trust the process

I have been carrying some heavy stuff.

Literally, carrying it like a ton of horrendously heavy bricks, in my lower back.

I kept thinking that I was unusually calm about my move. Yeah, I was crying here and there when I’d say goodbye to friends or think too much about being far away from my family but, in general, I felt cool as a cucumber.  Until exactly one week before my flight when every single emotion I was feeling moved right into my lower back and made itself at home. Classic. The plane ride was somewhat brutal; if not for my adrenaline and some Tylenol PM, I’m sure I would have had to lie down in the aisle and cry.  I did come close to having a full cavity search at the Frankfurt airport because I forgot to take off my CVS one-use heating pad before I went through security. Needless to say, I arrived in India unable to get up from sitting down without limping and groaning.

I have been carrying Change. And all of the unknown that comes along with it.

My new friend Diane empathized and made me an appointment for an Ayurvedic massage.  It was time to begin making things right between my mind and my body and, as it turns out, there is an Ayurvedic center just a walk down the beach away from my house.

Never one to turn away from massage, I went for it.

And…I wore a loincloth.

No discreet removal of the clothes and tucking away under a blanket with a soft knock on the door to see if I’m ready.

Papadhi directed me to undress, tied a loincloth on me and escorted me to a wooden table. All without saying a word.

If I hadn’t been so scantily clad, I might have bolted from the room then and there but as I climbed up on that hard wooden table and Papadhi prayed over the oil she just heated and touched one drop to the center of my forehead, I knew I was right where I was meant to be.

I closed my eyes and let the treatment that millions before me have received, over thousands of years, unfold.

After the hot oil rub and pounding of my scalp that left me looking like Sai Baba, Papadhi vigorously massaged the oil into each of my limbs, into my belly, my back and neck and then led me to the corner of the room…

I sat down on a little stool inside a steaming box, Papadhi closed the hatch, leaving only my head sticking out and I promptly began to freak out. My calm, Ayurveda bliss disappeared.  My mind was whirling: how can I hold myself up like this? how long will I be in here? what if sweat drips into my eye? how long will I be in here? how long will I be…and then Papadhi left the room.

I was stuck. Alone. Naked. In a hot box.

what if I have to get out and I can’t get out? what if 10 guys come through that door? what if she never comes back?

I closed my eyes (solution to sweat not dripping in), I relaxed my shoulders (solution to holding my head up) and I took a deep breath (solution to everything else). And then another breath.

I breathed some more and reminded myself to trust the process.  (Millions of people, over thousands of years, wouldn’t think this was transformative if they were having anxiety attacks every time they had a treatment…)

When Papadhi let me out I almost fainted. I was buck naked except for my loincloth, with a giant afro, sweating like a beast and unable to see, but I felt just right.  Papadhi rubbed all of my stress to the surface and then gave me space to sweat out my fear of the unknown.

I walked home on the beach smiling, feeling lighter; waves crashing, wind blowing, kids playing cricket in the sand.

be here now

Before I moved to India I spent a lot of time thinking about shoes.  Ask my friend Denise, she’ll tell you.

I obsessed over open-toe vs. closed-toe, the benefits of a rinsable, recyclable sandal, whether I’d need sneakers or sport sandals (yuck!) and everything else shoe related one could possibly obsess over.

When I was done with shoes, I moved on to over-thinking about pants, about toiletries, about exactly how much contact solution a girl might need before she can hit up Target again in a year.

And now I’m here.

I am here where it’s dusty and sandy and wet and dirty and hot and all at once smells wonderful and then, in an instant, terrible. I am here where the roads end without warning and the traffic is insane and there are no rules but there are so many rules and there are cows in the streets and the same dog is everywhere and the people… the people!

Women draped in bright saris, loops of jasmine in their hair. Men in lungis with wild hair and mustaches galore. Knobby-kneed children in finely pressed school uniforms walk in groups giggling and swinging invisible cricket bats.

Tuk-tuks barrel down the road, tooting horns, blaring horns, birds, birds and more birds, the lovely, loopy lilt of people speaking Tamil in the streets, waves crashing outside of my bedroom window.

Everything is new. My senses are on serious overdrive and shoes and pants and all that other stuff I was trying to control?

None of it matters.

I’m here. Now.

street scene

listen.trust.grow.fly.

I ask my kids at school a big question when they are at a crossroads.  It’s not anything major. It’s not even original.  Some of them roll their eyes. Some of them spout out some ideas about what that might look like. Some of them go inside themselves and really think on it.

