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I’m not Lost… I’ve been Learning about Love

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I’m not Lost… I’ve been Learning about Love

It’s been almost two months since I’ve written a post. You must have been wondering where in the world I have been.

I wish I could answer that question with something fun and light-spirited. But alas, my fun and light-spirited parts of myself have been in hibernation.

Only my serious and intense parts have been seeing the light of day… as well as the dark of night.

I’ve been struggling. I’ve been sore and sick. I’ve been in the clinic, seeing doctors, getting tests run, and filling prescriptions. I’ve been hurting at my very core. My muscles, my ribs, and my spine. All the way down to what my children call “the spirit heart.”

For the first time in my life I have been able to sit with discomfort, tend to it, listen to it, comfort it. Just like I do with my young boys when they wake up in the middle of the night ill and out of sorts.

Recognizing and listening to the pain has been nothing short of terrifying. I lay on the couch, propped up my pillows at 3am, listening to meditative music, sitting with the pain. Suddenly some other sources of pain surface. I want to deny them. Tell them they aren’t welcome. But I resist. I try to treat them with compassion. I try to listen to their story.

This second kind of pain was deeply emotional, and buried for nearly twenty-years. It was my source of self-hatred that emerged during my early teens. It was the most destructive and loathing part of myself. It was the darkest part of my being. It is a part of me I have been ashamed and afraid of, keeping it hidden, deep within.

Why would this inner-yuckiness surface now? I’ve been “doing so well.” I’ve been healthy. I’ve been happy. What gives!?

Well, during the daylight hours, I have been sharing myself with others. I’ve been building vibrant friendships as well as professional partnerships. I’ve been accepting myself and others as they are, in the moment. I’ve been striving for excellence in place of perfection. I’ve been learning to love myself. Truly, truly love myself.

It’s not an easy task. But when my 4 year puts so much energy into describing the scale of his love for me, “All the way up to the sky, Mom” or “Down the river and to the bottom of the ocean, Mom,” I can’t help but realize how big love is. Truly.

And to make room for the magnitude of energy that love occupies, it might make sense that I would need to clean out my inner closets. I need to recognize the times in my life that hatred was bigger than love. Times that I didn’t believe that I deserved to be loved. I need to shine light on those dark times. Recognize them as a part of me… but not a defining part of me. I need not to fear them. I need to grieve the sadness this part of me feels so deeply. I need to know that my actions, no matter how destructive and painful are in the past.

It’s not an easy task. Not at all. When I wake up in the morning to have dreamed of people I cared for deeply and knowingly hurt… it makes it hard to want to get out of the bed. It makes it the physical pain all that worse. But somewhere, within all of this, I know there has to be truth. Throughout those years, as a scared 12 year old… as a suicidal 15 year old… as an idealistic 18 year old… I was learning about myself. I was learning about the power of relationships. I was learning about how to share myself with others. I slipped and failed many times… but now as I begin to understand the magnitude of love. How big it is in the universe and how big it is within ourselves. I know that was what I was missing.

In those spaces where the pain resided, I imagine a little hope held on. After all, that’s how I made it through, right? And all those places where fear took hold, I imagine there is space for love to grow. Love that extends throughout the present, but also into the past.

For those I cared for and clung, I can now extend love to… truly and fully.

For myself, who was broken, shattered, and scared to go on, I can now extend the love… truly and fully.

It is with these roots, deep within my core, that I know my love can grow into the future… for myself, for my family, and for my place in the universe.

How Eating Local Changed Thanksgiving

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How Eating Local Changed Thanksgiving

Seven years into defining my own Thanksgiving with my own family, and I think maybe, I am finally beginning to get it.

As a young kid, I understood that we should be thankful for our food and family. We would attend large gatherings, and I remember once we even hosted one. At least 15 people were on their way to our house. My mom had been preparing the turkey and the sides. I was six years old, and she asked me to help with the salad. I took the bottle of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing out of the refrigerator, saw that it was in the “New & Improved” plastic bottle, remembered the television advertisement in which they claimed the new bottle was unbreakable, and proceeded to demonstrate to my mother by throwing the bottle on the floor, certain it would bounce back.

