April 26th, 2013 | Josie
“Sometimes I feel that life is passing me by, not slowly either, but with ropes of steam and spark-spattered wheels and a hoarse roar of power or terror. It’s passing, yet I’m the one who’s doing all the moving.” ~Martin Amis
I remember how slowly the clock used to tick, the minutes moving at a snails pace. From the time I was small, I was always looking to the next thing, the greater adventure just waiting for me to hurry up and embark, and I would impatiently watch the time trickle by in anticipation. Time was infinitely slow, an endless commodity, and there was always plenty of it to go around. Even at times that things seemed to speed up, times when I wanted to world to slow down to give me a few more precious seconds in a particular moment, I never felt like I was losing myself in its passing. I felt as if I had to find ways to fill the time with as much potential as I could cram in, until my life was bursting at the seams. Give me six months and I could visit four countries, make a fool of myself countless times, make ten new friends, and fall in love at least twice. I could fit more life into two years than some might expect to experience in fifty, and I definitely felt the emotional strain for compressing a lifetime into a moment. But I kept on going, because there was so much more to do and see and be.
My life has calmed down considerably in the past few years. I no longer feel the urge to burn the candle at both ends, to stuff experiences into my repertoire like a child hoarding candy. Now that I’m content to let life run its course, to stop forcing the issues at hand and just try to enjoy what time has in store, now that I’m comfortable with its plodding passage, time seems to pass by faster than I can blink, and before I can think to enjoy a moment, it’s gone. I turn my head and a month has passed, or five, and I can’t remember what I did with that time or how it flew by so fast. I feel as if all the big things in life are coming at me all at once. A new home, an exciting step. A miracle made and lost. Sisters grown and growing every day. A new endeavor, with increasing responsibilities and opportunities. Another birthday come and gone. These things all whiz by with a whir and a flash, and I’m left confused as I try to keep up with a life that won’t slow down to meet me at my own pace. The girl who once begged the clock to tick faster, for more to fill the days and weeks, she is now scrambling for purchase in a life that is overflowing with possibilities and coming at the speed of light.
August 7th, 2012 | Josie
“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” ~Ray Bradbury
It never ceases to amaze me how quickly we allow the worries and tedium of our day to day lives sap the joy of things we once loved. 7 years ago I retreated to writing almost nightly… sometimes just a quick sentence or two about a random thought-provoking idea I’d had that day, more often a long and emotional treatise on the melodrama that my life seemed perpetually prone to at that period. Whatever I was writing, be it understated or over the top, I lost myself in the words.
Lately, I don’t make the time to write. I find myself lost in the stressful world of the “adult:” I spend hours obsessing over numbers and figures, trying to make the pieces of the puzzle make a picture of financial stability. I expend untold amounts of energy on the problems of my friends and family, doing what I can to help and worrying about what I can’t do. I perseverate on my weight, my looks, my career, my relationships, my general lack of inner peace. I try to patch up the disharmony with buzz words like “yoga” and “date-night,” never taking a moment to realize that what I’m missing aren’t the buzz words, but the words themselves. I’m not suggesting that investing some emotional energy into a yoga practice or a healthy relationship is wasted effort, but it does warrant a moment of pause: why am I spending my time and energy to cultivate an emotional outlet for my stress while my ultimate outlet lies collecting dust at the back of my cluttered list of priorities?
March 20th, 2012 | Josie
“We turn not older with years, but newer every day.”~Emily Dickinson
My dad told me a story when I was young: when his own mother turned twenty-five, he bought her an old glass rose and gave it to her as a birthday present, because it was an antique, just like her. Twenty-five sounded indescribably old when I was ten, so of course I saw the logic in his childish thinking. I distinctly remember at that age being unable to really envision myself beyond the year 2000, which at the time was only three years away. Later, at the oh-so-mature age of sixteen, I had trouble grasping life beyond high school outside of the fantastical idea that was “college,” impossibly distant for an angsty teen. Even when I reached that echelon of adulthood that is college graduation, I really couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea of what came next. Sure I had plans, goals, dreams… but they were fuzzy hopes of what I thought the world could be, what I might be if I could just see the outlines a little more clearly.