Last Spring I asked an 8th grader the question.

“This is your one life, what do you want it to be?” and while he sat there wrinkling his nose and rubbing his buzzcut, I thought to myself, “My one life.  my one LIFE. My ONE life. MY one life. MY ONE LIFE!!!!!!!”

My life? It’s kind of amazing. It doesn’t fit into a box, but it’s kind of amazing and I want it to continue to be amazing and I want to continue to grow and change and be excited and feel grounded and laugh my head off and love deeply and be moved by encounters with strangers and have adventures in places that rock me right to my core.

And, then, I remembered that the kid sitting across from me in my office was still there.  He wasn’t sure what he wanted his life to be yet but he knew that there were things he wants to do and that someday he’d like to have his own car and go to a real NFL game. And that made me remember that there are things that I’ve always wanted to do that I haven’t done yet and I’d better get to it.

Last Summer I felt my heart beating faster when I started thinking about a new adventure.  In Autumn I felt myself light up inside when I’d look at the world map that hangs above my desk at work.  This Winter I took the plunge and accepted a job offer at an international school in Chennai, India.

And today it’s snowing and I have never seen anything quite so beautiful.

That’s what happens when I do what is real and right for me. Everything becomes more beautiful.

I walked in the snow just now thinking about how this might be the last blizzard I see for awhile. About how my life in Hartford is so rich. I thought about my dad’s kitchen table that he made out of the tiles from the kitchen in our old house on Annawan St. and how much I love to sit at that table with him.  I have love and comfort and stability and the waitstaff at the coffee shop hug me when I come in. Hartford is my home; my people are here.

And because of that love and comfort and richness and that little 8th grader with the buzzcut, my wings emerge. I choose to do what moves me. What makes me feel alive. What challenges me and takes me out of my comfort zone and enables me to grow into a different space.

Being grounded is about how you stand on the earth no matter where on earth you stand.  I am moving to India. I am following my heart and my dreams and my gut. I am moving on from an amazing job that has allowed me to grow in ways that I never could have imagined. I am letting go of things that I thought that I needed that no longer serve me.  I am moving away from people that make my life amazing. I am trusting that love will transcend time and space and challenges and that the people who love me will love me through this.

My one life…I am flying with the feeling of following through on something that I have always dreamed of. The discomfort feels comfortable. Strangely, I feel grounded as I take flight.

And these wings? They look pretty good on me.

tree

hope for aching hearts

Today the unthinkable happened.

Sandy Hook: Tragedy. Chaos. Pure Craziness on a beautiful, crisp Friday morning.

Somewhere along the way, somehow, something very wrong happened and someone’s life became such a mess that he took it upon himself to destroy the lives of others. Innocent people.

This isn’t new. It happened earlier this week in a mall in Oregon. It happened in a movie theater in Colorado this summer. It happened in a Sikh temple earlier this year. It happened…

Today it happened in my backyard; in Connecticut. It happened to little kids. Kids the same age as my nephew. It happened to educators; people who have given their lives over to helping others. THAT is my backyard; in fact, kids and educators? THAT is   my front yard.

And when something awful happens so close to home…

Anger. Sadness. Confusion. Helplessness. All of this swirling around and around…I’m not quite sure what to do with how I feel about this and I am an adult. An adult with some pretty seriously intact emotional wherewithal.

So, where does a tragedy like this leave our kids? Likely, angry, sad, confused and feeling helpless. (We really are just bigger versions of them in so many ways.)

I’m not an expert on kids. I don’t have my own. But I do spend a lot of time with other people’s kids and I can’t stop thinking about them and kids all over the country tonight. And here is what I hope for them in the coming days…

I hope they get hugged by their parents. Long and true hugs; the kind that feel like ending the hug is unthinkable. I want my kids to know that they are loved, deeply and unconditionally and not just because something bad happened today.

I hope they can talk with their families and loved ones about all that has happened; that they can get the information they feel they need without getting too much information that might make them hurt more. I hope they can have conversations about this tragedy, honest conversations, so they can move through the muck, put it into context and process what has happened in a healthy way.

I hope they have someone who will listen to them. Someone who will listen to their hurt, their confusion about how something so terrible could happen; someone who will listen to their fear and just be there for them without telling them not to be afraid. If they are afraid, than that is theirs to feel. I hope someone will just hold that fear with them so it doesn’t feel so heavy.