It didn’t. The plastic shattered. Ranch dressing was everywhere.

As a teenager and young adult, Thanksgiving traditions became more variable. One year we would have Thanksgiving with Dad. The next with Mom. The next with Dad again. We might go out to an uncle’s for dinner, watch the guys chop firewood, and listen to guitar playing late into the night.  Or we would visit Grandma and Grandpa’s and enjoy turkey and trimmings followed by scripture readings.  We might have Thanksgiving at home with just Mom and the kids. And then, there was the year that Dad took us to Seattle and we celebrated Thanksgiving dining on East Indian cuisine.

And as I grew into adulthood, Thanksgiving became more of a holiday to share with a special someone. The first Thanksgiving my husband and I were together, we celebrated the news that we would be expecting our first child. In time, we learned traveling with kids during the holidays usually ended up with someone getting sick in the end. We soon learned to recreate the holiday on our own. We tried to develop our own traditions. The one that seems to remain is the smoking of meats. Whether it be turkey, elk, antelope, or duck. Thanksgiving always seemed to lend the opportunity to share our knowledge and love for smoked meat.

Through graduate school, we opened our home to others who might not be able to be with family. We supplied the meat and guests brought the side dishes.

The unexpected outcome of this agreement was the variety of fantastic ethnic foods that showed up at the table. After all, the international students weren’t ones to travel home for an American holiday. Indonesian desserts such as buttered mochi and agar agar sat next to Estonian dishes such as pickled pumpkin and potatoes with meat gravy. Kimchi and sauerkraut might have easily found their way onto the same plate.  No one left hungry, especially after making the trek in the bitter Wyoming cold to our professor’s house for dessert.

In those years, I gained some of my first experiences with true friendship, as I shared my home, foods, and traditions with others. Many of the bonds I established in graduate school remain strong today.  For that, I am thankful.

After graduating and moving to North Dakota, we truly missed the way relationships had influenced our holiday. We enjoyed our Thanksgivings at home, trying different sides each year. Like squash risotto or sweet potato pie. We’d go around the table, sharing what we were thankful for. Just like we thought we should.

Last year, I felt barely able to think about cooking. I was preoccupied by the loss of my dad. I couldn’t prepare or eat food without thinking of him. At times it felt like his presence in the kitchen with me was overwhelming to say the least. I did the best I could in writing about him and sharing his story.  But the pain was still tremendous.

We managed to have smoked turkey with cheese, crackers, and homemade pickles. It was simple and it worked. We were grateful, but something was amiss.   DSCN7764

This year is better. I feel more grounded and able to let the feeling of gratitude surpass that of grief. I am so grateful for our health. I am grateful for going gluten free and being able to enjoy eating again. I am grateful for so many friendships and professional relationships that have cultivated in the past year. Again, because I have been brave enough to share myself with others. And not just the parts I think they want me to share, but my true self.

It was terrifying, because at a certain point, I realized I wasn’t independent. I couldn’t do it all on my own. My family wasn’t as independent as we thought. Even though we raised chickens and ducks this year and had an amazing garden… we continue to rely on others.

That doesn’t mean we are dependent either. We have not gone to the store today, yesterday, or even last week to buy our Thanksgiving meal. The choices we make as consumers has lead to abundance. We have everything we need. And with that, we feel a sense of thankfulness that extends into the paradigm of “know your farmer, know your food.”

Tonight we will enjoy smoked duck with a sauce made from buffalo berries. We raised the duck ourselves and harvested the berries at the beginning of October. The potatoes and onions we will roast have been in our root cellar since the last farmers market. As have the pumpkins and apples from which we will bake pie. We made the last harvest from our garden at the beginning of November when we picked the brussels sprouts and cabbages. We saved the brussels sprouts just for this occasion. Should the boys want a glass of milk or a dollop of whipped cream on their pie, we have that too, thanks to our cow-share.

