Cherry

18 Nov

I’m new here.
Take me in,
Show me your
Ants on a log.
Show me your
Childish smile, your
Sanctuary.

It’s nice to be by myself, but
Hands clasping hands
Brings me to the somebody else I could be.

I’ll let her out.

I can push away the disappointment
I once had when I was younger,
A pin in a row.
I’ve opened my eyes and stepped in,
Toe by toe, then
pull back into the cold.

It feels good to be here,
My solitary pen dripping fuel
Of a new me
Onto a medium I have yet to explore.
I’m not sure if I’ll let it explode, absorb my words,
Or lick delicately my fingertips,
because it’s intoxicating.

Alone, my table is full of containers to satisfy.
Below, empty space holds colors of smiles,
Smells of dirty feet unafraid to stain shoes.
Even better, sweet toes tapping the uncertainty together,
A lush feeling.
A youthful submission to consciousness.

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Challenging Conversations, Conscious Choices: Part III

11 Nov

I have about a million thoughts as I settle down to write Part III of this series, Challenging Conversations, Conscious Choices. You can read Part I here and Part II here.

This week has been tumultuous. There’s no other way to put it. Partly it’s the election and subsequent reactions to said election; partly it’s about other, more personal things. I’ve seen pictures and stories of odium, examples of great love and selflessness, and all the shades in between. This emotional back and forth has taken a toll on me. I’m exhausted.

When I get so exhausted, I am particularly vulnerable. I have these fears that wash over me, dark feelings that know the perfect time to strike. These thoughts have an incredible ability to make me feel inferior and different. Strangely, when I’m feeling great about myself, I celebrate the Becky who stands out in a crowd, who doesn’t do things because everyone else does, who doesn’t cave to every trend. I think that’s part of what makes me special. So in my heart I know these false feelings of inferiority only prey on me when they know they can.

Thankfully, in my journey I have come to recognize these as passing notions. I use several tools to center myself when I find I’ve been caught up in an emotional cyclone.

The very first thing I say to myself is I control how I react. I can’t control what happens in the world. I can’t even control what happens in my life half the time, but only I can choose to take the world’s baloney and respond by either pulling out two slices of bread, or grabbing the compost bucket and trashing it. I make that conscious choice.

Something else that really helps me is to use one of several new age tarot-like decks that I own. I’m not skilled at reading cards by any means, but it gives me calm to pull one or two from my “Healing with the Fairies” oracle deck, my “Affirmators!” card collection, or my “Native American Animal Medicine Cards.” These things ground me. They give me something tangible to focus on. This evening I meditated on the state of the world, and then pulled a card from my Animal Medicine deck. I pulled the Hummingbird. Two things stuck out at me. First, I was captivated by this line: Hummingbird can give us the medicine to solve the riddle of the contradiction of duality. It intrigued me to read on, because in my meditation before I pulled the card, I had asked the universe to help me make sense of the yin/yang balance of everything that is happening right now. I think everyone can appreciate the struggle of seeing the light in the dark, grudgingly acknowledge the crack that lets the light in (RIP Leonard Cohen). Well, hummingbird is here to help.

“If contrary Hummingbird sings its forlorn song, perhaps you should journey into your personal pain and know that your sorrow is your joy in another reflection.”

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Second, the hummingbird is an enjoyer of life. Again, from the Medicine Card deck:

“If Hummingbird is your personal medicine, you love life and its joys. Your presence brings joy to others. You join people together in relationships which bring out the best in them. You know instinctively where beauty abides and, near or far, you journey to your ideal. You move comfortably within a beautiful environment and help others taste the succulent nectar of life.”

People who know me even the slightest bit will immediately recognize that this is an extremely accurate description. I endeavor to find happiness and laughter wherever I go. I am incredibly blessed to be able to make friends with just about anyone I encounter. Where my life may lack the loving responsibilities of parenthood and the wonderful challenge of a having a lifelong partner as of yet, this provides me the space and time to help those more bogged down to find joy in the most unexpected places. Want a zydeco dance partner? I’m your woman. Looking for someone to join you at a volunteer event? Call me! Want to go for a hike or a run? Heck yeah I do! I have a metaphorical backpack bursting with victories, small and large, of the journey I’m taking in my life, and I love to share them. I’m also the best damn auntie in the world. Children need an adult they can love and trust other than their parents; I adore being that person for many of my friends’ children.

So this is what I choose to know. My capacity to love grows stronger every single day. My heart knows no limits. I can love my neighbor as well as myself unconditionally. I can see the light and the dark as something to grow with, and I will continue to build myself up to be the best Becky I can be.

What do you do when you’re feeling like you’re in the middle of that emotional cyclone and you want to get out? I want you to know, here and now, that if you need to talk to a peer, use one of my decks of cards, or need someone to lighten your day with a laugh or earnest hug, I’m here for you. I love you.