I hope they have at least one adult who can put aside their own anxiety and anger and sadness to just really be there for them.

I hope they turn off their TVs and choose to spend their time with people they love doing things that they love, rather than being saturated with all of the craziness on TV. We need the media, but sometimes, it’s just too much for our hearts. Kids’ hearts need less media, enough said.

I hope they will know that if they are ever so troubled that they feel like they might break, that they reach out. That they come to a parent or an aunt or uncle or neighbor or teacher or school counselor or friend and say, “I need help,” before things get out of hand.

I hope they will look at all of this ugliness and see a little bit of something good. Because in all of this tragedy there is a whole lot of humanity; there are a whole lot of people flooding a grieving community with love. I hope they will see how people hold other people up, how strength isn’t about muscle, it’s about heart.

I hope they will know that their innocence, their wonder, their youthful energy is still in them, even though it feels like it’s been lost today. That their strength is what reminds us that while all seems crazy in this moment and while sometimes life goes off the rails, the world is full of goodness and compassion.

My heart aches for the families of Newtown and for children all across our country whose lives will be forever changed by what happened today.

I know that my heart is just one in a collective of hearts, billions, that ache tonight.

We are a collective; a community of hearts, so, let’s be there for each other. Not just because something bad has happened, but every day.

Let’s really be there for each other every single day.

xoxo

 

 

snuggling with words

Back in the days before the internet I was a letter-writing maniac.

I wrote letters to friends like it was my side job; letters on note paper, on stationary, on napkins, on balloons. I was all about the lengthy, hard-to-read handwritten letter full of details about what I’d been up to, how I felt, all that I hoped for, and on and on. I wrote letters to friends who lived far away and friends who I saw everyday in school. I wrote because I loved connecting and it felt good to share how I felt with my friends and because maintaining friendships required keeping in touch and checking in and I wrote because I loved the feeling of getting a letter in return.

I was one of those kids that ran to the mailbox everyday.

Now I just get bills. And election flyers. And Crate and Barrel catalogs. And more Crate and Barrel catalogs. And bills.

While digging around in the attic at my dad’s house a few weeks back I found a shoebox of old letters. I found a postcard my dad had sent me at camp, a note my mom wrote in her beautiful cursive to me while I was laid up in the hospital in Russia, a card my niece drew when she was just three years old, a letter my brother wrote to me when I was in high school and missing him. I found a letter that I had written to my grandmother when I was in first grade that she had tucked into a book that I kept when she died, a card from my grandpa in his scribbly handwriting, a letter folded into a tiny square from our dear Kerwin who died too young.

Treasures.

In this digital age, those tangible handwritten treasures are few and far between. We tweet, we text, we facebook, we email. We delete.  We quickly read and quickly dash off notes but we keep in touch. We cyber-snuggle. We share. We check in. Though I no longer have a shoebox full of proof, when my phone beeps that I have a text or I see an email from an old friend in my inbox, I feel that same   feeling I would get when I’d peek into our mail basket and see familiar handwriting on an envelope back in the day.

Happiness that someone is thinking of me. Privileged that someone chose me to share their thoughts with. Joy in connecting with another.

Letter, note, card, text, tweet, inbox message…connecting is what it’s all about.

It feels good to reach out and to be reached out to.

Nothing can delete that feeling.

xoxo

 

 

waiting for sandy

So I’m sitting around waiting for a hurricane to hit.

The trees outside my window are swaying, the sky is grey. I’ve got a pile of books to read but no groceries because I went out for ice cream sundaes with friends last night instead of scrounging for batteries and stocking up on non-perishables.

It’s the calm before the storm.

Everyone is in deep speculation mode. How hard will this hit? How many will lose power? How long will we lose power? Will Halloween be cancelled? Will everyone be okay??

The questions are endless.

And as we sit and wait, no one knows the answers. No matter how much internet trolling I do, no matter how much Weather Channel I watch, no matter how many times I get out of bed to peak out of the window in the middle of the night; this is going to be what it’s going to be.

Everyone’s got a storm style. There are folks who plan and prepare and take care of business. Folks who freak out and worry and worry and worry. Folks who think everyone else is crazy for even talking about the storm. Folks who get excited.

Maybe our storm styles are a reflection of how we approach the unpredictability of life.

I can’t control what Sandy will bring, so all I can do is be. I’m the calm through the storm.

So on this blustery, weird day, I’m headed to where I feel safest and happiest during a storm: in my pjs hunkered down with a dear old friend.

