Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

Word-drunk…

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?

It’s not what you want…

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.

Stick-to-it-iveness…

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!

 

 

Potent memory…

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.

The path I’m on…

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!

Been this way before…

November 7th, 2009 | Josie

“Just because everything’s changing, doesn’t mean it’s never been this way before…” ~Regina Spektor, The Call

I seem to be doing a lot of soul searching these days. I am torn between clinging to dreams that I held onto for so long, even though they no longer fit my life, and embracing the new life unfolding before me.I have always been comfortable in my grand schemes and big ideas. Wearing my heart on my sleeve was like wearing the world’s most beautiful clothing out every day: I may not have fit in at every function, but I felt good, grand even. The problem is that the clothes that I have been wearing my short adult life are turning out to have hidden itches and awkward seams. They just don’t fit right any more.On the other hand, this new life fits like a glove. All these things that I never would have imagined I wanted make me happier than I have been in a very, very long time. It’s like sliding into a pair of pants that don’t look that great on the shelf. They are boring, plain, and I  had to walk by them 6 or 7 times just to talk myself into trying them on. Then I got them on, and they are the most comfortable things I’ve ever worn, and they make my butt look good! But even though they fit perfectly, I’m finding that I have to talk myself into actually buying them, because they are so far from the silks and satins I’ve been dreaming up for myself all these years.This is not about settling…this is about realizing that it is ok to want the little things in life. Figuring out that I don’t have to go to the fancy school to have fun in college…about searching the world over for the things that I want, only to come home and have them fall into my lap, mere miles from home. My life isn’t perfect, and I know that I’m not exactly in the place I want my life to be.  I’ll never entirely give up on my wanderlust, my desire for bigger and better…for that ever elusive more. But I also know that what I’m looking for with all my heart might just be right in front of me, waiting patiently until I open my eyes enough to see it…

Refusing to stand in line…

July 21st, 2009 | Josie

It’s not easy taking my problems one at a time when they refuse to get in line.”  ~Ashleigh Brilliant

I have never been one to deal well with a loss of control, with the imperfection that being human inevitabley signifies. From the time I was a small girl, barely big enough to talk, I would script my play. It became such a problem that my own mother refused to play dolls with me, because there was no room for any rule but my own. This problem I have with control, my inability to be a dissapointment to my own ideas of what life should be like, has led to an almost constant scripting of my life. I plot my life out on paper, connecting all the dots until they make a picture that is acceptable to my grander schemes.Subsequently, I don’t handdle it well when that perfectly planned life begins to fall down around my ears.It’s not that I feel like I am always barely one step ahead of my finances. It’s not that I can’t seem to have a civil conversation with half the people in my life right now. Its not even that I lost my first job barely four months in, or that I allowed that job to make me question my goals, my outlook on life, and my faith in people. Even those things, one at a time, might be overcome.Its that all of these things are happening at one horrible moment, drowning me in what is clearly the evidence of my own falibility.  The fact that I can’t tell you where my life is going, or even where I want it to go, frustrates me to no end. I’m not supposed to still be figuring out what I’m going to do when I grow up, I’m supposed to be there already!I’m torn between grasping at the shreds that life is making of my plans, desperately attempting to piece them back together, or simply throwing everything out the window.  I’m not sure if I’m really brave enough to live my life without that plan, but I am sure that if I don’t learn to ease up on my need to control everything (and everyone) in my life, I’m going to push all of the people that I love away. I should have learned 20 years ago that if I refuse to play by any rules but my own, I’m going to constantly be playing alone.

Topheavy and rootless…

March 5th, 2009 | Josie

“Continuity gives us roots; change gives us branches,letting us stretch and grow and reach new heights.”~Pauline R. Kezer If this is true (and I suspect that it is), I’m a bit at risk of toppling over for lack of roots…It is remarkable how quickly a life can change, and then change again. Not 2 days after my last post, I received a telephone call. Now, just over a month later, my entire life is upside down. Or perhaps, for the first time in a very long time, I’m looking at things the right-way-up. It is a bit disorienting nevertheless. The call I recieved just four short weeks ago was a job offer, in Ohio of all places. I was given a week and a half to pack up all of my worldly things into one small trailer and get to Chicago for a few days worth of training. Then, 2 weeks ago, I picked up my entire life and drove out to Colubmus, a city I had never even visited and certianly never thought to see myself living in. My life moved very quickly from a question of “what am I going to do with my life?” to a statement of “this is what.”I am used to being on my own in a new city, of not knowing people or any of the places that I need to be. That all comes fairly easily. But it wouldn’t be my style to do somethng like this without creating myriad complications. I startes seeing someone, a really great someone, just before I got the news, and now I find myself in a situation that I’m willing, but not sure that I’m able, to handle. Its this temping lure of perfection, of happy, and I am a bit of a trapped animal when happy is dangled in front of me. Mesmerized, I’m unable to run away, but terrified, I can’t make the motion to snatch at it. So I freeze caught by the prospect of happiness I’m to scared to wrap my heart around.All in all, this is an exciting and terrifying new adventure. One that I am more than ready to take, if only I could covince my feet to move…