Local & Loyal | My Happy (Portland) Places

2 Nov

This week I’m taking a break from my miniseries to bring you a more lighthearted post. Challenging Conversations, Conscious Choices will return next week. In the meantime, come take a stroll with me to visit five places I’ve come to love since moving to Portland thirteen years ago.

All Ways Well Acupuncture—I first needed Rebecca when I was involved in a moving vehicle accident and required treatment for soft tissue damage. I entered the treatment room. It was serene, quiet. I laid face down on her table and moved around until I got comfortable. I relaxed; then I got poked, over and over. In the early days it was not that relaxing of an endeavor, given the sore and pained nature of my injured back. I soon grew to love those sacred minutes, though, when all would be quiet and I could just meditate while qi buzzed through me like healing lightning. After my back was healed from the MVA trauma, I returned to her for many issues. Acupuncture is an amazing healer. I highly recommend Rebecca and her magic.

ZenJens’ Jen Keller—I have known Jen longer than I have used her waxing services and facials. She was one of the first people I met in Portland, as a matter of fact. A few months after we met, a mutual friend gave me a gift certificate for an eyebrow wax. I took the envelope in my hands and opened it. Inside was a playful certificate that read, Good for one eyebrow wax from Jen Keller. I looked over at Jude in surprise, thanked her, and exclaimed that I had no idea Jen was an aesthetician. I was so excited! I had never had an eyebrow wax. I was pretty unrefined when I moved to Portland at the age of 24. I find it shocking when I hear about mothers taking their pubescent daughters to get their upper lip waxed, but I suppose that is the millennial equivalent of getting your ears pierced when you turn thirteen. So, gleefully, I kissed my bushy eyebrows goodbye and have never looked back.

Shannon Troy—I was introduced to massage therapist Shannon Troy through a coworker. She had been using Shannon’s services for quite some time, and by the time she came into my radar, half of my department was also using her. She’s good. She’s really good. If you like (no, need) someone who uses her entire body strength to unknot your back, Shannon is your therapist. She is not someone who will rub your back lightly and send you on your way. No, she will work very hard to bestow peace on your sore muscles, and you will love her well-disposed torture.

Portland Community College—I come from Ohio, land of prolonged recession, 18 electoral votes, and some truly outstanding colleges.  Growing up I was told—not asked—to obtain a college education. In-state was the best option, since it was (relatively) cheaper and I would have a plethora of possibilities. I applied to several schools, mostly private, save Kent State University (where my sister eventually chose to get her undergrad and her Masters). I ended up at Wittenberg University, a tiny private liberal arts university in Springfield, Ohio. Witt, as we students called it, was an idyllic bubble surrounded by southwestern Ohio gems such as Yellow Springs (a tiny hippie town where we would go to drink elegant and sumptuous coffees and buy tapestries that we would hang in our dorm rooms beside framed devotions to our high school friends and family), and Dayton, the closest city where we could find fancy restaurants and entertainment outside of bars, bowling alleys, and shopping malls. I wouldn’t trade Witt for any other experience; it was four amazing years of giggles and tears, of learning the struggle and beauty of life.

As an adult, I discovered I wasn’t interested in the toils and troubles of getting my Masters degree. First of all, I honestly had no idea what I would do in a Masters program. I could go for creative writing, but what would that get me? A chapbook published by a university press and a teaching job somewhere? How about journalism? Newspapers were quickly becoming a thing of the past and I wasn’t confident enough in the bourgeoning internet news medium that I wanted to gain (another) huge school debt for a disappointing job in retail—or worse, as a barista—when I was unable to find a writing job. But I savor learning; I love a classroom setting. I’m one of those weirdos who avidly waves her hand in class and tries to catch the eye of the teacher to get their attention. So here and there, to get my classroom fix, I’ve taken courses at Portland Community College. Currently I’m taking a writing class, and I am loving it! PCC is a highly respected community college with a stellar reputation. We never age out of bettering our education. Take a look at their adult education classes here.

Multnomah County Library—Ah, the bookworm’s haven. Delicious, captivating stories. History. Adventure! Tragedy. I’ve always loved going to the library. As a child, my mother would have to limit us to checking out (only) one giant stack of books at a time, or as many as our little arms could carry. Any more than that would have to wait until the next trip. My sister and I devoured words for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We even held our own read-ins. The library was a second home for us, and still is for me today.

Multnomah County Library is known for its huge circulation of titles as well as its programs and events for the public, many of which are completely free. Utilize your local branch, or come to the marble-floored monstrosity of the Central Library downtown. If you’re working on your National Novel Writing Month project, there are plenty of happenings for writers—a Nano Survival Skills Workshop and following write in are both at the Central Library this Saturday. Hope to see you there!

