Saturday, September 22, 2012

Seasons of Leaping

Ah, so it's that time in my life again where I take a swan dive into the unknown. I just completed my first week of medical school. Not your traditional medical school either, but Chinese medicine. And not your Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) either. No, I've chosen CCM or Classical Chinese Medicine and it's a rabbit hole I've dived into friend. More on that particular part of my new journey later though.

What I woke up thinking about in the wee hours of the morning today was just the actual process of getting onto this path and not the journey ahead itself. I had tea with a friend this past week, right in the middle of this new start and was able to reflect with him a little upon how I got here. It occurred to me, as he and I were talking about life changes, that I've had a few of these "leaps of faith" in my life.

The first was deciding to leave Missouri at 18 to attend school in a far corner of the Northwest. Sure I did a tiny bit of research into university programs. Enough to know that I could study French and/or Marine Biology at either of the places I applied to. That was about the extent of what I knew I was getting into though. My heart just said, "Go," and I followed.

The second leap of faith was leaving that little comfy corner, my ex-husband and friends to live in a new city and to embrace the life of a lesbian. This was no easy decision and it wasn't made overnight. I had spent countless hours searching my soul for concrete answers to what I should/shouldn't do. I didn't have a lot of support in the process aside from two very dear friends. Little planning went into this decision though. Lots of fretting, but in the end I just listened to my heart again.

Most recently, my heart said, "Get into this CCM program." So I made it so. All along, I have kept close to my heart the Rumi quote, "Let yourself be silently drawn by the greater pull of what you really love." I believe this to be true, I carve out spaces to try to listen to my heart.

What occurred to me after my conversation with my friend this past week though, was that it is very important to understand these leaps of faith have not been trodden on a blissful, easy road. Taking the path of my heart has not meant the path of least resistance nor have they been accompanied by that elusive friend "certainty." In fact, when I reflected this morning on the beginnings to these journeys, they are usually (like the hero's journey in Joseph Campbell's words) immediately rough. The start of the road is often one part excitement and joy and equal parts trepidation and obstacles. It is as if the universe says, "Are you sure you want this?"

In fact, each of these journeys fairly early on have been accompanied by loss and disorientation.  Early into my college years, my grandfather died and not terribly long after him, my cousin committed suicide and then within a year or so my grandmother died. Under a year of leaving Bellingham I lost the central vision of my left eye and one of the two dear friends mentioned above died unexpectedly. Just as I was entering this latest leap of faith, a dear friend and volunteer at my most recent job passed away and just before starting the actual program, another died.

I say this not to deter others from leaps of faith nor for sympathy. I say it because I want to internalize and recognize that this journey is difficult, but that it can still be the right path. In fact, this is a shedding of past buttresses, pillars of support, and the "known." There is discomfort in this process, no arguing it. But I am convinced this discomfort is just a normal part of the process and should not deter us from forging ahead. Or rather than "forging" ahead, for going softly inward to reflect upon how far we've come already down the path.  They are perhaps signposts that we are on our heart's path and, like any physical pain, are best attended to and breathed into rather than ignored.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Lesbian and a Bear Cross the Country...

Sounds like the start of a good joke no? So many miles crossed the last two days and so much seen, and yet not too much to share! We've been driving non-stop. We headed up from Nashville Friday morning, drove straight through Kentucky to Illinois and then over I-70 through Missouri. It was a marathon drive through hurricane Isaac rain and tornadoes and Labor Day weekend traffic. I have to say that Kentucky looks a lot like Missouri. We were barely in Illinois, but long enough I'm claiming it. The pay off was a night at my mom's house. Dinner with my mom and dad - home made and sleeping in their house and cozy clean beds! Then homemade breakfast to get us started.

And we sorely needed that start as day three was the worst. Driving straight north in Missouri to Iowa and then due West through Nebraska all the way into Rawlins Wyoming. Nebraska is WAY too wide. And flat, and boring. It was a 13 hour drive day and all we wanted to do was collapse in bed when we got to our hotel. But alas, we had no room at the Rawlins Hampton Inn when we got there at 11:30 PM. Jason had booked the room and paid in advance, but they had no room clean - they had rooms, but none clean. I almost went postal. It was a bit creepy too as the young woman working the front desk simply pulled on her hair, said, "I'm sorry" and disappeared to tidy the dining room for breakfast. We finally got them to get us a room at a nearby hotel.

