as possible. They apologize because I’m a girl, and immediately joke that they will take me home with them; their wives will forgive them tomorrow, they say.

IMG_0786Then a free round of beers come before the bar closes, but we stay inside, laughing and eating, filling the room with the sweet, choking smell of competing tobaccos. The owner pulls out his camera, points to his wall of photos, and we spend the next 15 minutes posing for pictures we’ll never see. We part ways, but not before receiving an invitation for the next night, which we know we will accept. And we will come back the next night, but it won’t be quite the same. These fleeting moments are never able to be repeated, and so we cherish them even more.

Day 118: 72 Things.

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I’ve clearly been delinquent on this daily posting about what I’m thankful for. I can blame it on a lot of things, but laziness wins out if you scrape all the bullshit out of the way. I majored in PR, so I’ve got enough bullshit to power a rocket to the moon and back.

After having a conversation today about my ’30 Before 30′ list, I realized I’ve done a lot in my life so far that I can be really happy about; proud of even. While I have friends with Superbowl rings and sitcoms who can toss humble pie into my face, I’m going to be proud anyway. Because good for them – I mean, really. Good for those people who have accomplished such amazing things; they’ve worked their butts off for it. But good for me too. I’ve not done too bad. You probably haven’t done too bad yourself if you think about what is really important to you. And if you haven’t done great, then get off your ass – time is perpetually running out.

While having goals is important, realizing what you have accomplished is equally so. I can’t say every moment in the last 25 years has resulted in the kind of photos that would allow me to run for office, but I’ve had a really good time being politically/socially/economically incorrect. I think life is something like 10% what you’d like to do and 90% what you actually muster up the courage to do.

Here’s my 90% so far:

  1. Swim with wild dolphins
  2. See the Grand Canyon
  3. Visit Roswell
  4. Appear on TV
  5. Kiss a stranger
  6. Help plan an event for charity
  7. See a solar eclipse
  8. Go whale watching
  9. Set free baby turtles
  10. Have a night in Vegas that stays in Vegas
  11. See the bats at Carlsbad Caverns
  12. Go to a rodeo
  13. Paint  pottery
  14. Perform on a stage
  15. Go to Disney World
  16. Pull an all-nighter
  17. Go Spalunking – that’s cave diving, people
  18. Break a bone (it was my middle finger, none the less)
  19. Get a tattoo
  20. Kiss someone of the same sex
  21. Graduate college (with two degrees even!)
  22. Ride on a trolley
  23. Sleep in an airport
  24. Have a near-death experience (coincides with the night in Vegas)
  25. Ride in a limo
  26. Build a float for a parade
  27. Go snorkeling
  28. Throw someone a surprise party
  29. Take a “hit” (I’m talking peace circles, not bar fights)
  30. Go white water rafting
  31. Go deep sea fishing
  32. Take the Hollywood Walk of Fame
  33. See an opera
  34. Go on a terrible first date
  35. Be a bridesmaid
  36. Adopt a pet
  37. Go ziplining
  38. Donate blood
  39. Learn an instrument
  40. Go to a concert
  41. Win something off the radio
  42. Go to a professional sporting event
  43. Visit the nation’s capital
  44. Ride a mechanical bull
  45. Tie a cherry stem in a knot
  46. Go skydiving
  47. Be a Big Brother/Big Sister
  48. Ride a jet ski
  49. Parasail
  50. See a tumbleweed
  51. Become student counsel president
  52. Go to a strip club
  53. Enjoy (or try to enjoy) a lapdance
  54. Ride on a party bus
  55. Dance on stage
  56. See the St. Louis Arch
  57. Wait tables for a living
  58. Build a snowman
  59. Take a roadtrip
  60. Sleep in a tent
  61. Wait in line on opening night of a movie so you’re the first one in
  62. See the Chicago Bean
  63. Build a gingerbread house
  64. Have surgery
  65. Bet on a horse race
  66. Build a sandcastle
  67. Water ski (or get drug behind a boat with water skis on.)
  68. Have a night on Bourbon Street
  69. March in a parade
  70. Be sent to the principal’s office
  71. See a shuttle launch
  72. Move to a foreign country (pending)

And I’m sure there are a lot more. But still, I’m off to an okay start. How many have you done off my list? What else have you done that you are proud of?

Day 50: Care Bear

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Today, I’m thankful for one of my best friends on the planet, Ms. Carrie Stribling. I could have easily written this post last week, while I was in Phoenix and staying with her and Jake. We had a great time entertaining ourselves all week, the same way we have since we were in grade school. But, after talking to her until late last night because I was upset, and continuing our conversation again throughout the day today (thanks to Voxer… you’ll get a post soon too my little voice-activated friend) I realized how valuable a friendship is that you don’t have to be physically around for.

