Sunday, September 8, 2013

Taking Care of Myself

I'm back in the United States.  I know, I know, I have been for over two months.  But, it takes about two months to really realize that you are back in your home land.  Plus, I have finally unpacked my suitcases, I have a somewhat stable schedule for each day, and I have a little bit more direction in my life then I did two months ago.  It  is amazing how quickly life can change.  And how amazingly awesome and scary it can be all at the same time. 

The plan all along, after arriving back from France, was to visit family and friends and eventually end up at my Aunt and Uncle's place to figure out what I was going to do with my life.  You know, I like to plan things, and I liked this plan.  I also didn't realize that my life would do a big ol' spin around within two weeks and would find me with a new job, new master's program, new living arrangements, and new direction.  Be careful what you plan for, it might actually happen.

Everyday I find myself celebrating and struggling, all in one breath.  I am blessed with amazing people and amazing opportunities.  And I also find myself missing the life I had just two months ago.  I am so excited for everything that is happening right now, today, and I also cannot ignore the fact that half of me is still sitting at my host family's breakfast table, happily listening to them converse in French and loving every moment that we shared.  I find myself wishing that I had more of me to give.  I am stressed, in a good way, by all the new things happening.  It's still stress, though, and it takes a toll on my abilities to put in the time and effort that I want to in all the beautiful friends and family that I have across the globe. 

I guess this blog is really about just letting myself, and everyone whom I love, know that I need to take care of myself.  Life has given me lemonade.  I couldn't be more grateful.  And I need to spend some time figuring out how to drink it all.  Which may mean that I am not as good as I want to be at communicating and connecting with all of you beautiful people that bless my life everyday.  Thank you for every ounce of support you give me.  I am nothing without the people in my life.  I just want you to each know that, although I may seem a bit distant, and I may be a bit silent, I think of you each and every day and cherish you no less.  Thanks for being understanding.  I'm trying to do the same for myself.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Letting Go

I've moved a lot in my life.  High school consisted of packing up my stuff from home after summer and moving back into a dorm room every fall. College wasn't much different.  I added a bit of spice to the moving mix when I packed just two suitcases and moved to Albania for a year.  Then there was the epic try of going to medical school in Seattle, Washington.  We ended up packing all of my things from Lincoln, Nebraska into several large boxes and shipping them by Greyhound bus to Washington.  Of course, those boxes ended up getting packed right back up after three months and then moved to my Aunt and Uncle's, where they still wait.  I left for France with three suitcases and a large purse and lived off those for 18 months. 

A lot of the questions I've been getting lately since returning to the States consist of what I am doing and where I am living.  They are hard questions to answer, particularly because I am homeless, jobless, and somewhat without direction.  I arrived back in Idaho after a fun little stop in Chicago with my best friend, a road trip with said angel up to Lincoln, and a five day stay there getting over jet-lag and seeing dear college friends and professors.  Once I stepped out of the airport in Boise, the smell of that beautiful place nearly knocked me down and mowed me over.  The whirlwind of movement didn't stop, though.  My father came to pick me up and we lugged my entire life of 18 months up to our Ranch in Bellevue.  I thought I would have a chance to unpack all of my things.  Then I realized it was more practical to simply pick and choose what I needed for the next two months and fit what I could from that pile into one backpack. 

So, I've currently been living out of said backpack.  My next step is a flight back to Washington to retrieve my things.  It has always been interesting and refreshing to me that every time I move or make a transition from one place in my life to the next, I get this awesome opportunity to go through all my things.  Every move I have made sees me donating, throwing away, and recycling things.  And every move reminds me how little I need all of this stuff. 

There is a part of me that dreads the thought of having to go through all of those things, though.  Because, honestly, I would like to not have to be confronted with my feelings of attachment to all that stuff!  They are just things, for goodness sake! 

Why is it so hard to let go?  Before even leaving France, I started having problems with my lips being extremely cracked on the sides.  The problem only got worse after I arrived in the States and I ended up going to see my Naturopathic doctor in Boise.  He explained to me how grieving and loss tend to effect the balance of water and salt in our bodies.  This has a direct effect on mucus membranes, such as our lips.  He asked me if I had any sort of grieving that could be causing this imbalance. 

Ahem.  Yeah, about that.  Me, grieving leaving France?  Pffft.  I'm the poster-child of dealing with loss and change!