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Photo courtesy of Buy Olympia.

Challenging Conversations, Conscious Choices: Part II

21 Oct

This series came to fruition because of a combination of inspirations (you can read Part I here). First of all, I signed up for a writing class at Portland Community College. Generally, I make an effort to take a few writing workshops a year, but usually the inspiration to actually put pen to paper comes and goes as quickly as the 2-hour workshop itself. When I started this blog, I was dedicated to posting every week—and I did, for quite some time! That quickly slowed down because of dates, or dancing, or drama…or all of the above distractions. They always seemed to sidetrack me from my one true passion—writing. Armed with the PCC class, I knew it would be at least 6 solid weeks of writing accountability, and hopefully, consistency.

Also, it’s October. Yay! Do you know what comes after October? That’s right, November! Do you know what November means to an English nerd like me? That’s right! National Novel Writing Month  AND Wordstock! I haven’t dedicated myself to NaNoWriMo in several years, and now is the perfect time to do it. Also, in past years I’ve always been travelling during Wordstock, so I’m anxiously anticipating my first experience with that. Anyway, read on for my thoughts for Part II.

A few months ago I made a conscious decision to ask myself some hard questions.

I looked in the mirror and questioned, why don’t I make as much money as I should?

I had been doing two jobs for the price of one for a while, and if I’m being truthful, I had known I was underpaid long before that. I had always worked hard with an open heart, knowing it was for the good of the team. Then I thought about all the times I was short on funds, working paycheck-to-paycheck, missing trips or events because I didn’t have the extra cash. I wasn’t drowning in debt or anything, but a sneaker wave could come at any time, and if it did, I could be in big trouble. It wasn’t fair!

So why didn’t I make more money when it was obvious that I deserved fair compensation? I had never asked for more than what was offered. I work hard and am loyal to my company, but I also tend not to rock the boat. You know which people never advance? The ones who never question the status quo. In order to stand out, I had to stand up. Through personal examination and talking to many wise friends, I learned to never expect anyone to grab my hand and lead me to higher ground. I needed to figure out my own unique way to escape those rising waters and succeed.

Here’s a little food for thought that inspired me from the Coffee and Pints blog, created by two of my former coworkers.

Communicate with your manager and peers. They were not hired to be mind-readers. If you don’t make your interests known, it’s highly unlikely that anyone will figure it out and be able to help you.

Make a plan and write it down. This is critical when your goal is something bigger and more multifaceted like earning a promotion or finding a new job. Once your plan is written, ask a mentor or someone you respect professionally to review and discuss it with you. You’ll not only get feedback but the act of sharing it will make your goal seem real and less ephemeral.

Have an open attitude. An interesting thing happens when you begin to initiate. As you take action to move in the direction of your goal, others begin to respond, sharing ideas and information. And sometimes, if you’re open, the conversations that ensue lead to new opportunities.

Believe in yourself. You made it this far, of course you can go further. We all have self-doubt. Nobody likes to fail. Push through all of that and initiate—and don’t ever stop.

In the past, I’d get a physical reaction even to the thought of confrontation—and that is exactly how I saw asking for a raise—however well-deserved it was. But I kept telling myself I was worth it. I saw the proof in front of me in the proposal I wrote.

Write your thoughts down. Speak from your heart. If you think that you don’t have the strength to back up what you need to say, practice. Use YOUR voice. You decide what is in your heart—you decide how you want to say it. No matter what the topic, if you speak your truth with 100% conviction, then you have done your best.

Use the Four Agreements in every interaction.

Be impeccable with your word. Speak with integrity.

Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you.

Don’t make assumptions. We all know what happens when you make ASSumptions…

Always do your best. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

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If you’d like, please share a time when you used effective communication by being impeccable with your word, and describe how you did it.

Challenging Conversations, Conscious Choices: Part I

14 Oct

The other day, my coworker, Hannah, and I had a talk about race, which is a pretty frequent topic with us—especially these days. She is black and I am white. I come from the Midwest, where it was mostly black and white when I was growing up (that demographic has changed somewhat since my childhood); she is from DC, where there is a huge variety of cultures and ethnic backgrounds. Being from areas of more prevalent African-American presence, we converse with ease about the current racial discourse.

That day, when a coworker overheard us talking, she put on her “mama bear” voice and tutted loudly enough so we could hear it. The space between cubicles is small and the “walls” are thin to begin with. I can only guess that she felt we were getting a little too deep for a coffee break conversation. Or was it because she felt the topic was inappropriate?

