Monday, September 30, 2013

The Road to Rwanda

A few weeks ago, a professor from Villanova University (who happens to be married to the Pastor at my church) gave a presentation on his work in the Nibakure Children’s Village in Rwanda.

Coming from a Methodist background (but currently attending a Lutheran Church- which  when you are Protestant, it is not uncommon to find the church that fits you, rather than the denomination), I was raised with mission work as part of the fabric of my upbringing.  Let me be clear, I don’t mean going into the world and converting people to believe what I believe - I mean going into the world and helping where there is a need. Regardless of religion, culture or geographical location.  So when we saw a notice that this professor was going to present on his experiences in Rwanda, we took a front row seat.

Though his studies of genocide, the professor began organizing trips for the students to visit Rwanda. Through these visits, he ended up in a working relationship with the Nibakure Children’s Village that houses 19 now-former orphans. The professor now integrates the Children’s Village into his students’ trips as part of their experience in Rwanda.  Rather than repeating the story of the Nibakure Children’s Village, I recommend clicking the link above and reading about their amazing story for yourself!

The professor’s presentation centered on the history and spirit of the Children’s village, as well as the amazing work that is being done to create a sustainable resources and income to support the Village.  During the presentation, we Skyped live with the children. Though it was not intended to be a religion-centric conversation, the topic of church came up and the woman who runs the Village shared that the children went to church that day and sang to their congregation. We asked that they sing a bit of the song to us and they proceeded to sing a well-known Christian ‘pop’ song. Astonished that this song carried across lifestyles, oceans, and cultures, we listened in amazement and then, one-by-one, started to sing along ourselves. Quietly at first, and then with building spirit until both sides were signing the song in unison. In that moment the connection was tangible and the tears were flowing. My mother looked at me and said “You go, I’ll stay with Grace.”  I knew in that moment that I was called to go to Rwanda.

The first meeting on the road to Rwanda took place yesterday. I was overjoyed to see that 15 other people felt moved to go to this Village, as I had.  We discussed the realities of the situation - even “isn't it more practical to send money for someone local to do the work instead of spending it to go ourselves?"  As the only person who has been on a mission trip before, I responded that the trip is about going in the spirit of God/Love, and selfishly, it is about your experience, it becomes part of the fabric of who you are and permanently changes your view of the world around you. It is a holistic experience, not merely about getting finances and ables bodies to a place in need but about making a human connection.  The group agreed that we want to make this happen, we assigned next steps and off we go!  We are applying for a grant from a local church that we would take with us to fund a project that we would work on to help build resources for the Village. We will have to fund-raise the travel expenses.

I can feel in my bones that this is a milestone.  It is a concrete connection that is awakening who I was before, defining who I am now and shaping who I am going to be.

Have you felt the call to get involved?  Have you had a moment where you knew your life was going to pivot and the path lit up before you?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Bye, Bye, Soup Guy

To wrap things up on Soup Guy, we went on a perfectly lovely second date and he brought a thoughtful gift of a bag of yummy goodies from him company. The conversation was easy and nice. But there was something missing. I wasn’t excited about the date. I didn’t look forward to getting his texts. I could wait to write back (usually I have to restrain myself from writing back immediately!).  So I say goodbye to Soup Guy and secretly smiled inside because he was one step closer to what I’m looking for, even if he wasn’t a fit.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

“There’s no way to make a dreadful situation pretty. But we can use the pain of it to recognize our sameness with other people.”

Pema Chodron’s Heart Advice for the week really hit home today.  Pema says, “There’s no way to make a dreadful situation pretty. But we can use the pain of it to recognize our sameness with other people.

I went through a particularly painful experience over the weekend which I used as an opportunity to do some soul searching.  While I will go far out of my way to prevent any pain (including aligning my cereal boxes to ensure nothing goes wrong!), I paused and gave thanks that this pain helped to remind me of what is good and right in my life (and to not take it for granted). And to use the pain to learn and grow.  

Pema’s advice for the week ends with, “Whatever usually drags us down and causes us to withdraw into ourselves is actually the stepping-stone for awakening our compassion and for contacting the vast, unbiased mind of the warrior.” It felt really good to exercise the ability to be resilient and grab the opportunity to do some growing.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Path of Least Resistance

Excellent interview with Dan Schwabel on the Happiness Project Blog. Dan shares, ““I used to spend too much time trying to turn my weaknesses into strengths.”  This statement could not ring more true.  Many of the things I’ve spent years beating up on myself for fade away so easily when I stop fighting myself and start accepting.  I’ve been making a conscious effort to take the path of least resistance - refusing to spend energy on things that are a drain. Why fight against something when you just flow with it - so much easier! 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Grace's 3rd Birthday

Today is Grace’s birthday. I always find it interesting that her birthday happens to be at the start of ‘year’ (as far as kids are concerned). And that within a few weeks of this time frame, I found out about the affair, my husband was gone and I started my life as a single mom.  So much change in such a short period. Starting anew with no warning. It is an emotional day for me. Overwhelming joy and gratitude for the blessing of my daughter, mixed with pain from wounds that are still healing. I hope one day to only feel the joy and the gratitude and that the wounds will heal and be only a small speck in the past.

