Category Archives: colourful THOUGHTS

Sticks and Stones and Porkchops

The girl I used to nanny for, who isn’t a little girl anymore, posted this incredibly moving video of visual art and haunting poetry. I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind, and it has forced me to think about my own childhood. I have thought about specific people that I had bullied in middle school, where I was the oppressor, and I also thought of specific people that bullied me. They are as fresh in my head as today’s cup of coffee. I am not sure what I want this post to be exactly. Is it a public confession of all the people I have ever teased? Is it an effort to absolve all those times I didn’t treat a person as a human being, worthy of dignity and respect. Is it a confrontation of the people that scarred and hurt me growing up? To be honest, I am not sure. What I am sure about, is this movie clip is absolutely moving, vulnerable, and painfully honest. I am not sure how to apologize for my childhood self. Okay let’s face it, even my adulthood self, but I am sorry. I am sorry for all of my karate chops.

Here is a link to the transcript.

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Looking for Love

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A friend recently told me that in some parts of Latin America, Valentine’s Day is known as the Day of Love AND Friendship. Often though, instead of friendship, we reserve this little heart-shaped holiday only for romantic love, meaning many of us miss out. Deliberately! I know you’re thinking, “Says the girl who is newly single.” Sure, sure, I suppose that’s one reason I want to be more inclusive, but really, I’m not simply talking about the holiday-more about love period. It seems we spend our lives looking for a partner. If that quest doesn’t work out, in our understandable disappointment, we lose sight of all the other forms of love that surround us.

On Being recently aired an episode which illuminated this for me. Krista Tippett interviewed Kate Braestrup, a Universalist Unitarian chaplain for the game warden in Maine. In her work, she witnesses many atrocities, and yet she sustains herself by finding love. She says:

“I don’t look for God or God’s work in magic or in tricks or in, you know, saying “this is what I want” and then I get it. I look for God’s work always in how people love each other, in just the acts of love that I see around me.”

She describes in the interview how even amidst tragedy, you can see the love in the situation by the people who surround the person who is suffering. It doesn’t mean seeing love in every action, because there is certainly violence and oppression in the world. But when a community of people reach out in compassion to the person who has been hurt or to the family that has experienced loss, that is love-the beauty within the pain.

Let’s be real. Last year was tough for me personally. The New Year came in 2012 and I remember announcing that it was going to be a banner year. Then, my mom had a stroke, I got divorced, and Nancy moved to a far off land called Boston. “Banner” indeed.

Needless to say, the grief cycle and I became quite well acquainted. I was actually thinking of designing a game with a little wheel that you can spin, and a slick game show voice announces, “What stage of the grief cycle are you on now? Denial! Depression! No! Back to denial!” Let’s just say in the last 3 months, I’ve cried twice in Target. Good grief. (Ha! A pun!)

Looking back, I can see that despite all of these tough life-changing events, in the moments I felt my worst, the giant universe seemed to send me love in all sorts of little ways. An unknown postman once walked with me across campus and performed an entire standup routine for me, complete with props. Other friends welcomed me onto their patios for summer drinks and therapy sessions. During some of my darker moments, a new cohort warmly welcomed me into their tight-knit community theater. I received notes from family and friends at just the times I needed them. Two different strangers paid for my over-priced coffee addiction. Free coffee. Twice.

So on this Valentine’s Day, I am grateful. My eyes are open to see the love that “radiates and overflows upon the outward world.” Thank you for doing that for me, friends and you lovelies I don’t even know. Universe, be mine.

The Paralysis of Self-Doubt

I haven’t been interpreting in the post-secondary setting all semester. For people that know StrengthsQuest, two of my top five are learner and input. As you can see, I was feeling desperate for any kind of stimulating information. I pulled up TED because I know I can always count on them to either inspire me or educate me on a specific topic. This TED talk blew me away. At first, it was very informational. Amy Cuddy explained her findings about body language and how it relates to power dynamics. As her talk continued, the research findings became really fascinating and her personal story emerged as she was explaining why her research resonated with her so strongly.

The themes of vulnerability and imperfection have really become important topics for me this year, and once again I see the beauty of vulnerability in her talk. (Thank you, Brené Brown.) She explains her path into academia and her nagging feeling that she didn’t deserve to be there at all. You will need to watch the talk in order to understand why she had this feeling of inadequacy.

As she was speaking, I had this realization that at some level all people have these feelings of inadequacy or fraudulence; however, we all have them for different reasons. Despite the reasons for our feelings of inadequacy, we have a choice. I am not going to be naive and say if you just follow everything Amy says your feelings of unworthiness, inadequacy, and fraudulence are going to immediately go away, but what I am saying is the most important part of her research is our choice to push aside those feelings even when we believe them and they lurk in the back of our minds. We don’t have to add fuel to the fire by actively participating in our own self-destruction.