Now that the monumental day has come and gone, I have to admit that twenty-five is distinctly anti-climactic. Aside from a few grey hairs (that I think I’m still to young to actually have, despite my husband’s insistence that they exist or the proof I see in my own mirror), I don’t feel any different than I did a year ago, or even five. Now that I have reached the age that my father once called antique, I realize how young I truly am… I look at my sisters, 18 and 20, and think how young they are, even though I know they feel so mature. They have so much more living, so much more learning to do, and I do, too. I’ve learned so much in the past quarter of a century… I’ve loved and I’ve lost, I’ve been hurt and I’ve hurt others beyond imagining. I started the career of my dreams, only to find I loathed the work. I took a job I thought had no future, and have found my future in it after all. I’ve done all the right things and been in all the wrong places, just to find that everything I never knew I wanted was waiting for me where I least expected it. I married a wonderful man, and faced the trials of terrible and unexpected illness with him. I’ve defended my decision to marry young, and struggled with the desire for a family versus the comfort of financial stability. Charlie and I have fought and made up, been silly and cried (sometimes in the same breath), and oft times I still find myself amazed to wake up next to him every morning. I feel as if I have grown into a woman so full of love and life I might burst, an amazing feat for a girl who once thought her heart broken beyond all repair.
Through it all, I’ve never lost those things that make me most essentially me: I still don’t believe in regretting my mistakes, and I still don’t sleep if I can help it. I throw myself into each new project fully, and cannot always find it in myself to finish everything I start. I try to find the good in people, though sometimes I struggle to be positive. I am my own worst critic, and often the worst enemy I have is myself. I approach love with caution, but don’t hesitate to show affection to those I do hold dear. Above all, I’ve learned to embrace my scars, to see beauty in my own imperfections, and to enjoy life for all of its infinite possibilities.
“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count… it’s the life in your years.” ~Abraham Lincoln
January 12th, 2012 | Josie
“Some luck lies in not getting what you thought you wanted but getting what you have, which once you have got it you may be smart enough to see is what you would have wanted had you known.” ~Garrison Keillor
Another year come and gone, and I find myself gazing longingly into the distance, dreaming of “might have been’s” and “what could be’s,” before I drag my thoughts back into reality and the solid “what are’s.” The funniest thing about the act of pondering possibilities, past or future, is that you wind up with this odd, bittersweet taste in your mouth. It is one of the few moments in life when you truly feel two emotions, whole and unaltered feelings experienced simultaneously. On the one hand, I can look back fondly on a point in time, sad that I’m not still in that place. Or, conversely, I can remember a moment of my life that was difficult or sad, and still grudgingly acknowledge the positives that were wrung from distress. I’m familiar with the duality of feeling that I can – and often do – experience when thinking back on my life…
I am, however, in fairly new territory when faced with the same parallel emotions as I brood about what the future holds. For so long the concept of ‘future’ was a bright, distant light, something intangible and out of reach. The world was full of limitless possibilities and my life was only a matter of choosing the right path on which to embark. While my past may be filled with doubts and regrets, I never saw my future as a place for worry… hesitation, perhaps, but never true distress.
As I do this thing we like to call growing up, I’ve settled into a life that I never would have envisioned for myself 5, even 2 years ago. Ask a younger me what I thought my life would bring in 2012, and I would have espoused the joy of travel, the thrill of adventure, and the excitement of the very unknown I was facing. Much to everyone’s surprise, not the least my own, I find that the life I’ve chosen, this decidedly safe and un-adventerous life, suits me well. I’m happily married to a wonderful man and gainfully employed. Not only do I have a job in an era when many are out of work, but I enjoy what I do and I love my co-workers… going to work in the morning is not tedium, but something that I can honestly say I look forward to most mornings. Still, despite the happiness and contentment I feel in this life of mine, I can’t help be feel there is something missing, that there is something MORE out there, just waiting for me. I find that, for the first time, I’m sad when I think about the future, afraid that I will never find that ever elusive something, always out of reach, just out of my grasp. It’s like dreaming in a foreign language, one where I don’t know the syntax or grammar… I wake up confused and unsure, worried that I will never be truly content, and that I am doomed to live my life chasing a dream that I can’t even understand.