We will spend the day as a family. But we won’t be alone. The gratitude in our hearts is because of the interdependence with others. Those who shaped Thanksgivings years ago and those who helped shape this one by producing the food on our table. Without a doubt, we are blessed.

Happy Thanksgiving from Pages of Paradigm.

What cannot be contained in words

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What cannot be contained in words

There are so many words to write.

Sometimes I write with urgency. Sometimes I write without much intention.

And sometimes, I just can’t manage to write at all.

It is not for lack of ideas.

The ideas are brewing.

They are moving through my mind, weaving in and out of experience.

They are finding a place they fit.

Larger themes emerge:

Interdependence. Intimacy. Self-Love.

Letting go. Simplicity. Trusting the Universe.

These are huge, HUGE, themes.

They fit everywhere!

They are not contained.

Not in sentence form, or even syllables.

Not in letters, or even paragraph.

The provoke story.

They call for metaphor.

They push me to write, perhaps in a way I haven’t before.

And in time, they become part of me.

Recovery Leads to Revolution

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Recovery Leads to Revolution

What happens when I take the time to rest, recover, and heal?

It turns out, I get new perspective.

Turns out I get a revolutionary perspective for all the things I do.

Art- As I stepped in to teach an art class for a friend in need, my truest self stepped out into the world. This part of me had been hanging out at the door, looking outside, waiting for a time that it felt safe enough to venture out into the world again. Now in addition to leading the lessons, I create examples of the assignments to share with the students! I look forward to the projects! I WANT to do them, I want to share them, and I want to see how the students develop their own projects as well. I am having fun, with kids. Kids that are not my own. Kids that are loud. But, it is art! And I love it!

Writing-  When I wrote my last blog post at 4am, I was high on residual anesthesia and in a hospital bed. I reread it a few days later  and was surprised to find that it made sense! And even more, to realize that I have a variety of things to say and I have the opportunity to share my words in different ways. Whether I edit someone else’s prose to help them fully convey their thoughts for an amazing opportunity, pursue an opportunity to write a column for the local small-town newspaper, or consider submitting an essay on “Why Quitting my Dream Job was the Best Thing I Ever Did for Myself” to Rebelle Society, I realize that my words can carry weight and that I have plenty to say. I am a writer. And I love it!

Relationships- This has been the big one lately. I have learned to respect myself within my relationships. I don’t feel the need to prove myself or defend myself. It is quite amazing the simple truths that exist when the veil of denial is lifted. But it is not all beautiful and empowering. Some of it is terrifying: like realizing that for the past umpteen years, I have been functioning with a faulty understanding of what intimacy is… After realizing this and sharing it with my therapist, he later replied, “Maybe intimacy doesn’t have to be about not being good enough anymore.” I had no idea what that meant. I bawled and cried on my kitchen floor until it felt like my throat was going to come out of my ears. And that was before I got the tonsillectomy. Now, I figure it means something about my self-worth. It means I have a whole new paradigm yet to understand. It means there is more room for me to love myself.

Self- If my understandings of intimacy and relationships are changing, alongside my perspectives of artistic expression… well, then it all comes together in how I view and share myself. I feel liberated, lighter, and more fluid. I wear what I want. I am confident in my decisions. I know that I don’t need permission to want to do things. I am confident in my requests of others. I know there are possibilities and I know a little more about myself. I know I am highly-sensitive. I know I need plenty of rest and quiet time. I know I can trust my intuition. I know there is nothing wrong with me.

Does it all feel a little strange? Yes!

Am I breaking like 15,000 rules I have created for myself to keep me ‘safe’? Yes!

Do I have any idea what these possibilities will bring? Not at all!

Am I confident that I can move forward? Absolutely!