Today we pushed through the rest of Wyoming, up the Eastern part of Idaho and then west from Butte to Missoula, Mt. We had a lovely lunch in Pineville, Wy - one of our best meals yet outside of my mom's house. Then we drove through the Tetons, past the basalt flow desert of Idaho and then West into the forest fire smoke to land here in Missoula for the night. Our room is strangely set up light a cruise ship room. I'm off to bed for an early start for the final push tomorrow to Seattle!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

We temporarily interrupt this blog.... bring you Jason and Maria's 10 Year Frenaversary (or Friend Anniversary) Cross-Country Road Trip!

OK, so the purpose of this voyage is not to celebrate our phenomenal friendship, but to move Jason from Tampa, Florida to Seattle, Washington. I am so excited about having him back in the Northwest (which makes a permanent move of John and Jason more believable), that I am willing to while away my time this way. 

It helps that I have nothing else I have to do right now. I'm currently in transition between my job managing one of the Portland Ronald McDonald Houses and starting a Master's of Science in Oriental Medicine program. So, why not road trip with a packed U-Haul trailer and pick-up?? 

First leg today was Tampa through Georgia to Tennessee. We are currently tucking in for the night just outside of Nashville. Two new states for me! Here's a little trivia we learned along the way: 
  • The Interstate system was a project of the Dwight D. Eisenhower administration, although FDR had initiated research into an interstate system. 
  • The system was lobbied for by car manufacturers but was also seen as a good defensive network in a post war era. 
  • After crossing the Suwanee River, Jason and I discovered we only know one phrase of the entire song, which doesn't translate well into meows. AND, through the miracle of modern technology, we learned that we didn't want to know the rest of the lyrics. Apparently it is a racist song that tells of an ex-slave pining for the plantation! Who would have known? 
  • "Spa" in the south means whorehouse, pleasure palace, or something like that. So if your straight husband or lesbian wife says he/she went to the spa, be warned. (No we did not learn this by trying to sneak in a mani-pedi on the first day of our trek, although I know some of you won't believe that.)
  • Lastly, Jason is a pomophobe. This means he is bigoted toward post-modernists. 
Check back tomorrow night for real-life pictures of my morning hair. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Had one of those "oh duh" ah ha moments today. Do you ever find yourself saying something all the time and then realizing you haven't been truly applying it to your own life?? For the last few months, as I have been working full time and taking classes, I have been repeating the mantra to everyone, "I think I can learn anything if I just put in the time and it's really just a matter of time and effort. Given enough time, I can do it."

I have been thinking of this in terms of, I'll be able to pass that chem class or that physics course from hell if I just have enough time to study. I've been thinking, physics may be so hard for me that I just need more time on it than I have.

This morning I was sitting in my kitchen fretting over how much I needed to get done today but not feeling able to start because of a bad headache. The makes you queasy kind. Then I had a chain of thoughts that went like this:

  • I think my blind spot is bothering me -it's hard to tell if the bright white spot in my vision causes the headache or I'm noticing the spot more because I have a headache...
  • Maybe I overdid it this weekend using my eyes - looking at all the scenery on the way to SF, reading in the car/studying in the car, intensely using my eyes as I drove the streets of SF etc. 
  • Wow so much of what I enjoyed about this weekend has to do with having vision - being able to use my eyes. I'm so grateful for my vision. 
  • I'm so worried that I won't be able to keep up the pace in grad school the next four years due to my blind spot - that all the reading will tax my eyes and make my blind spot more noticeable, stress my good eye too much, lead to me not being able to do it. 
  • Hmm, wait a minute, maybe I will just need to go more slowly through the program?
  • Wait, that sounds a bit like "I can do it if I just give myself enough time." 
  • Wait, maybe the lesson from my vision loss is that I need to be more patient with myself. If I slow down, it doesn't mean I won't get where I want to go, I just may be more likely to make it there.... 
Hmm, maybe I need to apply my attitude toward the coursework to the rest of my life?? : ) 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Tea With Mara