Here in the Pacific Northwest, many people, white people in particular, are afraid to speak when it comes to race relations. There is a legitimate societal reason for this—Oregon is known for its tawdry past (and, unfortunately, some current history as well) with the treatment of African Americans. More than likely, folks around here also don’t have enough experience to talk about it with any sort of confidence. Second, and more realistically, they may think that because we are in a predominantly white area that these problems won’t come here…and so they push those topics under the rug. Unfortunately, many people don’t have that luxury.

So many times in Portland I have heard passive racism. A man I was dating once said, “Stop talking like that!” when I sassed him. What he meant was, stop talking like a sassy, loud black woman. But I wasn’t talking like a sassy black woman. I was talking like Becky. That’s me; it’s how I grew up. The way I speak comes from my environment, yes. Maybe the “norm” of sassiness stereotypically comes from black women—we see this reinforced all the time in the media, which in turn bleeds into the way we think. But passive racism is still racism. (And don’t think this sassy woman didn’t call him out on it!)

This past Monday evening, I went to a Science on Tap talk at Revolution Hall in SE Portland. Dr. Larry Sherman was there, speaking about the neuroscience of prejudice. I was fascinated. Before he got into the actual science of it, he gave a little bit of the history of racism in America. He spoke about the theory of colorblindness that was spread throughout the sixties and seventies, which then trickled down to my generation. Our parents were taught not to observe color at all. If a child asked his mother, “Why does that boy have darker skin?” the mother would hush her child and change the subject instead of explaining that people come in all colors. Thus, this topic turned into a taboo one. It was incredibly refreshing to hear Dr. Sherman talk about this “taboo” topic.

Without a doubt, I proudly seek out people from diverse cultures to talk to. I attend presentations like the one Dr. Sherman gave, as well as pursue events in Portland with multicultural emphasis such as the Whiteness History Month at Portland Community College this past spring. I attend cultural festivals, have delved into Middle Eastern traditions through belly dance, and have even developed my education through salsa dancing! For me, it’s all about learning new things and respecting diversity.

When I talk about race, I use my history. I talk openly about experiences and what my truth is. I am respectful in my dialogue with others. I REFUSE to not talk about it. Impeccability with our words is of the utmost importance. You know what’s not impeccable? Being silent. Being a privileged white woman doesn’t give me glasses that block out all the bad things that are happening to others. And just because I don’t have brown skin doesn’t mean I can’t talk about these people as HUMAN BEINGS—humans who are made of love, just like every other color human on the earth. We are all made of that same love. Sometimes it is hard to remember when we are seeing such horrors in the news.

We are trained for shame.

We are trained to have selective knowledge.

We are trained to protect ourselves first.

But.

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Retrain your brain.

Educate yourself. If you have a question, ASK!

Spread love and be love.

Speak with respect and warm intention. It will get you miles further than speaking with arrogance and ignorance.

 

Over and Over Again

10 Jul

Renowned martial artist Bruce Lee described the opponent he was most wary of: “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” In my astrological opinion, you should regard that as one of your keystone principles during the next 12 months. Your power and glory will come from honing one specific skill, not experimenting restlessly with many different skills. And the coming weeks will be an excellent time to set your intention. – Rob Brezsny

It’s a theme that is so common in every thread of life: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

I hear it every week in belly dance class. My instructor and dear friend, Claudia, is unyielding in her insistence that you can take a set of simple moves and make them incredible with a metric ton of practice and a heavy helping of personality.

I can drill with the best of them. I love it. I could shimmy for hours; hone my taksim and maya for days. Add in that personality or emotional factor, however, and I crumble. Showing my vulnerability is one of my biggest fears. To show your vulnerability is terrifying, but essential to being a whole dancer. It’s what gives the dance tarab. Tarab is the climax of a feeling derived from hearing music expressing an intense emotion. I struggle with this, because I love belly dance with a passion; I want to be a complete dancer—tarab and all. I feel these emotions with the music and the movement, but somehow I can’t set them free into the universe, because that would open me up to something incredibly scary. The audience would see the raw, naked parts of me. It’s the gift of imperfection. It’s what makes us relate to other humans. But I always seem to see it as a gag gift. To her credit, Claudia never gives up on me. She just makes me do it again and again. If we dance for an hour and she sees one glimpse of my wall breaking down, she knows it can happen another time, and she encourages me to get back up and expose myself again. I am a dancer. Music and movement are my passion, and no amount of failure will make me stay down, because I yearn to cultivate this gift of mine.

Dating…I cannot count the number of times I’ve been stood up, “ghosted,” or rejected. If you’ve ever tried online dating, you know the frustration that can build so easily. Greater quantity does not necessarily mean better quality. I’ve met some true gems, but the timing wasn’t right or our schedules didn’t match up. Do I sit at home and cry about it? Yes. But then I get back up and try again. I set up yet another date to meet someone new, holding out hope that my person is out there. I am strong, smart, beautiful, and deserve to be loved. I am love.

