Wednesday, April 20, 2011

love encouragement

I have many fears about marriage. About its ability to last and still be, well, fun. Mostly I'm scared about the hard times, because I know nobody is immune to them, and sometimes I worry that I used up all my "hard times" energy on my first marriage, and have nothing left for my future. (I think that's mainly an indicator that I just need to keep drinking deeply from this season of replenishment... drinking, specifically, on the beach in Grenada.)

There aren't a lot of older role models for the kind of marriage you hope you'll have, at least, not that you notice right away.

Enter Jeff Bridges. Married 28 years to a "normal" girl. I just got done reading two interviews with him about it, and I feel all warm and glowy inside. He makes sense. He's not, for instance, BSing to hide being gay (sorry Tom Cruise). He genuinely likes her, and you can see it in the microexpressions and body languages of their photos if you search "Jeff and Susan Bridges" on Google Images.

His most encouraging quote, which I love because it is honest about struggle without making the struggle sound like drudgery: "We've been married over 20 years and your marriage is bound to be tested, and every time it is and you're able to grow from that, then your love becomes bigger. You say, 'Gee, I thought that was the boundary; I thought my love was only that big.' But your love can grow and hold the thing that you thought was going to tear it apart and just make it like another piece of fruit in the bowl."

A great, short but full description of their love story, by him, here.

Friday, April 15, 2011

two small miracles

I was wrapping up my short stint of free counseling at Belmont yesterday. We were doing a "safe place visualization" exercise, which begins with placing all worries, concerns, and burdens in a metaphorical basket to the side in your mind.

"Why were you smiling in the beginning?" Leslie asked me when we finished.

Because I had nothing to put in the basket.

Ladies and gents, that was an almost-decade victory.

p.s. While wearing my new shades & walking to Walgreens yesterday, I got honked at three times. Three. That's never happened before, except when I was a teenager in Mexico.

My inner critic: "It's because shallow easy girls wear huge sunglasses and guys know it even from 50 feet away." (I know. She's a bitch, isn't she?) My inner scientist: "Huh, it's been spring for a month, so guys are in full sexual swing." No pun intended. My inner woman: "It's because I was walking confident cause I love my sunglasses." My inner girl: "YESSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!"

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

take my heart

I am about to start reading John O'Donohue's "Anam Cara," and I am ready for it to rock my world. And I just want to share this song with you, which perfectly captures three themes of late:

1. the restoration of childlikeness
2. profound heart connection
3. India

As the moon kindles the night
as the wind kindles the fire
as the rain fills every ocean
and the sun, the earth

your heart will kindle my heart.

Take my heart,
Take my heart,
kindle it with your heart
and my heart cannot be kindled without you

(without so MANY of my yous! Nathan - Jenny - Rilian - Mama - Christy - Everett - Eden - Daddy - Megan - Kelsey - Micah - Ann - Gideon - Rachel - Ella - Maria... and that is just the beginning.)


A crush on India has been sneaking up on me. There's a stunning National Geographic documentary on Netflix instant streaming, if you want to join me in the lusciousness.

I think it's because of their sexuality. I think it is healing for me. Caste system aside, there are a lot of positives in the way they adorn women - bangles, shine everywhere, the celebration of curves, exotic exuberant patterns, love of the belly... The women are inherently stunning. I mean, they don't walk out the door without a diamond in the middle of their forehead.

I don't want to hide my luscious femininity. Despite the existence of abuse, rape, all kinds of dysfunction - sexuality is still, fundamentally, a good thing, and should be celebrated. Yeah, the mystery of it is important (Indians love their veils), but don't banish it so much that it becomes negative.

I like that there are positive images of female gods in Hinduism. It is good to be a woman. It is good to find both heaven and earth in the way we are made, and in love. I am finding God in India and her colors and light.

what is it??

Beauty. Today I decided I am going to try to push myself out of my comfort zone a little more with it, again. It started a couple weeks ago, when I went to Forever 21 with my friend Sara and she encouraged me to practically drip myself with their jewelry. I had an anxiety attack because I was going out of my comfort zone by buying 4 (GASP) 4 pairs of earrings in one trip. This is about $25 at Forever 21. It was just - so decadent. And I am a preacher of good decadence. But still. I needed her prodding. I needed her to validate, "It's okay, you're worth this, I'm not judging you for this, you look beautiful."