In a book I read recently (Radical Acceptance) the author describes how the Buddha meets with Mara. You can think of this encounter sort of like Jesus in the desert and encountering Satan/temptation. Buddha is confronted with Mara who tries to question Buddha's right to speak/think what he does. I've really connected with this Buddha/Mara image in my own body. When I feel fear/anxiety/tension begin to build in my body, when I start to question my path or decisions, I can step back and say, "Oh, hello Mara." Identifying these thoughts as Mara, as something separate from me, from my best self, I can sit down and have a chat with Mara. I can invite these feeling and questions in and have a conversation with them, allowing me to fully explore them and literally diffuse them. Rather than ignoring these things, building a wall and tensing my body. Rather than them creating tension in my life, I can invite them in as an old friend with some advice. Advice I might follow or ignore. I can look at them honestly and maybe even learn something important from the encounter.

I have even started envisioning asking Mara, when I recognize her, to have tea with me. "Hello Mara, I see that's you," I like to say. "Please sit and have some tea with me." Mara is usually grumpy and a bit juvenile, but like a patient parent with a hormonal teen, I can wait for Mara to open up to me.

Monday, March 12, 2012

I am brilliant in the morning!!

So independent confirmation that early morning, blurry, wild ideas are good to record! I am reading an article I got at work called "Getting to No: The Science of Building Willpower." In a sidebar note, they say this:

"The habits most of us follow each  morning, it turns out, run exactly counter to the conditions that neuro-scientists and cognitive psychologists tell us promote flexible, open-minded thinking. Our hurried wake-up leads most of us to miss imaginative insights, which are most likely to come to us when we're groggy and unfocused."

They also recommend standing in the warm water of a shower, not thinking about plans for the day, but just enjoying our wandering thoughts. I'm an expert at that!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Road Signs

I think I've been a bit overly distracted by the big road signs in my life. There is no map to our lives right? So we go along somewhat trial and error, down different roads, some dead ends, some superhighways busy with fast-paced noise. I think it's been easy to get distracted by the big road signs -the "Turn Here!" flashing lights, neon bright signs. Like graduating from high school and the big "Go to College" sign. Easy right? Just take the turn. Of course I've definitely taken my turns onto smaller "road less travelled" routes, some even that had "Dead End" signs I insisted on taking anyway.

It's funny though that as a child growing up in the country on a huge piece of property, that I have found myself often on these well travelled roads. I mean, as a kid I used to wander aimlessly across pastures and through woods with little knowledge of where I was going. I was usually following a well-worn cow path through the tall weeds and thick undergrowth. I think there's something symbolic about these contrasting ways of navigating territory.

Where I live now, you don't leave the people trail because you could get lost or you might destroy plant life or something like that. So you get yourself on a hiking trail or sidewalk or bike lane or paved road and you go to somewhere. You travel to a specific destination. No Sunday drives wasting gas aimlessly exploring the countryside. No weekend ambles following the minute signs of an animal road. No looking for the broken grass, inspecting each step as you take it so you don't accidentally disturb a snake or step on a cow pie. Just head up, look straight ahead. Get to the end of the trail so you can say you hiked it. Get to the store, get to the movie, get to work, get home, get to school....

How can we follow Rumi's advice and let ourselves "be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what [we] really love?" How can we see the imperceptible signs of where we want to go when we are so distracted by the neon, flashing, "Turn Here!"? How do we listen to the whisper of our hearts when the rush of traffic is around us?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Atomic Attractions

OK seriously I have been thinking more about the whole orbits thing. I'm taking a chemistry class right now and we just finished studying about atomic orbitals. There are two basic shapes for the orbitals of electrons around the nucleus of an atom in extremely simplistic terms. The electrons may make a spherical orbit around the nucleus or they make a dumbbell shaped orbit. The spherical orbitals are called s-orbitals and the dumbbell shaped orbitals are p-orbitals.

Enough chemistry. The reason I bring this up is that I really think we each have different types of energy that lead us into relationships that resemble the s or p orbital. S people draw us in and our life begins to revolve around theirs. P orbital people engage more in a dance around with us looking more like the back and forth and interplay of a dumbbell shape. Maybe it's not that we are either p people or s people, but rather how our energy combines with someone else's that makes the s or p dance. When you can recognize if your shared energies are making one of you revolve around the other, rather than dancing back and forth, then maybe those are unhealthy relationships. Maybe there's no good or bad orbital relationship, maybe there is just one you prefer to the other.