I need to take a step back, a moment to recognize that some of this is just who I am, the worrier, the one who over analyzes life to a breaking point. I need to realize that life is not always about what might be around the bend, and that settling down doesn’t mean settling. I want to spend this year not thinking about the “what ifs,” but enjoying what I have, here and now. I think it might take all my fortitude, but I hope to live this yea with a resolution to worry less, laugh and love more, and to just simply… live.
September 28th, 2011 | Josie
“Consider the postage stamp: its usefulness consists in the ability to stick to one thing till it gets there.” ~Josh Billings
I’ll be the first to admit that my greatest fault (high atop the list of so many, for aren’t we all our own harshest critic?) is by far my inability to stick to one thing. In no place does this lack of “sticktoitiveness” make itself more apparent than in my crocheting: I see a project and fall madly in love with it, spending hours going over the pattern, plotting the yarn (buying more if/when my stash is deemed lacking in that elusive perfect yarn), and lovingly dedicating myself to the first stitches. I usually continue to adore the pattern until about half-way through a project, at which point I begin to get anxious. I grit my teeth and force myself through several more rows before I begin the search for another project, abandoning my half-done item in the back of the closet for a year or more, by which point I’ve either forgotten the pattern completely or pilfered the hook for use in another project and can’t remember the correct size. Sometimes I figure it out and finish it months and months later, and sometimes I scrap the whole thing as a lost cause (I’ve sacrilegiously thrown far more than my fair share of yarn in the garbage this way in the periodic purging of my castoffs). Regardless, I rarely complete what I set out to do.
My whole life is marked by this inability to finish what I’ve started. My writing, my health, my grand plans… all have suffered due to my seriously deficient persistence. If I can do one thing to better my life, it would be to exercise that particular muscle, strengthen it until, perhaps, I can make it through a whole week’s workout plan, or, *gasp* finish a blanket in less than three years! I have a nagging suspicion that if I could just master the art of finishing what I start, maybe other things would begin to fall in to place. Maybe not… but it’s a place to start!
June 7th, 2011 | Josie
“Boredom is like a pitiless zooming in on the epidermis of time. Every instant is dilated and magnified like the pores of the face.” ~Charlotte Whitton
I’m not a person that likes to sit still. Unless I’m sleeping, I need to be doing something. I have some sort of project in my pocket most of the time, knitting or crocheting away the moments in the grocery store line (much to the amusement of those around me). Sitting at a restaurant waiting for the food to come, I fold every available scrap of paper into a crane, leaving flocks of origami in my wake.
That being said, I’m immensely enamored of the idea of meditation. I think it sounds incredible, stilling your mind and body. Like most infatuations, this, for me, is completely unattainable. Sitting still and doing nothing for any span of time sounds like my own personal version of Hell. I’ve tried, so many times; I sit down, begin the process of quieting my mind… then my nose starts to itch. That traitorous itch, if I attempt to ignore it, will maneuver itself around my body until I feel as if I’m crawling out of my own skin, a feeling that will not dissipate until I finally satisfy the overwhelming need to scratch it. Of course, then my concentration is completely broken, I can’t stop fidgeting. I try to sit still and stop worrying every inch of my skin, and I grow bored. My fingers ache for movement, and I can’t stop thinking about all of the things I should be doing… bills, afghans, vacuuming… literally anything but sitting still. Sometimes I feel as if the thoughts in my head are screaming at me; I mean that quite literally – I sometimes feel the need to get out of my own head because it is simply too LOUD. So, I try to meditate, and the whole vicious cycle starts all over again.
I yearn for the ability to stop doing, and to just be.
May 24th, 2011 | Josie
“He who has gone, so we but cherish his memory, abides with us, more potent, nay, more present than the living man.” ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery
I think that, in a time and place where there is a vaccine for everything and medical miracles happen daily, we forget our own mortality. We forget how close death can be, how instantaneous and unexpected. Then, out of no where, something happens to remind us that we can, in fact WILL, someday die.
It has been a week since one of our students died in a tragic car accident. She was just 22, a month away from getting married… and now she is gone. Karin and Sam had been taking lessons at the studio for 9 months, preparing for their big day. Just a few weeks ago, I sat and chatted at length about her hopes for the future: pictures of the house they were in the process of buying, with space enough for her horse to run. All the girls in the studio sat, oohing-and-aahing over the photos of her wedding dress, which she’d had fitted just that week. Tuesday of last week, they’d gone to get their marriage license, excited and happy for the impeding day. Then, mere moments later in the grand scheme, her car crossed the center line and she was gone. We are all in shock, and I’m sick to my stomach when I think of her family, of Sam, and of all that they’ve lost. I begin to wonder what would happen if I lost Charlie, and I’m at a loss.