The best advice I've received so far is to put many good events between you and the bad event.  Yesterday we celebrated Grace's birthday with family and her close friends and the love that surrounded her (and I) was beautiful.  The light from that love far outshines any dark that we have walked through to get here.

Match Date: Soup Guy

I went on a match date with a guy who works for a well-known soup company, to be named “Soup Guy”.  I agreed to meet him in the city, though on the way there, I  realized the last few dates I’ve bailed after 30 minutes so driving into the city is quite an effort for a potentially short evening. I arrived at the destination to find he picked a bar that a co-worker owns that was cute and hip in Old City. He informed me that he brought milano cookies for me, but due to the 90+ degree heat that day, they melted into a chocolatey mess and so he decided it may not be a great gift to give.  Cookies? He brought me cookies?  Nice move!

We had a very easy, nice conversation. Actually, I was so comfortable that I a) rambled and b) rambled about Grace. It’s fairly common that I awkwardly ramble on the first date but I try to save the kid gushing for a little further in. To make it more awkward, Grace hasn’t been sleeping so her father called me because she was crying and wanted to talk to mommy. I got up from the table and soothed her from the corner of the bar/restaurant and then had to explain that was honestly the first time I’ve gotten a call like that.  While I was busy apologizing, I didn’t stop to think that if I was out with someone and their kid called, I would expect them to take it and would question their priorities if they let the call go to voicemail!

After the date, I wasn’t sure if he wanted to go out with me again (due to rambling and kid gushing). But..I had decided that I would agree, if he were to ask. The truth is, I’m not sure what I think about him, but this is the first date where I didn’t run after 30 minutes and he was easy to talk to and thoughtful and those reasons all deserve a second date.

I texted the next day to thank him for dinner and drinks and he promptly wrote back and asked me out again.  More to come after date #2 this Friday.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Don't Look Back!!

Why is it that whenever we girls get a little lonely, we always miss a guy that came before. In my case, I miss The Runner.  Especially because we met at this time last year. I missed when he would spontaneously come over for an unplanned hang out, I miss going for long walks in the fall, I miss how he looked at me.  This sounds like a fairy-tale - because it is!  All of the things I miss were the good, but I certainly don’t swoon thinking about all of the ambiguity and the lack of ability to connect and be vulnerable. I don’t miss the many angst-filled days I spent trying to figure out what he was thinking and feeling because he sent so many mixed signals.

So why is it that when I’m lonely, I go right back to that fairy-tale and literally have to sit on my hands to stop myself from emailing him to see how he is doing (or, if I’m being honest, emailing him to see if he still thinks about me).

I settled when I married the first time. I didn’t know any better, I thought I should accept the behaviors that were unacceptable in reality.  This time I won’t settle. And reopening the door will only cause more pain and would be settling.  Thank goodness I referenced my own blog from December last year when I was able to clearly articulate why he wasn’t a fit for me and followed with a blog post about my Mystery Man - the one who will bring comfort, gentleness, love and understanding to my life.  Now is not the time to panic and look back!!  It is time to stay true to myself and keep moving forward.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

How to break a sprial

Does this happen to everyone? Where your head spirals down and takes your heart with it?

I spent most of the vacation in tears. I don’t know if it was a natural reaction being around a family that had its fair share, if it was wishing I had a partner to enjoy the vacation with, or if it happen to be the only time all of the stress and toxicity from work combined with the loneliness and isolation to manifest a nuclear meltdown.  Either way, I spiraled.

I hate the feeling. I fight it tooth and nail. I beat myself up for being so self-indulgent that I would feel bad about my life when others have so many more challenges (nothing makes you feel worse than when you want to be validated but instead someone compares you to someone else who has it worse so you feel guilt instead of relief that understanding can so easily bring!)

At this point in my life, I am intimately familiar with the spiral. It happens more than I’d like to admit. So I’ve spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure out the magic key to breaking the spiral.

Here is my recipe (continually refined until is a recipe for preventing the spiral at the onset):

Goal: Gain perspective

Ingredient #1: Gratitude. Gratitude is needed to gain perspective. It is needed to see all of the points of light shining through the dark.  What isn’t there, isn’t there - it’s not going to change by brooding.  What is there is something to be noticed and acknowledge, because what is there is frequently so much more than we realize.

Ingredient #2:  Rest. Exhaustion opens the gate to spiral. When I’m well rested and buzzing along, perspective stays intact. But exhaustion will wipe out perspective faster than my dog can wipe out a plate of leftovers (lightening speed!).

Ingredient #3: Healthy food. This is exactly when I want to sit in bed and eat sweets all day. Which only help to fog up the mind and weigh down the belly. Some form protein along with healthy stuff helps to clear the head and make room for the gratitude and perspective.