America has felt over and over the hate that comes from fear. We see people killed for reasons beyond our comprehension. Hate crimes, terrorism, crimes of passion. It is a scary time in our existence. We easily fall down rabbit holes of depression and distress, struggling to get back up.  Should we give up, let ourselves sink back down to the darkness forever? No. We repeat our mantras of love and acceptance. We recognize that there is a purpose for the light and the dark, and search for a balance. We get to know our neighbors. Sometimes I falter at knowing what I can do for my brothers and sisters of the world. But I can start with something small—holding each of us in the light. That is what my Quaker faith taught me to do—understand that there is that of God in every person, no matter what they have done or who they are. I can start there. Wash, rinse, repeat.

If my one, time-tested impeccable “kick” turns out to be sharing my love with you, then I am honored to try, try again, with every blog I post and every action I take, whether that be writing a few words, sharing my passion for dance, or practicing loving kindness, expecting nothing in return.

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Soul Tsunami

30 Mar

Cyclone Winston flattened Koro Island, Fiji last month. Lower areas were flooded by huge waves, trees were stripped, and houses blew into hundreds of pieces. Forty four people didn’t make it out alive, most because of flying debris.

Back at home, three events occurred around me. Though not as serious as a cyclone, they sure felt like it—and one of these events was LITERALLY followed by a dream about an ocean storm! The debris hit me right in my tender spot. I’ll be honest—it doesn’t take much to bruise me there—it’s a spot that’s forever delicate. Like any vulnerability, it doesn’t take much to bring about further injury, and once the pain starts, it’s hard to stop.

There are times when that downward spiral has me twisted so tight, nothing can penetrate. That’s where I was headed when the debris started flying. I exploded, and then I cried and cried. Those tears washed over me and felt as though they would never stop. I had two dear friends with me who did just the right thing—they didn’t try to stop the tsunami, they just let the tears fall, holding my hands and assuring me it was okay to feel that way, that I could let the waves surge without fear.

The one realization that came out of the events was that I didn’t speak my mind when I began to have that tightness in my chest. I do this—I hold my tongue. I don’t know why. I have a voice. I have just as much right to use my words as anyone else. I matter as much as every other person here. Why is it, sometimes, I just can’t get myself to speak up? Why am I frozen in silence? I tell myself it’s better not to rock the boat. But here’s the thing. When you rock the boat, it makes waves. No one can know where those waves are going to go and what will be affected. They may bring destruction; they may wash something ashore. No matter what, this is the truth: destruction leads to rebirth. Cleansing leads to new growth.

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Kali Ma—the goddess of change

Courtesy of http://ramamaya.blogspot.com/

What if I used my voice all the time?

What if I let the fear drip off and the words come out like the sun from behind the clouds?

Am I afraid no one would love me? Am I afraid I won’t like who I am?

I’m a sister, a daughter, a friend, a dancer, a runner, a writer…but WHO AM I? What am I all about? I know it’s in there…I must let the tsunami roar out of me, Naked and Afraid, but willing to be exposed.

What if I took a pause and thought about what I wanted, instead of pandering to those alongside me? Stood on top of my fear and spoke my mind, even if it wasn’t the popular decision? Many people that know me would probably say I rarely fit into the status quo, that I dodge convention in a multitude of ways, and that I appear confident doing so.

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It’s true, I do embrace the weird, but I think this is only the outer shell of me. Deep inside, where the real Becky lies, I still have layer upon layer of hidden potential and a philosophy and moral center to uncover. I want to open my eyes—all three of them—and let that wall I’ve built crumble down and wash away in my tsunami…even if it means allowing my imperfect side out to play, crying in front of friends, or going against the grain.

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So.

What would be crushed in that tsunami?

What would be swept away?

What would be cleansed, fresh for the next adventure?

What would become whole again, bringing new life?

I ask you to explore this with me. Ask yourself, in your core, who are you? Who are the people who know the true you? What would they say? Do you have an outer shell that most people can’t penetrate? Please share your experiences or comments below.

 

We’re not all going to Eat, Pray, Love our way through life, but we can try

9 Jan

When I was a child, my mother often read out loud to me. She would never start at chapter one—instead, she patiently read every single page, including the author’s name, the illustrator, dedication, and forward. The only exception was the library of congress page, although she did always note the copyright date.

For my birthday in 2015, she sent a book entitled Stressed is Dessert Spelled Backwards, written by Brian Luke Seaward with a forward by Joan Lunden; no illustrator this time. I brought this book on a flight to San Diego. I was already well into it, enjoying it thoroughly, but needed to put it down to do something…I can’t remember what. Maybe stretch. Maybe have a drink of water. While it was lying on my tray table, the pages curling upwards, I noticed writing on one of the pages—the title page—one I had skipped because I had read the title on the cover and didn’t think it was necessary. (Sorry, mom.)