We never think about the fragility of life until tragedy strikes. Hope, however, can be gleaned from the wreck of tragedy. When we begin to think about how close, how inevitable our own demise is, we are so much more grateful for the days we have. In the wake of this calamity, I can’t help but think of my own brush with death, not a year gone. I think how, just a month before my own wedding, I wound up hospitalized for pulmonary embolism that, in all truth, should have killed me. I think of all the stress and fear that followed my diagnosis, and of the hell that we went through as I struggled to get better. It was a nightmare and there were days I was terrified, but the wedding still happened, we still got married, and I lived. I am healthy and whole today, married to a man I love, and so much more aware of how short life can be. When I think of how differently things could have turned out, how close we were to tragedy, I know that I’m beyond lucky, I’m blessed. And I will never, ever forget that.
May 13th, 2011 | Josie
“To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.” ~George Santayana
For me, there has always been a certain joy in the changing of the seasons; something is lost, but something else is gained. This is something that is especially true of spring. As the snow, become ubiquitious in the tedious and cold winter months, melts away to reveal the dead-but-awakening grass, I always feel this deep sense of anticipation. I have spent weeks (many of which involved uncharacteristic swings from snow to sweltering and back), waiting for my world to wake up.
Now that it has finally started to feel like spring, complete with torrential rains like today, I feel like things are starting to move again after months of winter hibernation. I feel as if my creativity, the part of myself that is most essentially me, is opening her eyes. She is stretching and yawning amidst a pile of rumpled bedclothes, hitting the snooze for just 10 more minutes. But really, I’m waking up.
February 6th, 2011 | Josie
“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity…” ~Edith Lovejoy Pierce
Every single year I make resolutions for how this year is going to be “different,” how I am going to better myself in some fashion or another. Without fail, by the second week of January I’m already struggle to meet my own goals, and by the second week of February I’ve given up on them entirely. This year, as a gift to myself, my only resolution was to be happy (and healthy, but I’ll get into that more in a minute). I’m glad to say that so far, I’m succeeding in that endeavor. So, this year instead of giving up my resolve by February 10th, I’ve actually taken this long to find the motivation to follow through with one of the things that makes me happiest… writing.Needless to say, I haven’t been doing nearly enough writing lately. As my birthday steadily approaches, I realized that it has been almost a whole year since I last bothered to write something in this supposed account of my days, not the apt-est of names for something that you write in only once a year. And what a year to fall behind! Writing has always been one of the best ways that I process information and happenings in my life, and as I just had one of the most eventful years of my life, it probably would have helped to hash it all out in words instead of muddling through it in the maze that are my own thoughts. So, in keeping with this theme of doing things that make me happy, I’m going to start off with a quick recap of everything that has happened in the last year:
- I don’t think that I ever mentioned before I started dreadfully neglecting my posting that Charlie proposed last December. I knew that it was coming (we’d talked about it quite a lot, and he’d even taken me to approve of the ring), so in a gallant attempt to make the proposal a surprise, he showed up at my work on a random afternoon and popped the question right there in the lobby of the studio… Linda started hooting and hollering her congratulations before I even got around to saying yes. Less than a week after we got engaged, Charlie was laid off from his teaching job… Let’s just say it was a prophetic way to start out our engagement.
- The first half of my 2010 was wrapped up in planning… my wedding, my life with Charlie, my future, everything. I was promoted to Office Manager in April, bringing with it more responsibility and a welcome move to normal working hours. Nine to five meant that I had more time to see Charlie, and of course, more time to organize and plan our impending nuptials!