So, let me take a minute and tell you why she’s so great. First. She works really hard. She not only works a full time job, but she also runs her own photography business, and she’s actually really good at taking pictures. I’m not saying that in an obligatory ‘she’s my friend so I have of’ sort of way. When I first saw her work I was shocked. Not because I didn’t think she was capable, but because I didn’t realize we were at a place in our lives where we  were able to be really good at something. She’s creative not just in her job, but in the rest of her life as well. She’s planning an adorable wedding, she can draw, she blogs, photographs, works for a design company… she has a vision and she makes it work. She took a risk to do the thing that she loved, even though a lot of people told her that it wasn’t a stable form of work. She started out slow, but now she has a steady stream of work, and her skills continue to grow with every shoot. You can see for yourself here.

So there’s that. The hard work, integrity thing that makes you say, “wow, that person really gives a shit about their life.” I can’t help but admire that in a person.

Second. It’s who she is as a person. It’s only fitting her “pet name” in high school was Care Bear. (Sorry, “nickname” wasn’t quite the right word there). Carrie doesn’t only give a shit about her life, but she gives a shit about other people’s too. We were joking tonight that we will always be the people that cling onto the leg of a person trying to run from us, the way a toddler does when it wants to be picked up. Carrie will always be the apologizer, even if she don’t completely understand the reason for it. Not to be insincere when apologizing, but to be completely dedicated to a friend and a relationship. And she always is. She notices when people around her are off, if only just a little. She’ll follow you to the bathroom to hold your hand when no one else even noticed you were crying. And she doesn’t tell you everything will be okay because she knows you know that. She just lets you be sad, and then she hugs you and tells you she loves you.

And I’ll end with one more – although I could go on for the remaining 90 days.

I love how much she’s able to love. I can honestly say she knows the darkest, most character-degrading deeds I’ve committed, and she loves me anyway. She’s had a hard time telling me things in the past, but she trusted enough to let me in so that I know her twisted, hard-to-tell stories too. And then there’s Jake. Soon to be husband, always to be a character. They just fit together. He’s thrust her into change (I know he’d appreciate my word choice there) and she’s made him an honest man. They’ve been through it, but she loves him so unconditionally. Little Ms. Life-Plan-to-be-Married-and-have-Babies-by-25 put in almost nine solid years and her blue print is with the engineers. Pretty soon she’ll have 14 kids and that many more to love.

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So, at risk of sounding like a complete lesbian, I just want to express gratitude for one of my very best friends, and part of my family. When I was out dress shopping with Carrie and her mom last week, her mom said that she thinks we all got to be so close because we all had brothers and no sisters. I think that may have something to do with it.

We found our own sisters in the world.

Who would have guessed our taste would have been so spot-on as third-graders. I love you Carebear. I’m so excited to see where you let life take you.

Day 42: Things that Never Change

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Today I had lunch with my oldest friend, Cassie, who I’ve  known for 19 of my 24 years. I saw her mom, who I have referred to as mom since I was old enough to tie my own shoes. It’s crazy how quickly life flies by, how much can change overnight, how fleeting each moment is. Cassie and I used to spend nearly every day of our summer together. We’d pack bags for weeks at a time and stay at each other’s houses. As we got older, went to different schools, started working and going to college, moving even farther away, we saw each other less and less. We’re not the people we ever were before. We’re lucky if we talk every six months anymore. But even so, we can sit down and chat about life, laugh about the way things used to be, and let each other in on our darkest secrets. I love that no matter time and space and how much we change, she’ll always be a sister to me.

Day 41: Sting like a Butterfly

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There’s a theory in communication called the Social Exchange Theory. It’s based on a system of costs and rewards you assign to relationships. Basically, when you feel that the costs outweigh the rewards, you terminate the relationship because you no longer get any pleasure out of it. I’ve certainly terminated a few relationships in my short lifetime. There are people who I used to be extremely close to that I began dreading being around. People who drained the optimism out of me just by being themselves. I never want to turn my back on anyone, but I don’t want to spend the limited time I have surrounded by black holes who suck the happiness out of the room either. That sounds grim, but there are unfortunately people who have that effect on me.

I know fights happen. I know that people get mad about things that don’t always make sense to others. I tend to consider myself a pretty go-with-the-flow sort of person. I tend to care more about resolving a conflict than expending the energy it takes to be upset about it. Afterall, we learn about each other through stepping on toes, hurting feelings, and punching it out. If you’re mad, there’s hope. When you become apathetic is when you should consider if a relationship has any place in your life.

I fight with my mom more than anyone else in the world. We’re finally at this magical place where we can yell and scream and get it all out, then take a breath to cool off and laugh at how ridiculous we are. When you love someone, pride has no place in your relationship – saying sorry is easy because it’s not important who is right or wrong – all that matters is that they know you love them. When you love someone, you get in the ring, take a few swings, then take a shower and buy them a latte. As long as the person gets in the ring with you, the fighting lets you get to know that person even better, it makes you closer, lets you love each other just a little more.

I have that relationship with a lot of people. Today, I realized that I’m glad that I’m the kind of person who will throw off my gloves and take a few hits, but I’m never too proud to apologize, or compromise, or do what I have to for someone I love. In the scheme of life, being right seems to be the least important thing of all.