(Stay safe and warm everyone. xoxo)

20121029-140659.jpg

susie’s got her groove back

Oh, okay. I never really lost it…

But it’s officially Fall and I just like the sound of that: I’ve got my groove back. I’m getting my groove on. I’m in the groove. Grooving.

These first days of Fall are delicious. When the air starts to feel crisp and sleeping with the windows open means pulling the covers tight and snuggling in, when sandals get traded for boots and the leaves begin to change… A perfect time to reflect on what’s gone by and what is to come.

The past few months have been a bit of a whirlwind. Summer vacation, a major hiatus from my computer, lots of little trips to here and there… it was the Summer of Yes!

Saying yes is easy when you don’t have a shower or a toilet for two months. Yup, that’s right. I had no shower or toilet for two months. This summer included the DIY transformation of my hideous bathroom into a sparkly, beautiful new bathroom! For this, I have my amazing Dad to thank. I said yes to his offer to help me with the renovation; he said yes to helping me and took on the project with such enthusiasm and energy, I can’t say that I did much other than cheer him on. I can say that this was truly a labor of love… it was not an easy project.

The moral of the story is that one has to be resourceful when without a shower and toilet! So YES! I was open to whatever came my way. I said yes to opportunities. I ate out. I went to the beach. I road-tripped with my mom. I picnicked. I visited the beach my family camped at when I was little. I drove to Rhode Island to spend a few hours on the beach. I chilled with my family and my oldest friend. I danced my butt off with old friends. I flew to Florida and laughed myself silly with the girls. I went wine tasting with new friends. I visited my camp GALS. I carried a bag full of necessities with me wherever I went and I said yes to any invitation that came my way… it was a wonderful summer!

And so it’s Fall. And things are changing…

It’s time to let go of the pieces of myself that no longer serve me. It’s time to prepare for the hunkering down, to take a good look at  life and see what I really need to move forward.

I learned a lot in this Summer of Yes that I will take with me into this transformative time:

  • It is the people in my life that make my life beautiful. Wherever I am. No matter what.
  • Laughing rocks. Even when crying seems more logical.
  • Being there matters. It matters to someone. It matters in ways that are immeasurable.
  • Sometimes there is nothing to say. So don’t say anything. Just hug.
  • This is your one life. So live it. Live it big.
  • Maybe the things we think we really need aren’t really the things we need.
  • Love is the best.

It’s amazing what you figure out when you don’t have a toilet.

Groove is in the heart.

sawubona: i see you

I waited 23 minutes at the dentist today.

The hygienist offered me a magazine but the pickings were slim so I opted to look out the window instead. The reclining chair left me just right with a perfect view of the slanted slate roof and a big old tree outside. In that 23 minutes I saw four different kinds of birds.

Framed by the antique window, I saw them through a different lens. A little bird with a bright yellow breast hopped along the peak in the roof. A robin with something stuck in it’s feathers fluttered and fluffed and fretted before flying away. A crow popped in with a crooked smile and was gone in an instant, surely up to something. A cardinal landed gently on a limb and stayed just long enough for me to marvel at his red feathers. Just before the dentist came in I remembered that these little magical creatures can fly!

Birds. Holy smokes. They are kind of amazing. And they’re all around us and we see them all of the time but, it’s been years since I remembered how freaking cool they are, how resilient, how resourceful, how high they can fly.

How many other amazing things in my life have just become so much a part of the day-to-day, part of the normal, part of the giant blur of all that is around me that I forget to really see them?

Just as the crow disappeared, I thought of my students at school.

I thought of my seniors, kids that I have seen every day for seven years. Kids that I have lost sleep over, kids that have struggled through things that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, kids that have risen above grief and trauma and loss and poverty and gossip and failures, kids that have it all, kids that have a little and share like they have a lot, kids that stopped being kids long before they should have had to. I thought of all they have gone through to get to this very moment.

And while these seven years with them have all blurred together, on Saturday as they received their diplomas, as they looked me in the eye on their way off the stage, as they tossed their caps in the air, I saw each of them.

I remembered how freaking cool they are, how resilient, how resourceful, how high they can fly.

crazy, stupid, mindfulness

Yesterday I had one of those days.

You know, one of those days where no matter what you do, nothing goes your way? Yup, that was my Tuesday.