- Even though its been relentlessly proven to me that life cannot be planned and plotted in a chart, I continue to plod along with my plotting. Life, despite all my best intentions, always continues to to move along at its own pace, whether I give my permission or not. In August, a huge wrench was thrown in the delicate workings of my plans: I went to the doctor for persistent chest pain, and wound up being admitted to the hospital with several large blood clots in my lungs. My first thought was obviously that I’m way too young for this. Realizing that my grandfather died in his 50′s from the same thing, it occurred to me to panic. Charlie rushed to Madison from Milwaukee to be by my side, and my mom raced back from vacation in Michigan. Without going into gory and graphic details, I have to admit that this was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. On the other hand, it really opened my eyes to the blessings that I’ve been given: I have a supportive and loving family, amazing friends, and a man who loves me beyond all understanding. From the first shock and all through the slow and often frustrating recovery, I’ve learned to relax a little about everything, to take each day as they come and take nothing for granted. Life is too precious, to amazing to dismiss even a moment as unimportant, and I plan on living life to the fullest.
- After my sudden illness, we all took a step back and decided to simplify the wedding plans. There were naturally a couple of hitches along the way (including a huge mix up with my dress weeks before the wedding, an unexpectedly huge catering bill, and the misplacing of Charlie’s naturalization papers), but all in all, my wedding was everything I ever dreamed it to be and more. On September 17th I became the proud owner of a new surname; all that matters is the fact I am now married to the love of my life. I cannot even begin to express the magnitude of that feeling, so I won’t even try. Suffice it to say that I am happier than I ever imagined possible.
As you can imagine, after all that excitement, the last few months of 2010 flew by, Now we are solidly into the new year, and I’m a happy lady. I’ll be the first to admit that my life in no way resembles the one I had planned for myself. I may not have been given everything I hoped and dreamed of… but I was definitely given everything I needed……and so much more!
March 20th, 2010 | Josie
“Sometimes the path you’re on is not as important as the direction you’re heading.” ~Kevin Smith
It’s my birthday; I’m 23 today (though I’ve been telling everyone who asked that I’m 23 for about 2 months already…I hate that weird in between time when you are not yet older, but you don’t still feel younger). 23 is hardly old, in fact in a lot of ways I feel like I’ve barely begun to be an adult, that I’m still hovering in this weird place between grown-up woman and little girl. That’s probably normal, but it does make me think about how odd the idea of “growing up” is.Three and a half years ago, when I started writing this account of days (or months, as the case has gotten lately), I thought that I was all grown up, that I knew what I wanted out of life, and that things would fall into place just so to lead me to the life of my dreams. Unfortunately, as most people can attest to once they are old and wise enough to realize that they don’t know everything, life isn’t a color-by-number or connect-the-dots type game, and it rarely goes the way we plan and scheme. My life, for one, has gone in a very, very different direction than I thought it would at the age of 19. I was just shot of my first year in college, and I had such big plans…I was going to travel the world, spreading awe in my wake, and the people that I met would remember me as a mover and shaker of the highest order.What just a few years can do to plans. My dreams have been shattered and built back up almost too many times to count, and for the longest time I thought that they were broken beyond repair, beyond recognition. But I am starting to realize that maybe the cracks and tears in what has become of the hopes and dreams of my younger self have, in fact, revealed the truest hopes of all. These small glimmers that shine so bright through the cracks of my tattered plans are the naked, gut-wrenchingly honest dreams of my heart of hearts, the ones that can’t be damaged by heart-break or disappointment, the small hope in my heart that sings even in the rain.In a lot of ways, the things that I thought had broken me beyond breaking, the things that I thought would destroy my very essence, are the things that have allowed me to become who I am and to truly appreciate all that is so very good in my life. If I had never had a heart break in the past, I wouldn’t be able to see the love in my life now for the wonderful thing it is. If I had never spent time wandering, apparently lost in my own head, I wouldn’t understand now just how right it is for me to be where I am. If I had never cried my heart out, I wouldn’t know how good it is to smile. And if I’d never been sad, I wouldn’t know just how happy I am.Life is funny in the way it moves you in directions you never thought imaginable. When I left for Germany in September of 2007, I never on my life planned to be back in Wisconsin, to “settle down.” Now, here I am, happily engaged to the most incredible man in the world (even when I know he’s not perfect, he’s totally perfect for me), at a job I never would have dreamed would make me happy, with co-workers I adore and bosses that I am happy to call friends. Not many people are as lucky, and all I can do is marvel at the wonder of a life that in no way resembles the plans I designed for myself. None of this is what I thought that I wanted, but it is exactly what I needed!