She had inscribed it, “Dear Becky, hope this is a help when you become upset. Love, Mom. August 31, 2015.” My birthday. Tears instantly came to my eyes when I read this. I was four chapters in by this time, and it was blowing my mind. I could see why she was drawn to it personally. There is a lot of reflection on the power of prayer, something my mother believes in very strongly. Both of my parents raised me to have a close relationship with God, and, though it has changed, waxed, and waned over the years, that relationship remains inside of me. Call it prayer, call it manifestation, it’s all based on a spirituality that is incredibly personal, and it gives me a connection with the universe, love, and every person on this planet.

Right now in my faith, I have decided that God is a name for life-force. Existence. Love. So when I pray, it is not necessarily to an almighty power. I am praying to myself, to a drop of water, to a strand of hair, everything that holds a vibration—energy. When I think it, when I feel it, I manifest it. We all do. The power of energy is strong.

And now I’m back home, inspired. My muse is sitting on my shoulder. He is wearing a kilt, and has a glencairn of pinot barrel-aged gin in his left hand and a whip in the other. He’s tapping his foot impatiently. So, armed the wisdom of my new-agey knowledge, I decide now is the perfect time to do something I’ve been waiting all of 2015 for. Open my happiness jar.

 

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I’m not going to lie, I saw it on Pinterest. It was January 2015. I was feeling optimistic after a fantastic New Year’s Eve and thought, what a great idea! I find a jar (in my case it was a tall cylindrical vase), decorate it, and drop in memories and trinkets that remind me how blessed I am. I told myself I would read it on New Year’s Eve 2015, but of course I ended up going to a party; you know how those things go. So tonight, a few days into the new year, I am cracking it open to see what gems I experienced over the last year. Here are a few.

  • I have two friends that, when we get together, jokingly call our group the Venus Flytraps. We occasionally have goddess gatherings at my place (or hen party, ladies night, etc.). At one of these gatherings, I decided to print out each of our horoscopes from Free Will Astrology that week on beautiful gold paper and present them to each lady. After the gathering I decided to stick it in my jar to see how it would manifest. My Virgo horoscope read as follows: It is always important to know when something has reached its end,” writes Paulo Coelho in his book The Zahir. Use this advice heroically in 2015, Virgo. Wield it to clear away anything that no longer serves you, that weighs you down or holds you back. Prepare the way for the new story that will begin for you around your next birthday. “Closing circles, shutting doors, finishing chapters,” Coelho says, “it doesn’t matter what we call it; what matters is to leave in the past those moments in life that are over.” Thud, thud, thud, goes my heart. Letting go in the last year has served me incredibly well. I let go of tired expectations about relationships, old understandings about my sensual and sexual expression. Some of you know that my boyfriend and I parted ways (although I didn’t get rid of him entirely—he is still very much a part of my life as a dear friend). I let free my assumptions about who I am as a dancer, as a runner, even as a writer. I simply am those things. I look forward to seeing what fills the space of the things I let go in the coming year.
  • A Louise Hay Power of Thought card: I allow others to be themselves. This card was handed to me after a particularly snarly interaction with a friend of mine while camping. Now, I love my friend Joe, I do. He is like the brother I never had. But as all brothers do, he gets on my nerves from time to time. And on that day, he had gotten on my last one. I blew up at him in front of 6 others in my campsite. I don’t think any of those people have ever seen me do anything but smile; I’m a pretty positive person 98% of the time. After my little tantrum, I stomped around camp for a while, drank my coffee, and avoided eye contact with my fellow campers. Then, my friend Sarah came up to me and handed me this card. She said, if you love Joe, you have to love him for who he is…flaws and all. I was embarrassed at first, but I soon realized she gave it to me in friendship, not to put me in my place. I read the back of the card: I do not try to heal my friends. I do my own mental work and heal myself. This is the best thing I can do for others. I was so humbled and grateful for Sarah in that moment. It has never left me. Ever since then, every time someone grates on me for doing something that is, in my eyes, wrong, I remember Sarah’s kind offering.
  • In the first part of the year, I cultivated a strong connection with a man who became a very close friend. He has inspired me multiple times this year, and I’ve even used his inspiration in a few of my blogs. After reading one of them, he wrote me this note. “So I re-read your blog as requested. I originally felt touched by the part about the friend who talks about his son living in every moment as I saw a connection to me. Now, knowing you wrote that about/for me I am touched even more. Thank you Becky for your kindness and your authenticity. Your (sic) truly a special person and someone someday is going to be very blessed to have you as a partner. Happy New Year and on-on.” I close my eyes now, and remember the warmth I felt when I read that note the first time, and every time thereafter. It reminds me what special and amazing souls I have in my life.
  • I attended two writing workshops this year, both of which brought me great joy. In one of the workshops, led by Kate Gray, we were tasked to write a short fiction piece. I ended up writing something about belly dance, and loved it so much that I kept it around. It contains many parts that are true to my own life as well as musings of a greater sort. Here is a short excerpt: “Here, she danced for pleasure. For art. To see her hair fly in the air as she spun in a barrel turn. To see the man drop his pita into the hummus because her muscle isolations made it seem as though her hips were no longer connected to the rest of her body. To feel beautiful in stage makeup, and feel the pure delight of washing it off at the end of the night, watching the makeup and sweat and soap bubbles slink circuitously into the drain and flow somewhere else…She grew up with rhythms from all over the world. She couldn’t imagine a life without romantic harmonies, haunting vibratos, and razor sharp words. Music moved her.” HAPPINESS!
  • If you have not read The Four Agreements, I highly recommend it. I wrote each one down and put them in my jar, and they have served me incredibly well this year. You really must read the book, but here are the agreements, in short.
Be impeccable with your word.
Don’t take anything personally.
Don’t make assumptions.
Always do your best.
  • This is an action that has never come easily to me. A friend of mine gave me a deck of cards with meditation words on them a few years ago. Surrender kept coming up for me whenever I pulled this deck out. I decided that Surrender would be my word of the year. And so I have quite happily, and continue to surrender to whatever the universe brings me.