But let's be serious.  I am not.  It has been a difficult transition of learning to let go of the life I had in France and accepting the life that I will have here in the States.  And accepting that it is okay for me to grieve and to miss France and the people there.  One of my major weaknesses is my fear of being weak.  It is difficult for me to let go and open up and allow others to know that I am grieving.  Going to France changed me.  It made me a better person.  I met people there who I never want to lose contact with and whom I love very, very much.  If I thought it was what God was calling me to, I would have stayed in France a whole lot longer.  But it is not what God is calling me to.

I have moved a lot in my life.  I have moved across big, long distances and across wide, deep oceans, and over cultural boundaries and different languages.  My stuff has dwindled as I have learned to understand what I need and what I do not.  And my life has become richer with each move.  Letting go does not mean forgetting or disregarding the beauty of something or someone.  Letting go simply means that you are opening your hands to receive something else just as beautiful and life-changing.  And I'm a strong believer in living life-changing experiences.  Because isn't that what life is all about anyway? 

Thanks for following me along on my journeys.  I will try to keep y'all better posted on how things are going.  Don't forget to live it up and let go when it's time.  

Friday, June 14, 2013

12 Days and Counting

For once there are colors outside my window as the sun puts herself to bed.  The sky in Paris is recently rarely lit with the sun, but tonight we are blessed with sun and birdsong.  I've been doing a lot of journaling, praying, and thinking lately.  Twelve days before I part for the United States after a 18-month journey in France.

My thoughts?  I'm gonna miss this place.  Just like every other place where I have lived and fallen in love with the people and the culture and the language.  It is time to pack up my things, though.  Turn the page, start a new chapter, a new adventure, and continue growing and learning along the way. 

Ah, la France.  I never expected to live almost two years here, never expected to work with kids, never expected to learn two languages through the process, nor to find that I am addicted to languages and the people who speak them.  God has pulled me and pushed me and reminded me along the way how important it is to be true to ourselves.  This last part is the biggest reason for why I am returning to the States.

I've done a lot of growing in France, and I have also done a lot of running.  For whatever reason, I have been running from God, from my core beliefs, and my own personal activism.  Returning to the States will obviously not flip any switch to stop my running.  But, I pray and I hope that this new chapter will hold the story of how I continue to discover how to live true to myself, to my love of God, to my core beliefs, and to treating the world and the people in it better and more wholly. 

If anyone is interested in seeing me, I am planning on doing some traveling around the States before I settle down with a real job in Idaho.  Expect some future posts about my ideas for the next several months (walking from Eugene, OR to Loma Linda, CA, anyone?).  Thanks for following me during my time in France!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Saying No

Saying yes is so easy.  Like when someone asks you if you want to eat cupcakes, or if you'd like a second-helping of tater-tot casserole.  Besides the obvious pleasures of eating cupcakes and tater-tot casserole, even saying yes to things that require responsibility or money or time, happen to carry a sort of incredible satisfaction to them as well.  Perhaps you may disagree with me, but I love to see people's smiles when I tell them, "Yes."

It's exhilarating.  Intoxicating at times to see the happiness it can bring to others when you say, "Yes, I can do that", or, "Yes, I'd love to help, or buy that, or take that off your hands, or give you this, or watch that, or make myself completely at your disposal..."  Adaptability at its best; the ability to say yes in almost any situation and believe it's what you want.

In my last blog, I wrote about doing what you want.  Doing what you want because it is your life.  This blog is about the harder side of doing what you want.  This is the blog about learning to say no, learning to do the things that might mean you have to tell people, maybe the people who matter the most to you, "No."  Because the truth of the matter is that there are people out there who want to tell you what to do, and they don't want you to say no.  Maybe you aren't a people-pleaser like me, and if you aren't, I'm glad.  If you are, then you understand how hard it is to say no.

Over the past couple of days, I've had to set several boundaries with a person who I had become extremely close to emotionally and physically.  There were several reasons for my boundaries, all of which culminated in the idea of creating a healthier and more stable relationship between us.  These boundaries meant saying no.  And they meant saying no hard.  They meant pushing someone away.  They meant making someone angry.  They meant that I had to not please someone.  They meant I had to think about my personal health and safety first.  And they were hard to put in place.

And then they were ignored.  Un-sacredly and purposefully ignored.  These boundaries that I had so strategically placed around myself were ripped down, trampled over, and ravished by a person who can't hear, "No." 

Saying no is something we all need to learn to say.  No is a word that protects.  No is a word that can open doors for us to say yes.  No can be the word that shushes the thoughts in our heads that tell us we aren't good enough, that we can't do something, that we are not worth this or that or someone or something.  No is the word that can obliterate and shatter the lies that we have believed all our lives, the lies that a darker evil in this world would love us to believe and say yes to.