Ingredient #4: Levity. Frequently this can come in the form of music, or even better dancing until your insides are properly shaken up!  

For this particular spiral, my levity came in the form of the song “Carry On” by Fun. My favorite line being, “I like to think I can cheat it all, to make up for the times I’ve been cheated on”. A perfect summary of my spiral - raging against the ways I felt cheated. But the rage blocked the points of light (which are increasing with time, creating more light than dark), and I got stuck in the dark for a while.  Hearing that lyric was such a relief to know someone else must have felt the same.  So, as the singer instructs, I decided to Carry On, and break this spiral.

What do you do to break a spiral? Please add to the recipe!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

How Candy Crush Saga Saved My Life

Each time I've felt a low point this summer (see yesterday's post below if you want a good example), I have picked up my iPhone and returned to my place in the land of Candy Crush Saga. If you haven't yet played, save yourself thousands of dollars at a therapist and practice near-meditation mindfulness, as you become completely absorbed in crushing the candies, rewarded by the fulfilling crunch sound they make as they crush together and disappear from the screen. No matter what strife I am feeling, from a bad boss to a bad date to a friend who callously hurt me and never looked back -- it all takes a backseat when the priorities of 'clear all the jelly' or 'bring all the fruit to the bottom' enter the scene (though a great game, not great on grammar).

It is guaranteed that my pulse slows and blood pressure drops when I start playing. And if I clear a level - the feeling of achievement soars within me and I'm ready to return to face whatever perils lie before me.

Stay sane. Save a life.  Play Candy Crush Saga.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Stinky Pile of Lemons

In her book, Carry On Warrior, Glennon Doyle Melton writes “Reading is my inhale and writing is my exhale. If I’m not reading and writing regularly, I begin to suffocate and tend to climb the nearest person like a frantic cat, clawing at the person’s eyeballs and perching on his head, desperate to find a breath of air”.  I am on vacation with my mother, father, father’s girlfriend, Grace and our dog (a true modern family), and I am not breathing. There has been no reading, writing (until now), exercising, or relaxing for that matter. The only thing that has been pervasive is now that I’m actually on an island, I feel more isolated than ever. Watching the happy families on the beach, strolling the boardwalk, mom and dad enjoying the kids together. It hurts in the deepest places.

I spend my days trying to meet the demands of my little one. Making sure my father isn’t being reckless with her, and ensuring my mother has an enjoyable vacation. I know I am supposed to find the joy in each moment but my heart is only registering the loneliness I feel. Maybe because family vacations were one of the things I was looking forward to most when I was pregnant with Grace. Maybe because I’m just exhausted.

At approximately 1:30pm eastern time yesterday I had a nuclear meltdown. Largely triggered by my toxic job, which I care more about than I suspect my boss even does, so I attempted to join a conference call from my vacation. Upon finding out the realities of a very complex project I’m working on I realized that it is being set up to fail. The management and resources on the project aren’t properly aligned and I’ve been placed in the middle to somehow magically make it make sense.  As I told my boss I was concerned about the project, so much so that I was worrying about it on vacation, he responded “no worries”. I wanted to throw the laptop out the window right then and there. Doesn’t he understand “no worries” are why the project in a mess in the first place?  If we worried a little more six months ago, perhaps I wouldn’t be concerned the ‘biggest launch in the company’s history’ was about to flop! And let’s remember, I proactively sought out a job for more challenge and growth so I chose this job because I wanted to show Grace you don’t rest on your laurels, you keep exercising you keep learning!

On top of work stresses, I started sputtering on about the fact I’m not dating anyone and haven’t met a prospect in over a year.  I have people demand things of me at work all day and then come home and have a three-year-old demand things of me all night. Sleep, repeat. It is draining and not fun. Yes, I try to make the best of things by “putting myself out there” and signing up for activities, volunteer and otherwise – but right now it doesn’t feel like I’m making lemonade out of lemons, it feels like I’m making a stinking, rotting pile of lemons smell just a little less bad.

I tried to support my friends while they were trying to get pregnant and have the family they have always dreamed of. Now that they’ve gotten their newest member, they are off living the life I always dreamed of. And I’m still alone. Who is going to support me through the next 50 years of spinster-dom? Why do I always have to go it alone?

Poor me, I know. I’m whining on about all of the unfair breaks that I’ve endured recently.  I know everyone has their own material for their own nuclear meltdown. But right now I only have the capacity to feel the piercing pain in my chest, it won’t let anything else in.

What to do? What to do? (as Grace frequently asks when confronted with a problem).  I supposed this is when you “feel the emotion and let it flow through you” - acknowledge the hurt as just a feeling, not my reality (or is it? This is where I get hung up because at the moment it sure does feel like reality is the stinky pile of lemons).  Then pay attention to the points of light that break through that pain – each little moment of joy when Grace smiles, laughs or experiences something new on our vacation.  Or maybe the key is just to write until I am completely drained and the pain is dulled to where it is tolerable again!  What do you do when you start to spiral?