(Earlier that day, I had read one of my daily "good with money for women" e-mails talking about the dangers of those spending sprees where you get a new dress, and then you just HAVE to get new shoes and jewelry to go with, and then suddenly you've racked up $500 on your credit card. And I was like, HA!!!! Though I do not think of myself as great with money, I have never done that before. Never. I agonize over every purchase, dress, shoes, otherwise. I overthink every single one to death to stop myself from buying things I won't use and don't really want. So when Sara and I were done in the dressing room finding some dresses for me to wear in Spain, and she said, "Now it's time to accessorize!" I was like, "What?! Really?! I don't think I've ever done that before - got some earrings to match a dress - YEAH!" And it was very good for me to go against the advice of that e-mail, because I had the $25 to spend on those earrings.)

I'm trying to wear my nails a little longer than I would normally, than I think is "practical." Yeah, they kind of bug me, but it's good for me. It's good for me to squirm a little for beauty. It's good for me to stop judging those women who have long nails.

Know who else I've judged in the past? Sue Monk Kidd in her novel the Mermaid's Chair, with a sex scene involving, among other things, the main character wearing matching bra and undies. Pshaw. Who has the time for such things? What a waste of money. What a stupid idealistic materialistic detail to include in her fantasy.

Guess what I must secretly want? Enough money to buy a matching bra and undies. (Or, to have sex with a monk. But lucky for me, that part just made me go, "Huh," not "Harumph!".) Which I could have if I tweaked a little here and there.

But I don't think I deserve that. I'm like 50% pretty to myself, and 50% ugly.* Half my photos pass muster, and half of them make me want to run. Half of my body I am proud to display, and half I want to hide from, even in my own mind. I am a product of the advertising age, and I'm a visual person to boot, so I can spot every good and bad thing about my face & body down to minutia. Most women can, but it can get OCD for me. And/or perfectionistic.

I think I don't deserve certain clothes, or a choice of spring pretty earrings, until I'm my optimal weight. I know I could be 10 pounds better. I know it. But guess what? I need to push myself, now. Like how in yoga, you're supposed to go to your "edge," where you feel warmth in your muscles, where you know you are stretching yourself.

I'm stretching my beauty comfortability threshold, even if I'm not at an optimal place. Most of those Forever 21 earrings are bigger than I usually wear, but I'm going for it. And guess who else I've judged? Women who wear those big Jackie O sunglasses. I thought they look like fly glasses. I thought they scream "Look at me, I have to hide behind these because I don't actually think I'm pretty." But that's not true, because Audrey Hepburn rocked them. They actually say, "I am gutsy enough to risk looking like a glamazon, and I don't give a fuck what you think." (Also, I recently realized, they actually shade more of your skin and eyes, so are more pragmatic & helpful.)

So, um, yeah. This Midwestern girl in the city is letting go of some more inhibitions and rules. Don't judge. Or, if you do, realize it, and come join me in the fun. Because, though it feels awkward, it *is* FUN. I dare you: take $25 and go to Forever 21. I don't care if you're Forever 75. Get thee a pair of shades and 2-3 earrings. I DARE YOU.

awesome boob shape courtesy of Victoria's Secret Biofit and the extra 10 lbs.

(*Seeing the 50% good has been a battle, and victory. If you weren't one of the "pretty popular girls" in school, which I wasn't, you think you are -100. Or maybe -80 or -75, but definitely not +50. Here's the secret that I finally realized the pretty girls don't want us to know: jewelry and makeup and the right haircut and decent clothes give you a HUGE BOOST, inside and out, and make you feel, well, at least 75%, no matter who you are. You might not be a model, but you'll look pretty darn awesome if you just allow yourself to drip with jewelry sometimes. Don't let the mean girls steal all the good stuff. It's yours for the taking as much as theirs.)


Sunday, April 10, 2011

happy list, go!

1. trusting more, mostly
2. sunshine is here to stay, 70s for the 10-day forecast
3. Eden is 4 and is almost potty-trained (judge not lest you be judged)
4. the semester is almost over and I get to be done with these classes
5. Nate is moving to a new apartment that is 4.6 miles away instead of 11.7
6. there will be a thunderstorm tomorrow, probably
7. i feel pretty
8. i will be in Grenada eating tapas one month from today
9. i walked in a stream on saturday while Nate swung on a tree vine
10. i didn't use caps, because i don't have to

Thursday, April 7, 2011

It's very true, we tend to write when we've got something to get out and vent about, and not so much when we are satisfied. At least, that's true of me. So I just wanted to say here, all is well. It's the first Thursday I haven't breathed a huge sigh of relief to have FINALLY reached, which means my vitamin D levels must just be absolutely humming along. It's Nate's birthday, and I am glad he has been alive for 27 years. For exactly 2 months of every year, I get to be only 2 years older than him. (We were both born on 7 dates, and our Enneagram numbers are 7s... yay numerology.)

I am preparing for a season of travel. I've got all the tedious prep stuff basically in place, and that is GREAT. I'm also pondering writing a book, almost the way you ponder having a baby. I know enough about both from experience to approach with fear & trembling. Nate says this is a healthy thing, and that helped. I will never write for the sake of writing. I want to entertain, and help. There are a lot of books out there that don't need to be out there. Mostly, I'm scared of entering the public arena again, where you get haters. But a life without haters is a life half-lived. I've got opinions, I might as well share them.

p.s. I was noticing how often I write in CAPITALS to express my EMOTIONS. And thinking that might be silly. But then I just came across Martha Beck saying this. "You learned how to act abstemious, not needy. You learned never to show anyone how much you wanted something, or let people see how thrilled you were to get it. Most of us believe that overt demonstrations of either desire or fulfillment are deeply unwise, that they leave us frighteningly vulnerable in both personal and professional settings, that they attract sharks.

My observations suggest that this belief is composed mainly of road apples. My least successful clients, the ones who just can't seem to get their lives together, tend to be the most obsessed with hiding their emotional reactions." Probably because emotions are where the truth is.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

sneaky mama!

My mom came up with a very good idea to have an "Exercise Challenge Club" for my siblings & her. We have to exercise 16 times a month for 30 minutes per time (20 for my pregnant sister) and then at the end we get a $35ish treat, funded by her & my dad and "gifted" by a different person every month (who also e-mails everybody BUT the person so that everybody gets to get excited about what the person is getting). My mom is so good at this kind of thing, and always has been - a) keeping the family connected, b) making something "yucky" feel fun or like a game, c) planning and structuring things so that they can actually be followed through on.

3 months recently completed, and most of us have met our goal every month. There is always a big last-minute, 7 days in a row kinda push. :-)

This month was extra fun because unbeknownst to me, while they were visiting and we were out shopping, my mom had my sisters sneak back to a jewelry boutique we were at in downtown Franklin to buy a necklace that had really stood out to me but that I had been too perfectionistic/hard on myself to take the risk on. I LOVE IT! It's curly and has wooden and gold and green beads. It's unique. It's wavy and fun. I will wear it a LOT this summer.

Also, I realized from my complaining in that sick-Eden post... It's time to push myself to the next level with makeup and hair and wardrobe again. The spring energy is here and I can ride that wave towards feeling better about myself in concrete ways, like taking the extra time to put some eyeshadow and thicker liner on, blow-drying my hair, throwing on a new Forever 21 dress. I swear, *never fails,* when I am feeling jealous pissiness about someone, I can completely eliminate the feeling by incorporating whatever it is I'm jealous of into my life - got that tip from Martha Beck. (For instance, Mat Kearney's styled wife - I just needed the little extra makeup and shine stuff in my hair! Or all the actresses I feel pangs from while watching in movies - taking an acting class WORKS.)

p.s. My nails have stayed longish and painted for nearly two weeks. This is a FEAT. The last time this happened was at least 3 years ago.

Friday, April 1, 2011

kicking ass, peacefully

So, I'll let you onto something: I am dating the Karate Kid. Nate was a national Tae Kwan Do champion when he was 14. He had to train with adults, and he tended to beat them.

I am the opposite of the Karate Kid. My ancestors were peaceful Norweigan agrarians who migrated from one beautiful, cold place (Norway) to another (Wisconsin), a place where everyone had to be (and still generally is) kind and helpful to each other in order to survive.

This creates an interesting dynamic for us. I like that Nate is a fighter, can protect me. And I help calm him down, "pacify" him.

He's been looking for a martial art to get back into, and he wants me to do it with him. I think we found something that will satisfy both of us, called Aikido. It's like yoga only better: a beautiful peaceful environment, you touch & are touched by other human beings in the process, you raise your heart rate, you wear an elegant badass uniform while doing it, you learn self-defense, and you even get to fence! The movements are graceful, almost like dancing, and I felt like I had reaped the benefits of meditating just from observing the class for an hour. I had one of those "gosh I'm lucky to live in the city" moments of gratitude about it last night.

The Japanese fellow who developed it had learned & studied 30 other martial arts before his training culminated in the creation of this particular form. The philosophy totally jives with how I want to be.

It is essential that we recognize that peace is not just an unattainable goal but a real possibility. In our ever shrinking world, world peace must be our ultimate goal. It is important to understand that strife and conflict are not preordained to be irrevocable conditions of human life. It is also essential that we recognize that the enormous waste of energy and resources that are a natural byproduct of conflict are no longer affordable by a world economy. Nations must conserve these assets in order to relieve the conditions that serve as the root initiators of the conflict.