Not done growing’til you’re dead…

February 2nd, 2009 | Josie

“I dread success.  To have succeeded is to have finished one’s business on earth…  I like a state of continual becoming, with a goal in front and not behind.” ~George Bernard ShawI think that perhaps the key to living always with the goal in front of you is to always be striving towards new goals. Success in the completion of one goal is not the end of a journey, merely the beginning of a new one. I’m graduatiting in less than a week, which means that, for me, many of the goals that I have set for myself over the course of the past three years are behind me: studying abroad, completing my thesis, graduating with honors. For years, my actions have been centered around achieving the next milestone, with only a vague concept of what the ultimate goal was to be. Through this journey, marked equally by success and disappointment, I have learned that what truly leads to happiness and success is not the completion of a “goal,” but the willingness to always be trying for something more.I wasn’t sure that I even wanted to come to London last summer.  I contemplated pulling my application, or moving it to another semester. But I realize now that that was only me being scared, it wasn’t any real desire to stay in Wisconsin, or in the US. Its been pointed out to me that I am “fickle and negative,” and while I may resemble that statement, I resent it fully, too. You point out to me one 21 year-old graduate who is on top of things and knows exactly what they want out of life. You show me one person in my situation who isn’t trying desperately to hide how much life and growing up terrifies them. I don’t beleive that anyone matching that despriction exists.We all hesitate at times to do the things that end up being the best things for us. Sometimes we hesitate too long, and the opportuinty is lost forever. No one really ever gets over being scared, refusing to apply for jobs that are perfect for them because they are afraid that they aren’t qualified enough, and missing out on a really great opportunity. We all also make decisions on impluse, and later regret being so hasty in changing the lives of us and those around us. It doesn’t matter if you are 21 or 45, those fears and regrets are going to perpetually look us in the face, over and over again. The best we can do is learn from the mistakes we make. No one is ever really done with that learning, we are always continuing to mature and to grow up.I’m growing up, slowly but surely, and of course sometimes I drag my heels, but its happening anyways. Somedays I even embrace it. The people who really love me are frustrated with me, dissapointed, but I hope that they can love me enough to see that I am just scared, and that that’s natural. My life is changing, and that is always scary no matter how brave I try to be.I now understand that success is not the ultimate goal. The learning and the growth that goes into and comes from realizing your dreams is so much more important than any goal could ever be.

Burning myself again…

July 11th, 2008 | Josie

“When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold.  They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful.”  ~Barbara Bloom

Brokeness and disappointment. These are things that I have come to be accustomed to, have learned to deal with in the past few years. There are memories that break me down everytime they enter my thoughts, a perpetual replay of the worst moments of my life, over and over. I have accepted that I am damaged and that perhaps I have no right to seek what is beyond my reach. There have been moments that I have welcomed the mud in my eyes and rain on my head, if only because the pain and hurt meant that I was somehow still alive.Through it all, there has been a glimmer of hope, a longing that will not die despite the onslaught of despair and depression that threatens to consume me. Somehow I continue to pray that someone will be able to see through the brokeness to the beauty that I know must still exist underneath. Everytime I let someone close, hoping to find that understanding, I come away from the experience just a little more disheartened than before, doubting my worth a little more, trusting my heart to others that much less. After the last disappointment, it took me months to trust even a little, to let that small unfailing hope into my heart again. I thought perhaps someone had waited, thought that I “measured up” enough to be worth the tediousness that I know being with me would entail. I thought, just maybe…On some level I am hurt at the duplicitous nature of men, of their ability to make you feel like the only thing in the world that matters, only to turn around and treat you like the worst smelling scum the next. As much as it hurts to be treated poorly, the deepest cut of all is that of being ignored. Of being not even important enough to matter that much. In the end though, I blame myself for letting myself hope. How many times do I have to be burned before I stop putting my hand the flame?