Saying no can save us from living a life that we never wanted, from marrying someone who we never really loved, from doing things that don't actually make us happy.  Saying no to tater-tot casserole and cupcakes is all well and good for your health, but it's even more important than that.  Saying no is really about understanding who you are and how important you are.  Your thoughts, your beliefs, your ideals, your boundaries, they all matter.  And if you don't like something or you don't want to do something, you have the right, the God-given power, to say, "No."  Because you and I are that important.

We are so important that we have been given the right to tell other people, "No, I don't want to do that, or buy that, or watch that, or give you that, or be completely at your disposal."  You are that precious, that strong, that much in control.  Don't let anyone ever tell you differently.  Take your life in your own hands, and learn to say yes and no when you want to and when you need to.  And never forget that there will be people who will push you and try to take away your boundaries and rape your no's, but there are also people, the good ones, the keepers, who will always support you and love you for your no's as much as your yes's.  Those are the ones to keep around, ignore the rest.  And if you ever want support in saying no, I'm right behind you, rooting for you all the way.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

What to do when you don't know what to do

First off, unless you are completely put together like nobody's business, I'm sure you have found yourself in the place where you just don't know what to do.  For some reason, I feel like I keep finding myself in this place, this place of uncertainty and indecisiveness.  Exactly a month ago, I wrote a post concerning my uncertainty about returning to the United States.  Things have only become more complicated.

So what do we do when we don't know what to do?  Well, me personally, I listen to passionate, emotion-filled music that makes me want to move and dance and throw my arms in the air and embrace everything I just don't quiet understand yet.  I also find that letting out my uncertainties in drawings and paintings is quiet useful.  And then there is journaling and blogging.  Being that I have already done the first two things to do when you don't know what to do, I'm now getting to the third one, blogging.

I was raised in a church which taught me that judgement was the ultimate thing to fear and the most powerful tool to use.  I learned from a young age that every one had an opinion on what you were doing and how you did it and if you didn't do it right, you were going to hell.  In this environment, I learned to judge and be judged, to shame and to be shamed, and to place other people in a position of incredible power over my life.  My life.  Maybe that's why I dyed my hair crazy colors and styled it outrageously.  Maybe that's why I left the United States in the first place way back in 2007.  Maybe that's why I left the church.  I have wanted to direct my own life.

After talking with my Dad today, I was reminded of how it feels to not be judged.  My Dad may not be a saint, and we have had our rough spots, but if there is one thing he has always done right is to never, ever judge me.  I know that, no matter what I do, he will support me in it.  I was reminded that when I find myself in a place of indecision, feeling guilty for wanting something that doesn't please every body, that the real truth of the matter is, my life, is my life.  Plain and simple.  No one else has to walk in my shoes, no one else gets to choose what I do and where I live.  In the very, very end, it is all on me.  Maybe I will choose the "wrong" thing, but it was my choice.  Maybe it won't please every one, but at least it pleases me and I'm the one who has to deal with me, all the time, for the rest of my life.

Life is crazy, and there will be times, many times perhaps, where you and I will find ourselves in places where we don't know what to do.  In this instant, when every thing is acting whirly-twirly around you, sit yourself down, take your own hand, and remind yourself, this is your life, don't let anyone else try to live it for you.  And then turn up some Florence + The Machine and rock out with your hands up in the air, ready to take life by her big gorgeous hands and dance with her all the way through.  It's my life, and I will live it big, and loud, and how I think is best for me.  You only live once, right?    

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Are you coming back home?

Before the question was when are you coming back home.  Now it's are.  The real problem is I don't know the answer.  I mean, I do.  But then again, I don't.  Not at all.  You see, this is the problem with traveling, with moving, with settling in, with molding to a new place.  You get stuck. 

Nearly six years ago I left the United States to live in a foreign country.  I was 19 years old.  When I got back I was lost.  Completely.  I didn't know how to act, how to talk, what to say, who to be.  My life had been so flipped up and over that coming home, was more like going overseas.  My mom has told me that if she had known how lost I would have been coming home, she never would have let me leave.  I wonder if I'm stepping into the same boat again.

My first stint overseas lasted only eight months.  Eight months.  I've been living in France for 15 months.  When I step on that plane, I will not have seen American soil for 18 months.  Am I ready?  Hell no.  I know when my feet hit that spangled ground, I will be lost. 