I had a pinched nerve in my neck. I woke up an hour late. I rushed to work, arriving late, only to walk into a big, ugly girl-fight as I came off of the elevator. Decided that my pinched-nerve-self needed to break up the fight, which then left me all shaky and freaked out. I got my haircut and couldn’t pay because in all of my rushing, I grabbed the wrong bag and forgot my wallet.

Stupid day.

Nothing horrible. Just stupid.

A stupid day every once in a blue moon is good for me. It brings me back to the moment. It makes me remember that all of my busy, crazy, rushing, overworking, nuttiness is just that: busy and crazy and nutty. No matter how much I try to control things and put everything in its place, I’m still going to have a ridiculous day every now and then. There will always be things that just don’t go the way I want them to go.

And so?

I breathe. Deeply.

I slow down.

I call someone who will marvel at how tired I must have been to sleep through my alarm clock blaring for an hour. I call someone who will laugh at the image of me jumping into a fight and pulling some angry girls (and a 40 year old!) off of each other. I call someone who will tell me that it’s okay to take the battery out of my butt and just relax.

And then, once I’ve stopped? I see what has been in front of me all along.

This moment.

Pretty freaking amazing.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“What day is it?” asked Pooh.

“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.

“My favorite day,” said Pooh.”

– A. A. Milne

roots and wings

Staying put was never my thing.

There was a time when I moved every two years, at least. I itched for change. For the rush of starting something new, carving out space in an unknown corner. I traveled, I moved. I made friends, started to get settled, and than picked up and moved again. Sometimes I’d move back to my hometown for a bit and then take off again. I was in full on flying mode, wings ever at the ready; I knew I wasn’t ready to put down roots just yet.

And that made my life pretty interesting.

In 2004, I wound up on a road trip in the Kalahari Desert with a great friend, her mom, and her stepsister. Four women piled in a jeep, cruising through desolate southern Africa; it was really something. At the time, I was living in New York City, just finished grad school and had turned down counseling jobs in the Bronx and Shanghai. I had no idea what I was going to do when I got back to the U.S., so my desert adventure was a perfect detour. We spent our days spotting rare birds and springboks, goemsboks, and zebra, chatting with San Bushmen. At night, we’d crouch in shelters overlooking watering holes, hoping to spot a lion, drinking tea out of thermoses, whispering and giggling in the cold.

One night, I looked up at the amazing, huge, sky and marveled at the sight of it. Clear. Limitless. Not so unlike the sky I’d seen lying on my back in the front yard at home. I knew in that moment, that whatever I ended up choosing to do, wherever I ended up choosing to go next, it would be right; I could feel it in my gut.

And so weeks later when walking down Farmington Avenue, rocking my favorite pink “Glam is Back” t-shirt, I listened to that feeling in my stomach when the opportunity to move back home presented itself. Worlds away from the Kalahari, I conjured up that clarity and though it seemed crazy to be 29 and moving from the greatest city in the world back to Hartford, I heard what my heart was telling me.

Seven and a half years later, I am so grateful that I listened.

I wound up back in little old Hartford, whose sidewalks I know as well as my own palms. Whose homes cradle the people that I love. Whose streets inspire me, challenge me, remind me. I wound up wonderfully enmeshed in the lives of family and old friends, in the families of my friends; challenged by carving out a new space for myself in the place that I knew so well but that had changed as much as I had.

I wound up working in a school where I am happy to go each day. Where I have found so much joy and reward; where I have been part of building something exceptional. I wound up being one of the lucky people on this earth who get to make a bit of a difference each day; working in a place with people who have empowered me to grow in ways that I never could have imagined that day on Farmington Avenue when my phone rang.

At the time, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I felt like everything in my life was up in the air. I was mourning the end of a phase of my life and reveling in the beginning of another. I was scared. I was completely in flux.

Today? The flux continues.

And as it does, I go back to that quiet night under the stars; I conjure up the Kalahari clarity and remind myself that change is good; it’s not comfortable, but it is good. I give myself permission to reflect on all that for which I am grateful. I remind myself to trust the process, to trust my gut.

No matter what kind of noise is crowding my mind, my gut is always worth listening to. It has led me to some amazing people, some unlikely places and some experiences that made no sense to me until they were long over, but, my gut, it knows a thing or two.

This time, I don’t need to go to the desert to listen to myself. While my life may not be quite as exciting and interesting and story-worthy as it was back when I was rootless, footloose and fancy free, the flux feels powerful and exciting instead of scary.

And while I haven’t put away my wings entirely, my roots are here, at home; deep and strong and full of hope.

Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries

%d bloggers like this: