Tripping in a Time Machine


The time machine: old papers, objects, pictures, and memories.

Four boxes of stuff. Papers. Clutter. Memorabilia.

I have spent the last couple of nights doing an archeological dig in the life of Kary, of my life. I dumped out the boxes and sifted into piles according to timeline. A tiny elementary pile, a towering high school pile, a colossal college pile (really, not just for the beauty of alliteration), and then three small piles of my “adult life” separated by geography (the few months in Albuquerque, the six years in the Twin Cities, and the ten years living in Colorado).

Sifting through the memorabilia, I found: notes from high school friends folded in that particular school-note-origami-way, high school track medals and ribbons, numerous certificates of participation and appreciation, newspaper clippings, issues of newspapers from high school and college that I helped edit and write, long letters from friends and my younger sister, birthday cards and graduation cards, notes from my mother, postcards from friends and family, and, well, a lot of other papers. Oh, and lots and lots of photographs, some faded, some blurry, but most full of the faces of the friends and family I love.

I sifted through some of this a couple of years ago and then found another box of paper in the last year, tucked in between some boxes of my mother’s in her storage closet. I knew I needed to deal with this stuff, but left it tucked away for another day. In the past ten months, I have moved and downsized my belongings dramatically. I have gotten rid of boxes of books, oodles of clothes and shoes, lots of odds and ends, and some furniture. Even better, I made deliberate decisions to intentionally keep all the stuff that stayed behind. The four boxes of papers lurked in a corner of the garage, casting a shadow.

So, now I deal with the shadows, or rather the boxes. Right now, though, I stop to write about them. Why is it that I was so eager to rid myself of un-useful-to-me-objects, but I can’t quite part with a few boxes of papers that I haven’t seen in twenty years? What is the root of my reluctance?

I have been doing a lot of personal work (internally, spiritually, physically, mentally) in the last year. I have been cleaning up, clearing out, calming down, and cutting through lots of things. It has been a truly grueling and gratifying process. I have grown and learned and changed a great deal, but somehow the papers paralyze me.

Last night, faced with the piles on the living room floor, I called a good friend from work. She is wise, funny, and always seems to have the right thing to say. I texted four other friends to see how they have dealt with the papers and stuff from their past. I like getting lots of perspectives and then figuring out which approach, or multiple approaches, suits me. My work friend responded in the way I thought she might. First, she laughed a big and long deep laugh. Then, she said she was dealing with old stuff too, but her best advice was, “Don’t beat yourself up over it! Celebrate what you have done!” Amen, sister! One friend, in a succinct text, replied that he kept one box which had childhood, high school, and college. He said to keep the amount that made me comfortable. Another friend shared her remorse about not having anything left from her life before the age of 25 after she did a big purge at that critical quarter-century mark. Another friend reminded me that part of my reason for the purge was to lighten my load and to emphasize where living truly is, in the present moment.

Today, I am grateful for my wise and funny friends. I have decided to take a bit of all their advice. I have designated the smallest storage box as the one in which I will keep the treasures. Now, I will sift into three piles: keep, toss, or recycle. I will throw the old political buttons into scrap metal, recycle a ton (well, close) of paper, toss the small plastic souvenirs (the “unnecessary plastic objects” as Nanci Griffith sings), keep some track medals and ribbons because I love those memories, and sift through the photos. The ones that aren’t duplicates will make their way into a couple of albums. I am saving some of the letters from loved ones, but discarding all the rotely-signed greeting cards.

Now, the task seems less daunting and more doable. I will not let the past paralyze me or weigh me down. I look forward to now, this moment, but I am grateful for the chance to look back and reflect on the memories, friends, family, and events that have shaped me. We do not need stuff to remind us. We can use our brains and hearts to remember when it will help us, but we can also use our brains and hearts to breathe in and consider the present moment. It is the only one that truly counts.

Gratitude For the Little Things


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The word gratitude gets tossed around a lot in November when Thanksgiving nears. It also seems to be gaining ground in popular culture with gratitude journals and gratitude lists. While things that get popular tend to bug me, and I am a pretty mainstream kind of girl, this is a pleasing trend. Something as powerful as gratitude should get attention year-round and not just as a result of a holiday or a pop-culture phenomenon.

Sometimes, we do need the reminder, the prompt. On the days where gratitude does not come spilling out of my being, or when I get carried away in mundane routines, it helps to return to the source of gratitude, the heart. Sometimes, to return to the heart it helps to make a list of the people, the emotions, the things that fill the heart with gratitude. For me, the list can be long and varied. But, almost always it’s for the little things. Some items on the list have deep meaning, some items on the list are more superficial. Here is a list, in no particular order, of things that fill me with gratitude today.

*a mug of hot tea
*sunsets
*sunrises
*chilly days
*receiving a text message from a good friend
*playing board games with my family
*poems that make me cry
*a fireplace, with or without a fire
*a long run at the beginning of the day
*a long road trip
*zipping my tent at night
*pre-schoolers who are excited to see me when I come to teach
*a stranger holding the door for me
*snow caught on winter branches
*realizing a long-held dream
*being on the threshold of meeting a big and scary goal
*the moon, at any time, in any phase
*the crack of a spine of a new composition notebook
*shivering and then enjoying warmth under one of my grandmother’s quilts
*sending a handwritten letter to a friend in the mail
*wearing cowboy boots with my favorite faded jeans
*going to a concert of an artist I love and singing along
*eating watermelon (seeds and all) and strawberries (tops and all) in summer
*digging in a compost bin
*repotting plants into terra cotta pots
*the beauty of daffodils in early spring
*walking alone at midnight
*catching up with a good friend over tea, a run, or shared food
*laughing until I cry
*crying until I laugh
*unintended puns
*writing words that resonate with someone else
*wearing a turtleneck and corduroy jeans (my favorite outfit since I was three)
*a fabulously fake and gaudy bling ring on my finger
*a bookshelf full of good books
*framed pictures of family and friends, and my favorite art, hung on the walls
*learning something new that is difficult enough to make my head hurt
*pausing and taking a deep breath
*a good country song
*hugs
*bandanas
*reading late into the night, bleary-eyed
*a good long soak in the bathtub (and saving for rare occasions to savor the water)
*New Mexico
*the pitter patter of my heart when I have opened myself up to be honest and vulnerable

What fills you with gratitude? What would be on your list today?

Still Clinging


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Cling

I have made bold and pronounced statements about letting my crush fall away and letting go of things and yet, I find myself grasping at straws, clinging still. I was aware of this, but did not want to admit it, and then a conversation with a friend made it blindingly, uncomfortably obvious.

It turns out that I am stubborn in my spirits, in my soul, in my behavior, in my communication. Could it be that I never really let go? Was I being honest? It took some consideration over the last few days for me to really examine and to look deeply inside at my messy self, my messy heart.

Two months ago, I did let someone go and I was eager to move on to another part of our friendship. Then I relapsed. I was clinging to an idea of something that has no basis in reality. I was clinging to a person who has no interest in being anything other than my friend.

Why do we cling to something when we know we will be so much better off when we finally let go? Why do we cling to other people? Why do we cling to situations we have outgrown? Why do we return to old patterns, even when we know that the new rhythms we are establishing are so much better?  How did I miss that clinging is not love, but fear?

I am taking a stand. I want to give the backslide a big, swift kick in the butt. I want to emerge and see what is around the corner, what I cannot see because I am still holding onto something. I want to face the discomfort and to see what is there inside of me, when I am all alone, stripped clean.

I want to see what remains when I pick up my feet from the muddy ruts. I want to see what remains when I let go of a person and try to find a friendship. I want to see what remains when I look inside of me, to find happiness and being that has nothing to do with anyone or anything, and everything to do with me. I want to be able to face discomfort and find bravery. I want to remember that this is a constant process.

I want to remember that this is part of growing and being human. Welcome to the community. Welcome to peace. Welcome to a new adventure.

What do you let go? What do you cling to? How does clinging blind us to the next stretch of life? How does clinging paralyze us? How does clinging paralyze the person we are holding?

How do we truly and fully let go? How do we begin again?

How do we find the sweet spot between the catch and the release?

Pursuit and Prayer


PrayerPursuit

When we think of prayer, we think of heads bowed and hands clasped. We think of silence, we think of a sacred conversation. We think of religion. When we think of pursuit, we think of the chase, we think of a hunt for something elusive. We think of the pursuit of happiness.

What do they mean, though, on a singular day, in an ordinary life? What do we pray for and what do we pursue? Do those desires and needs stay steady throughout a life? Is there a difference in what we mention in prayer versus what we pursue in life? Do we approach them differently? Do you pray for things differently than the way you pursue other things? Does one mean passively asking for something compared to a measured mastery of something?

Lately, I have been talking a lot about my pursuit of certain goals, mentioned in a previous post. In the last month, though, I have also been praying for my dad’s health, as well as the health of other loved ones. It seems to be an interesting intersection, this point between pursuit and prayer.

Like many of my generation, I am facing the illness of a parent. I have asked for prayers and thoughts from friends. I think of health and think of a life lived. As we face the disease of a loved one, we consider their mortality and face our own.

In my own faith and spirituality, I find that I am less dogged in dogma than others. I am more open, less interested in the sharp lines of division among religions and more interested in the similarities. My faith does not come easy. I often doubt and I tend to argue and debate with the higher power I call God, rather than come to a peaceful prayer. For a long time I struggled with that, but now I realize that is my path and I feel blessed for the discussions I have, what others would call prayer.

I pray for health. I pray for my dad. I pursue my own health. I pray for relief of pain. I run into my own grief and pain. While my dad, the man I love to argue politics with, is in the hospital, I think to those memories of a father and daughter and I give up a prayer of thanks. I pray for lightness. I pray for love. I pursue lightness. I pursue love. I realize that those clichés are true. We have but one life. And most of the time, we have little but love.

We pray. We pursue. We stop. We cry. We hold hands. We laugh. We listen. We pursue normalcy on a day when nothing seems right. We say thanks for care. We feel love from others. We grasp our hands together. We hold each other close. We close our eyes. We remember. We look out at the moon. We take a deep breath. We love. We live. We pursue. We pray.

Letting Go


Let Go 2 by Randi Hausken, from Bærum, Norway. Wikimedia Commons image. Licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License.
Let Go 2 by Randi Hausken, from Bærum, Norway. Wikimedia Commons image. Licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License.

Letting go. Thanks to a certain popular Disney movie, that phrase is now sung with sweet abandon among the playground set, and probably with sweet abandon in drop-off lines, harried commutes, and in solo earbud singing workout routines. In early January, when I was finally letting go of someone precious, this phrase seemed to be everywhere, on magazine covers, in newspaper headlines, in snippets of stories heard on the radio, among conversations with friends, and in a minister’s sermon. Indeed, a new anthem for the new year.

What are we letting go of? What does it mean? What happens when you do, finally, let go? What does it mean for the thing, the emotion, the person to be let go? Is it merely a solo exercise, or can it occur with two people letting go together? In the song and in the scenarios described above, letting go is seen as a positive thing. Is it ever a bad thing to let go?

I can’t answer all of the questions I’ve raised, but I have been letting go of a lot recently. Maybe I wasn’t really letting go of a person, but clearing away in all aspects of my life.

Here is what I let go of and what it means to me right at this moment.

I let go of belongings that have gathered dust. I find meaningful homes for these items among people I love and I feel excited to see these things gain their usefulness again.

I let go of expectation. Instead of being disappointed by my expectations, I prepare and see where my actions, rather than my expectations, will take me.

I let go of a person. Really, though, I let go of my one-sided drama and hope that when we emerge on the other side there will be friendship, but I know it may mean that person is no longer in my life. It hurts, but it will be okay.

I let go of my phone and Facebook for a few weeks. It feels weird not to check in with faraway friends, but I know I need to put my nose to the grindstone to accomplish some goals in these next couple of months.

I let go of my shackles. Isn’t it weird that we can be our own wardens, with the keys to freedom dangling tantalizingly close, but the comfort of routine can be paralyzing and incarcerating.

I let go of dreams. I live a good portion of my life daydreaming. I enjoy it, but sometimes I realize I am like Walter Mitty, and that I need to stand up, stop dreaming, and start doing.

I let go of clutter. In the last week, I have moved things, unpacked, heaved, thrown, donated, recycled, and cleared away. Finally, after six months of living in this place, I have carved out a beautiful space for sleeping, writing, reflecting, listening, yoga, and bike riding (my bike on a trainer), all within my wonderful small bedroom.

I let go of denial. I finally pulled out the bills and added up the total of a debt. The amount feels scary, but there is relief in knowing, and I have a plan and a budget to dig my way out of the debt.

I let go of plans for a March race and vacation. I had made tentative plans to enter a half marathon in southern New Mexico and stay with a friend on the way and then have a girls’ weekend with a long-lost friend. With my budget concerns, I let it go, but admitted to the people involved that it won’t take place. We have plenty of time to make new plans, perhaps for a fall adventure and friend get-together.

I let go of anxiety and stress. This is a daily challenge, sometimes even by the moment. I tend to be emotional and stew in my feelings. I am learning to live in the moment and to breathe. More importantly, I am living in the moment and breathing. It’s not so much about learning this one, as doing.

I let go of procrastination. This is another challenge and I tend to live in the last-minute, but I am slowly building projects into smaller steps, whether for work, or for my own chores, or my own writing goals. It reminds me of my marathon training plan. You don’t just run 26.2 miles, you start with steps and build from there.

I let go of caring what people think. This is still hard for me, but I am interested, now, in blazing my own path, and not necessarily in listening to the concerns and admonitions of others.

I let go of reaching out to someone. Sometimes it’s good to reach out for help and sometimes you realize the work needs to be done by yours truly.

I let go of old routines. I am shaking up things in all aspects of my life. There is a lot of confusion and less clarity at this point. It seems like it will be this way for a while, but I am learning to take comfort in new shapes and new shadows.

There is more to let go. As we let go, we find freedom, peace, new light, clarity, new projects, pain, soothing, music, footsteps, and space. We find space for new people, new ideas, new experiences, and space for the old that we need. It does not mean a completely new slate. We bring our experiences, our scars, our damages, the pain we have inflicted on others, but we bring it with wisdom and kindness and hope.

How does letting go free you? What do you let go of and what do you catch in your free hands?

Letting go is a constant and continual process. It is part of life. It is part of our souls and hearts. We let go, we carry, we find light, we find life.

Emerging In Eighty Days


Image created via Tagxedo. Tagxedo.com
Image created via Tagxedo. Tagxedo.com

The chance which now seems lost may present itself at the last moment.”–Jules Verne, Around the World in 80 Days (1872)

80 days. Eighty days is also 1,920 hours, or 11 weeks and 3 days, or 115,200 minutes, or 6,912,000 seconds. It’s a good chunk of time, but without paying attention, 80 days fly by in a blur. There is something quite romantic to me about this time frame, maybe because of Jules Verne’s classic adventure novel Around the World in 80 Days. With constant connection and airplanes, it takes much less to get around the world than it did in Verne’s time. However, we are very often firmly planted in our spaces, our own lives. That can be a wonderful thing, but sometimes it can feel like a bit of a rut.

While I definitely have a big case of wanderlust, I am hunkering down, but I am not digging ruts or spinning in place. I am inspired and energized and feel passionate. I want to take advantage of that inspiration and energy and passion and funnel it into some long-held dreams that I feel on the cusp of reaching. Those dreams include:

1. Running my first marathon.
2. Finish writing a book of short stories (whether or not it gets published is another story).
3. Losing the last of the weight in my year-long adventure in getting back to health and into shape.

However, I also realize I am wonderful at wasting time and at procrastinating. In 80 days, it will be May 17, 2015 and the date of my first marathon. My plan is to reach all three of those goals by that date. So, I am going to cut out a few distractions. I will be mostly fasting from Facebook and Twitter. I will continue to be in touch with friends via phone calling and texting and personal messaging, but on a more limited basis (those long distance friendships I have renewed are too important to lose). I will keep entries to the blog, as I love the writing and feel it helps me to exercise the writing muscle.

What goals or dreams do you have? Do you have any that you could accomplish or realize? What would it take to help you get there? Cheers to those thoughts and directions and actions.

May 17, 2015, here we come. 80 days, 3 goals, now is the time to do the work. In eighty days, I will emerge, dreaming and doing.

From dreaming to doing, here I go.

 

 

 

Two Sisters and the Oscars


Kary Schumpert @runningintolife:

We are not watching the Oscars together tonight, but I love our sisterhood tradition!

Originally posted on Running Into Life:

Photo by Alan Light [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons Well, my younger sister and I did not go to the Oscars. We met at the hotel where my sister works. We checked into a vacant room for the evening to watch the big show and gaped from the safety (?!) of a hotel room floor in Colorado. I brought a sack of burgers and fries, she brought the candy. We sipped from cold canned beverages (hers diet coke, mine lemon seltzer). We stared, we commented on the movies we had seen, we picked out our favorite dresses, we predicted the winners. The night went by in sister-to-sister snark with jokes and giggles and bawdy humour that was definitely not for the family-friendly crowd.

In the five plus years since Kelly moved to Colorado, we have been roommates for almost the entire duration. We have a TV at home, but do…

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