2015 was a year of growth for me. It was not without growing pains, to be sure. Most of these times I understood that there was a bigger message, a lesson I needed to learn. I have to hand it to the universe, it can throw some seriously cockeyed lessons my way, but I do feel strongly that I needed each and every one of them, no matter how painful at the time.

I encourage you to reflect on your 2015 and come up with some of the lessons you experienced, maybe set up a happiness jar for 2016. We’re not all going to get to the other side boasting the ideal job, the perfect mate, and a flawless life, but we can absolutely appreciate the path we’ve taken to get to where we are now—exactly where we’re supposed to be at this time and place.

Naked and Absolutely F*cking Terrified

18 Sep

Last week I turned 36. I honestly hadn’t thought about it much, except for the fact that I was planning a fabulous brunch with my Portland community. (FYI, I cannot imagine a world where I will ever tire of celebrating my birthday.) Then my friend Maggie texted me with this question: So, you’re turning 36. How does it feel?

The sound of thirty-six, in theory, seems like a war cry announcing the foray into my late 30s. And yet I don’t feel like my late 30s are anything negative. I joke about being like a fine wine—better with age—but truly, growing and learning more each year makes my journey all the more fascinating.

That said, it doesn’t come without bumps and bruises of any typical adventure. There are times I feel like a 14-year old, staring at my locker at my new high school, completely unsure of who to talk to, where to look, and how to get to my next class. I push my glasses further up my nose and lift my head up so I can see where I’m going, but it doesn’t necessarily help me get there any easier.

One of these times was last Monday. It was Labor Day. My boyfriend decided to take me to Rooster Rock, part of which is sectioned off as a nude beach…which was the part he wanted to visit. For me it was the last place I would elect to lay on a beach. I don’t mind nudity, not one bit. I don’t care if you’re flopping down on your towel, swimming the river, or playing naked beach volleyball. I just personally don’t have an attraction to being the one in the nude.

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So here’s what happened. We arrived, put our picnic basket down, and stripped. Well,he did. I put on my bravest face and took everything off except my underwear. I just couldn’t go all the way. We spent the better part of three hours there, making food, dipping in the water (Okay, he did. I was too much of a sissy.), playing games, and lazing in the sun. It wasn’t busy that day, which surprised me, but there were groups on both sides of us and across the river. In the last 20 minutes or so, Nathan decided to get in the water for the final time. I stood up and was looking out at him as he swam in the river when I heard a voice.

“Looking good!!” A man in his fifties was suddenly in front of me with what looked like a benign smile…? Now, I don’t know a lot about nude beaches, but I assume that one does not comment on the physical appearance of another nude(ish) beach-goer. And you certainly don’t stare! Right?

He was so intent on looking at me, in fact, that he tripped on a scrubby bush, and sheepishly said, “I guess I better keep on walking.” I nodded with what I assumed was a shocked look on my face, unsure whether I should give him a lecture or just be relieved that he had kept on going.

Nathan saw all of this go down from the water and was at my side before the man was out of sight. I stood there, naked(ish) and self-conscious, and told him what had happened. He agreed that it was quite rude to say something of that nature on a nude beach.