The dilemma of every expat is where do I belong?  I mean, really, you're not American anymore.  You're not French, either.  Or Spanish, or Albanian, or Chinese.  No matter where you have been, you just don't truly belong anywhere anymore.

Perhaps that's where my security lies.  If I don't technically belong anywhere, can I belong everywhere?  After so many months here in Paris, foreign doesn't seem so foreign, anymore, and that gives me some hope.  If my experience and worldview has been expanded and morphed to include so many viewpoints, maybe that just means my community got that much bigger.  And maybe, just maybe, I'm not so stuck as I think I am. 

But I fear.  I fear the isolation that always comes when you're not sure those around you can understand you.  Isolation is the worst part of living in a foreign land.  After so many months here, and so many months of isolation, I feel like I have finally created a community here.  And this is why I question whether I really know the answer to the question, "Are you coming back home?"  Community is the air that keeps my lungs filled and the nourishment that keeps me strong.  I have community here.  I found it, I created it, I fought for it.  My tears, my fears, my sweat, my stumbles, all of it, got me to this place where I have a community.  Dammit, it matters to me.  These people matter to me.  I fought for them.  And I'm going to leave in four months? 

How strong is my heart?  I know I can move back, start over, create and sweat and cry and build, all over again.  The question is whether I want to.  Like I said, you get stuck.         

Monday, February 18, 2013

Sun and happy

The sun is out.  I don't believe that I could feel more content.  The sun is hitting my back, warming it to that place where I wonder if I might get a sunburn.  But I don't care.  Let it sink into me, warm me from one side to the next, so I can feel my intestines warm and red-hued see-through.  Today was a day of nothing and everything all at once.  Why is it, that if we don't do something we've never done before, or something that "needed" to be done, we think we haven't accomplished anything for the day?  For example, if I was to tell my family what I did today, I would feel a bit foolish.  All this day has consisted of is a) soaking in the sun, b) painting and drawing, and c) listening to music, very loudly and very satiating (aka Imogen Heap radio and epic female artists).

Oh how I love that over a year ago I left everything I knew and moved to France.  The act of purposefully deciding to not have a plan, and to be okay with it, has been the best decision of my life.  Our push and pull world of more and more and more, our climb and flatten world of success, success, success--it exhausts/ed me.  And had me completely in it's hold, until I started living as a stay-at home mom.  Talk about a change in perspective.  The little things matter now.  The act of success and running the rat-race seems so ridiculous now.  And I still get caught on it.  Like, today, and feeling foolish for not necessarily "accomplishing" anything.  Isn't it just as important to fill our hearts and expand the right-side of our brain?  Why do we simply assume that those who work 40+ hours a week and have a long list of recognizable achievements as "better"? 

I never want to forget this lesson.  The lesson that taking a day to connect with myself, with others, with nature, with God, with music, with art, with animals, is never less important, and perhaps even more important, than filling my days with the acts of more, more, more, and success, success, success.  Let me be filled instead with sun and light,  music and wind, art and colors, and people.  Because really, people just make everything better.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Happy February!

Alright, alright, so I am a bit late.  January seemed to have taken its sweet time in passing us by.  It's finally two days into February, and I can already feel that February wants to do the same.  Perhaps this slowing of time is due to the fact that every time I see an airplane, I imagine myself inside of it, flying over the ocean, across the United States, and landing in the West.  The fact that the sun decides to only show himself once or twice a week could also be effecting my perception of time.

I dreamed last night that I was home.  Both my parents were there with me, in our old living room.  I started crying and explained to them that I wanted to stay there in Idaho and I also wanted to return to France.  And then I was hanging out with some friends, speaking in German and in French and in English, and realizing that I was mixing them all up but not minding because we all understood.  Crazy what living abroad does to you.

Missing home and loving where I am living is an exciting and somewhat bipolar ride.  I feel like a lot of expats understand this feeling.  Where you wake up and are so ecstatic to be where you are one day and then could literally spend all your savings on a last-minute ticket home the next day.  And then that crazy switch that happens where you want to write something, or say something, and you find that the way you want too involves two or three languages, instead of the regular just one. 

I am happy to say that I have another activity on my plate besides working and learning French: rock climbing!  Admittedly, it is also a lot of French learning since the class is in French, but I don't mind.  I've already had nearly 3 weeks of classes and I'm absolutely loving it.  It's fun being a part of a group, even if I don't always understand what is being said.  Plus, my body is digging the exercise.