Obviously depression and any other mental health issues are not situations where you can will those conditions away; however, this is a situation of self-doubt–that habit to instantly second guess yourself or your abilities. I want my mindset to be how can I make this happen in my life instead of instantly giving all of the reasons why something won’t happen. Trust me, I am really good at coming up with a list of why I can’t do something, and usually all of the reasons involve me and my feelings of inadequacy or unworthiness. If I am honest with myself, giving into those feelings is easier, and I am comfortable there. Who is with me in getting out of this self-doubt paralysis?

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running free

I want to be as free as Aimee Mullins when she is running on her metal cheetah legs. I had a realization that the only time I ever ran in junior high or high school was when being punished. I played volleyball and basketball.

If we were late, we ran.

If we missed a serve, we ran.

If we got an attitude, we ran.

If we lost, we ran.

I think you get the picture. I am not sure how to get over the feeling of being punished every time I lace up a pair of running shoes; however, when I saw this picture of Aimee Mullins running I was reminded that running is really the ultimate symbol of being free. I don’t want to imply that you need to physically be able to run in order to experience this freedom. I am well aware of peoples’ different abilities. What I am saying is, I need to try and harness that sense of freedom when I run. For me that means changing my mental picture of running as punishment, to running as a way to be present and grounded. Whenever I run, I immediately start thinking about when the run will end. I instead need to revel in the process in order to appreciate what it means to live. Can you imagine closing your eyes through your entire life only to wake up to the last year? I feel like it’s the same with running. There is something really important about being present through the whole process. I want to start running again, but with passion and freedom in mind. This will require a mental shift, and maybe it looks like this:

If I am feeling grateful, I run.

If I am feeling whole, I run.

If I am feeling creative, I run.

If I am feeling a sense of purpose, I run.

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Embracing My Fears

I have been terrified of everything. For forever. As a hypochondriac of the mental health persuasion, I’ve attributed these fears from everything to either amnesia (of some unknown childhood trauma) or to basically the entire current volume of the DSM. When I was little, I would listen to audiotapes before I would go to sleep to avoid any potential nightmares. I would memorize Bible verses that had anything to do with feeling afraid. And at the time, these techniques really helped.

Let me add here, that there are obviously normal healthy fears, the kind that prevent us from doing foolish things or help us avoid potentially dangerous situations. I have discovered though that my unhealthy fears have at times precluded me from being an active participant in my own life. The first time I realized this was in high school. My cousin was in town and we were going to an amusement park, where I was decidedly NOT amused. I rode ZERO rides and then become the designated purse/jacket holder. It was at this moment in my life that my fear of missing out on anything fun actually trumped my fear of roller coasters. So, I did it: I rode all of the rides at Worlds of Fun that day. I was petrified before and during, but the adrenaline rush after the fact was worth it.

I had hoped that moment would make a lasting impact, but after doing some recent self-reflection I’ve realized that even though I’ve made some good strides, I’m still being controlled by my fears. So, here’s the deal. I’m going to start tackling these bastards one at a time. Any phobia that I deem worthy of being overcome, I will post here to conquer at some point in the future. This will give me both flexible deadlines (helpful for my fear of failure) and leeway to not include serial killers, satan (real or not), doggy-nappers, and scary movies. There are just some fears that I am not willing to lose.

Here’s the current list, which is subject to new additions. I’m aware that some won’t make sense to you until I elaborate in the future. Just know they are very real. Thinking about any of them makes my arms go numb. And not just me, I told Nancy that we were going to go skydiving this summer, and she panicked right along with me.

So without further ado, and in no particular order, I present to you, my fears:

  • Roller coasters (I thought I should at least get one shoo-in.)
  • Spiders & bugs
  • Running fast
  • Haunted houses
  • Performing/singing in public (Turning your co-worker’s random comments into a song doesn’t count and is completely normal.) 10/23/1212/20/12
  • Karaoke (completely different than the above)
  • Playing Rock Band
  • Cooking
  • Failure 10/23/1212/20/12
  • Blogging
  • Learning 12/14/1212/20/12
  • Returning emails
  • Bungee Jumping
  • Skydiving
  • Auditions 10/23/12
  • Shaming my Family
  • Theater Interpreting
  • My Basement

Not too long ago, Nancy shared a poem with me by Joy Harjo, which is much more profound than bugs and karaoke, but it applies perfectly to any kind of fear that threatens to govern your life.

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Women are Crazy, Irrational, and Overly Sensitive

How many times have I heard people say these things in reference to women and girls?  Please. How many times have I said those things to describe myself? Believing the “you’re just overreacting” mantras, we completely discount our own emotions–to the point we don’t even know them anymore. My friend and sister-in-law Sarah sent me this article yesterday, and I thought it was so good I read it twice. For those of you feeling a bit tentative, I can assure you, it’s written by a man. So no over-emotionalism here.