Completely outside of our conversation, but deep inside my head, I felt a swirl of emotions. I was ashamed to admit to myself what had actually been my first thought: Are you talking to me? Looking good, naked? Really!? This instinctual chant played over and over. It made me feel incredibly sad, and I felt my face flush with red with embarrassment—and a little bit of anger—for thinking this way. Was I still the 14–year-old, affected by society and still unaware that people come in all shapes and sizes? That everyone deserves love and is worthy? That I should love myself most, unconditionally, and abundantly? Why should my knee-jerk reaction be that he misspoke somehow, or, worse yet, was mocking me?

Yes, as an adolescent I had more than my fair share of middle-school torture about my shape, but I’ve done a lot of self-work since then. I also know that unfortunately, it’s an ongoing battle, and that overcoming feelings of shame and imperfection is something I will always need to be aware of. I know I’m not alone. I know each and every one of us has something they are self-conscious about. I find it so comforting to have my friends and family to talk to, and a community of support that is just a click away. I love that as an adult we can own up to our weaknesses, and, though we might still feel them, have the opportunity to seek out ways to understand the human spirit, and in turn, understand ourselves.

Maybe someday I’ll believe it when a stranger tells me I’m looking good…naked.

Or maybe someday I’ll have finally learned that I don’t need to clog my mind with those little judgments I hold within me.

Roller Coaster of (Self) Love

18 Aug

Hello, friends. It has been quite a while since I’ve written something new. While I’m always learning, always evolving, sometimes I just don’t have the energy to share it with you. Now I’m ready, and I’m very excited to connect with you all again on this level. Life is funny. It sends you lessons, sometimes the same lessons you’ve seen before, over and over, but each time there is a new twist. At times I feel like life is a maze that we go in and out of—we might come out the same opening more than once, but the way that we reached it is never the same way twice.

Trying to take too much control doesn’t do anyone any good. No matter what I do, life is going to happen, and I can either get ahead of it and attempt to control it, or hang on for the ride and hope for the best. The first six months of 2015 I only had enough juice left to hang on… and maybe that was the best thing for me.

I felt lonely. I’ve been single a long time, most of you know this. It gives me a freedom that is amazing, but I was missing having a partner by my side. A month into the new year, something changed in that department. I began a beautiful journey with someone that took me places I never expected. We didn’t put a label on it; we were simply companions, mindful of the love between us and with a goal of becoming better and more aware partners to the people we would encounter down the road.

I spent much of my energy on others. My mother had double knee replacement in June, so I went to care for her for three weeks. Oh boy, did I have high hopes for those three weeks. I was going to get some serious writing done while seeing my school buddies, all while taking care of my mother. That turned out to be a pipe dream. I was working 24/7. When you can’t walk or stand for long periods, there are a lot of things you can’t do…I guess I hadn’t taken that into consideration. I thought I’d be cooking a meal here and there, driving her to the physical therapist and the library…that kind of thing. I did those, plus a hundred more. It was all day long. Every night I fell into bed without an iota of strength to write or even brainstorm. I can’t, however, say that it was all slaving and no fun. I got to see some loved ones. I played some righteous games of Bananagrams. I shopped…and I took care of my mother, who spent 18 years and some change making sure I turned out okay. She deserved every drop of energy I spent on her.

I met someone. Everyone told me It happens when you least expect it—I promise to never, ever say this to a single girlfriend EVER—but it was true in my case. I was finally not sweating the details or intently looking for something serious. Then I got a text from the person I would least have expected it from, which led to an amazing first date and, several more dates down the line, a wonderful boyfriend.

I was having fun. I was laughing with friends, allowing myself pleasure, running, dancing, eating good food, drinking cocktails, hashing, reading, working, hugging, giggling, meeting new people, travelling. I was running myself ragged. It didn’t give me much time to think about things, which is something I tend to do when I have lots to think about! I became somewhat emotionally lazy. At times I stressed myself out worrying. If there is one thing I am sure about myself, it’s that I’m not a lazy person. So why did it feel like I was changing in an undesirable direction?

I got lost in the whirlwind of all these things for a moment. Silly me. I thought I finally knew exactly who I was, what I wanted, and who my community consisted of. I constantly had to remind myself that everything is in its rightful place, at the right pace. And my world shifted, as it always does.

It was scary and incredible. As humans, we should never have all the answers. We should constantly be changing. Part of that is allowing yourself to recognize the gift of taking breaks. Taking time to smell the roses, if you want to wax poetic about it. One thing I always hear about myself is how busy I am. How many plans I make. What if I were to let life come to me for once so I could enjoy the ride, instead of always chasing control?

I know the universe will always provide me with prospects. I just have to slow down, give that control freak a breather, and welcome those opportunities when they come, with the understanding that the maze is always going to change; all I have to do is be present inside of it.