Monday, February 6, 2012


It occurred to me last night that we are all like little planets with our own orbits. Some people's orbits work nicely with your own, other people's orbits repel you. Then there are those whose orbits try to take over your orbit, that pull you in and have you circling their life. Being aware of the pull of other people's orbits seems to be a good way to ensure you are respecting your own boundaries. What I mean is that I don't necessarily think that one orbit is better than another and I don't mean to judge how another person's orbit affects mine. I am just thinking that, in the moment I become aware of how their energy is impacting my energy, I am more aware of my own needs/boundaries/shifts etc.

Friday, February 3, 2012


This morning I came into work and ran into a dad whose daughter was in a car accident months ago. They have been staying with us the entire time as she gets strong enough to be transferred to another facility for rehab. We have two older teens here right now who have been with us for months and are recovering from car accidents (MVA's). Each time I talk to these parents, I get a glimpse of what could have been my experience and I am left feeling like a ghost of myself has just walked by.

We see so many different families here, but MVA families hit way too close to home for me. For those of you who didn't grow up with me, I totalled my car when I was 17. I hit black ice, likely overcompensated, went off a 13 foot embankment and was thrown from the car. If it weren't for a very small ditch within the larger culvert where I landed, my car would have landed on top of me. Because of this little ditch, the car landed upside down straddling that ditch, settling down a few inches above me. The force of the accident broke my back and punctured a lung. I spent a week in the hospital and then a bit more time at home recovering. It was a hellish time, being trapped at home with my mom, as a grumpy teenager who had previously been counting the days until I could leave said home and mom. If you've read Ethan Frome, I had nightmares at the time of being stuck there forever like the broken Ethan in his loveless marriage.

Now when I encounter a family who has a child who was not so lucky, who did not escape so unscathed, who may be at the mercy of other people's caregiving for the rest of their lives, I go cold inside. I stop in my tracks and thank the universe for my luck. I also thank these parents for the care they give their children. I slump a little thinking of how they must feel to watch this bright future change completely. They claw their way toward hope, toward a different future, one they have no blueprint for. I send up my wishes for their self-care, for the progress of their child, for their patience and for a loving community of support for them.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


This morning I am thinking of goodbyes. I have a friend for whom we are babysitting today so she and her husband can attend a funeral. I have been thinking a great deal about this funeral for the past week for several reasons. One, I had met the woman who they are burying today and she was the sister/sister-in-law of a couple I have married. I had spent time specifically trying to get to know her and her siblings and sat with her for quite some time at the rehearsal dinner.

I can't say that I "knew" her as I had only met her a few times and had that one nice conversation with her over dinner. When I was informed of her death though I had a very clear image of her face in my mind. She had left an impression on me-  one of quiet strength and yet vulnerability. Jovi and I had played with her son that evening too and I too easily pictured his loss as well as her husband's.

The other reason I have been thinking of the funeral, I was asked by a family member if I might be offered as a stand-in for a pastor for the burial in the event they were unable to locate a pastor for the burial today. I had quickly responded yes as, in addition to wanting to do whatever I could for this family at this time, I have been thinking over the past year about presiding over funerals.

I know this sounds morbid. Why would anyone want to do this. I can't quite answer this. I don't think it would be anything I that would have crossed my mind had my friend Jason, years ago, not contemplated having me preside over his father's funeral. Jason had an extremely difficult time finding someone to perform the service for his father as Jason lived out of town and his father didn't belong to any specific church community. He had asked me if I was willing to do this and I hesitated and suggested we look harder to find someone professional. At the end he was able to find an experienced person to perform the service, but the man had no connection to Jason, his father or the family in general. I regretted having pushed for someone else as I knew that I could have spoken to what Jason needed at the time much better than this gentleman had.

When I was asked this last week, I didn't hesitate as I felt that if the family decided this was what they wanted, or that they couldn't find anyone else, I might be able to relieve some amount of stress from their ordeal.

I can honestly say I am relieved that they found someone else to perform the service. I can also honestly divulge that I am more interested even now in being of service to others in this capacity. I have mixed feelings about that. What could my motivations be and is that weird to want to do that for others? I need to think about this one more.