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Putrid Colours

For the last…wow, two months now…I’ve basically become the antithesis of  “embracing colour.” I’ve obstinately been trying to think of all the colours I hate.

  • Originally, the runner up in this sad little game was purple. I had definitively told a former roommate that I disliked her favorite colour. Purple, I thought, was really trying too hard to be cute. Immediately after my bold declaration, however, I discovered that I actually had several purple things in my possession. That very week in fact, I had added a purple sweater AND shirt to my wardrobe. And now most recently, I’ve planned to paint my bedroom purple. Clearly, my decisiveness was misplaced.
  • Then I thought certainly peach would be my  answer. How could anyone like this colour? It’s not really brown. It’s not really pink. It doesn’t even know who it wants to be as a colour. But, then I remembered how good a friend looks in this colour and another has an adorable bag this exact shade. I had to concede that in each of those cases, peach looked both natural and earthy.
  • That left me with the mysterious chartreuse. I thought I abhorred this colour. I thought it looked like semi-digested green vegetables or even worse a squished bug. Later, I purchased my most favorite pants while I was in India. Yes. They are chartreuse.

Why all this colour hatred? Life just hasn’t seemed all that vibrant. I’ve been feeling burnt out, missing my far-flung family and friends, discouraged by the tragedies that seem to accost the people I love on a daily basis. I am not naiively attempting to convert these difficult experiences into happy little occasions or some sort of twisted life lesson by searching for the meaning behind the difficulties. I am struck though with a quote from a TED talk Nancy recently posted.

How do you allow yourself to accept the ugliness of life while seeing those around you suffer? I don’t have this figured out, but perhaps the answer rests in that quote somehow. So for now, I will choose at the very least to acknowledge the putrid colours with the hope that more pleasing colours are ahead…for all of us.

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Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

Meet Pepper.

She will be 9 years old this year. She is old, as you can see from her newly white hair that is now taking up residence on her snout. Pepper at the age of 9, which is 59 in human years, found a new love. I never knew she would develop a passion for water let alone actually swimming. When she was a puppy, and up until last year, she was terrified of the water. She would wade in it, but no doggie paddle for her. Last year, she saw Mordi swim and just decided she could swim too. It was funny at first to see her go vertical and flap her paws like a classic drowning victim, but she would paddle so hard and then finally glide away in the water.

All of this got me thinking how terrified we, as humans, are to start something new for fear of looking like a novice or of being unable to perfect the activity right away. Fear is paralyzing, and it kills any growth, creativity or joy one may be able to garner from this one life that we all have. After all that is what life is all about, right? You try something, and sometimes you fall all along the way; however, if you are tenacious and keep trying eventually you will glide like Pepper now does in the water.

Life is not a final paper that is written with no mistakes and free of any grammatical errors. It starts out with promise but needs a lot of work along the way. Why do we have it in our heads that life should be as error free as possible? We grow in the times when we are “vertical” and in the times we look like a novice. I want to be more like Pepper. I want to try things even though I may look silly and maybe I will never be perfect at them, but at least I tried. I believe we are truly at our best when we are not in a state of perfection, but in those editing phases of our life where we are learning, growing and being human.

 

Luminous Prayer Flags

In many religions of the world, collective prayers are often lifted in an audible form, but there is often a visual form as well. Candles are lit, altars are raised, monuments built. There’s something about seeing a physical representation of a person’s prayer that I find awe-inspiring. Tibetan Buddhists are no exception. They raise prayer flags in high spaces, streaming them across the mountainside, lifting prayers for others: for peace, for protection, for happiness. Seeing what must be hundreds of thousands of flags fluttering in the wind, knowing the many people they represent, is one of the most spectacular sites I have ever seen.

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In the evening or early morning, the flags are just as beautiful and serene. 20110910-074653.jpg

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Mourning in North Minneapolis: “The Women Gather”

As some of you may know, two young men-only boys actually-were killed in my neighborhood. The first happened over the weekend and the second last night. Before I moved here, I might have been able to forget and just thank God that it didn’t happen in my backyard or in my neighborhood, similar to how I often put out of my mind other atrocities happening in the world around me. But now that these killings did happen in my neighborhood and in my backyard, I’m forced to actually consider it. My heart aches for the mothers and families of these children. I can only imagine what they are experiencing right now. It’s shocking to think I might have interacted with these boys while walking the dogs. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it all, but I have discovered my thinking has changed. Regardless of where you live, shouldn’t we all feel collective responsibility? As MLK said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Often it seems that if we aren’t ignoring the oppression outright, we are blaming the victims. I hope I can become more active in the fight against injustices like these.

I saw Sweet Honey in the Rock perform the first song in the video clip below a few years ago. It came back to me today and it is quite fitting. The song is an ASL interpreted performance; however, the camera doesn’t stay on the interpreter so I included the lyrics below.

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