On top of all this excitement, I have been busy planning for what I will be doing upon arriving back in the USA.  Mainly, reading and reading and reading about PERMACULTURE.  Look it up.  Wikipedia has a little something-something about it.  It's legit.  I love it.  And this is what I am planning to do with my life when I get back to Idaho.  Become a farmer.  And a florist.  For kicks and giggles, and not so much kicks and giggles.  We all know I've always been a hippie at heart, just traveling back to my roots, and my dreams.

I hope ya'll will do the same.  Become hippies that is.  The longer I live in Paris, the more I realize how much we need hippies, revolutionaries, people willing to step down, closer to nature, not farther from it.  Dreamers, too.  We need lots more dreamers, people who aren't afraid of imagining and then reaching for the impossible. 

Just wanted to write a quick update.  Happy February, everybody! 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

La Vie en rose

I'm happy.  And it's just that.  I am single and fully content.  I work the job of a stay-at-home mom, with more free time.  A lot of times, I think that perhaps I'm crazy for being so incredibly happy, like society would like me to believe differently, that being single is less, that working a job that gains me no recognition is base, that I cannot truly be happy.  But I am.  My life is full of breath and adventure and laughter.  Snow and bubbles and cupcakes and chocolate bars.  Discussions about why snow is white and why you do need to put your gloves on before playing in the snow. 

And the number one thing that I have realized, in amongst all the laughter and the simple day to day living that is my work and my life, is that it really is the small things that matter most.  If I never become a famous scientist, never discover the Naturopathic cure for cancer, never have my name known throughout the world as an incredible feminist and activist, it will be okay.  More than okay.  Because life isn't about being known, or being the most admired.  Life is about being completely enraptured exactly where you are.

So, enjoy life's little blessings, be enraptured by the awesomeness of simply being, and take a bubble bath, because I can promise you, that will bring a smile to anybody's face.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Meet the Richardson's: My Adopted American Family

Way back in the first month of my stay in France, we happened to have a very cold morning.  So cold, in fact, that there was a sizable layer of ice on the car's window which needed chipping off.  As I was doing this reminiscent chore of Idaho and Nebraska, I accidentally bumped into my neighbor who was attempting to clear her windshields as well. 

"Oh, sorry," I chime politely, at this point incapable of more than 'bonjour' or 'merci' in French.

"No problem," comes the response, very much not French, and very much Texan.

Thus began a beautiful friendship.  The Richardson's hail from Texas and have two wonderful children.  Andrea (Mom), Randy (Dad), Cole (Brother), and Addy (Sister) have graciously accepted me into their family and have housed me, fed me, celebrated with me, and even accepted my request of housing two good friends who were traveling through.  To be honest, I'm not quiet sure how well I would have survived without these four. 

Besides supporting me in numerous ways, they also introduced me to Danielle.  And thus, as we all like to point out to people, found me my bosom buddy in France and also my French host family here!  You see, I work for Danielle's host mom's sister.  Technically, Danielle and I are au pair cousins.  We like to keep things in the family.

I had the most wonderful opportunity of spending Christmas with the Richardson's after taking care of the fifth member of the family, Lady (Cocker Spaniel Sugar Bug), while they were away for a few days of family vacation.

Christmas was wonderful.  Everyday I am thankful for the community I have here, surrounded by Americans, Germans, and French people who have taken me in and let me into their homes and hearts.  I hope this New Year finds you as surrounded by love and diversity and acts of simple kindness and adopted families as I have found in 2012.  Cheers, y'all!

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Warrior Flowers of France

I don't know how, but the flowers in France are tenacious.  They are undeterred by change in season, frost covering their dear little petals, or even snow surrounding their feet.  Now, I didn't get a picture of the snow covering their heads, but it happened.  This picture was taken the day before Christmas vacation began.  Yeah, that's right, CHRISTMAS.

The French know the secret to flowers.  Go to the market on Saturdays and you will see gardeners selling their wares, in the middle of winter.  I watched as one man carefully gave instructions to an elderly couple on just how to plant this wee little flower so that it would bloom, even in January. 

French flowers have captured my eye, amazed me with their versatility and their capability to grow whenever and wherever.  Independent and unafraid.  No snow will keep us down!  Frost, HAH!  We laugh in the face of it.  These flowers are the warriors of the flower kingdom. 

I find companionship with them.  I think back on my life, my experiences, and I see our similarities.  And that's when I am thankful for the warrior spirit in all of us, for the spark that lights a fire in our insides and keeps us warm in the coldest of winters.  And when the snow melts, we bounce back up, just like the French flowers, and tenaciously, vivaciously, continue living and sharing our beauty through all life's ups and downs.