Your Eyes Haven’t Lost That Sparke…yet

This post is part of the Choosing Vulnerability series. Read more about it here.

When I was solo traveling in Costa Rica I spent a couple days with a guy I met at a bar. An architect.  A weakness of mine. A man with ideas to better the world, to create beauty with his hands. He cooked me breakfast and gave me surf lessons. He didn’t ask my age until just before I walked out the door. I told him to guess. I was 23 at the time. When I asked him how he guessed correctly he said, “Your eyes haven’t lost that sparkle yet.”

I've posted this picture before, but it's relevance is the same here.

I’ve posted this picture before, but it’s relevance is the same here.

Three years later on my 26th birthday, I felt strong, but a little broken. I remember my conversation in Costa Rica with the architect and how he said that life beats you down and hardens you. I keep thinking how I’m not ready for that yet. I don’t want my heart to harden. I don’t want to grow cold to life. I look back on the past 6 months or so, and while there has been so much goodness, there has been heartache as well. Most of which involves being disrespected by men. The two most painful cases happened at the beginning and end of summer.

For a long time I’ve dived into connections with people with the full knowledge that they could leave at any moment and so could I, that life is fleeting, that everything is temporary. I’ve opened my heart as wide as it could possibly open because I’ve wanted to experience love even if it meant suffering. Love in the moment. Bathing in the rays of tenderness. Authenticity. I live for moments like that. But after the pain of my interactions lately, I’ve felt unsure. I don’t want to prevent myself from living in the moment or to be closed off. I want to remain open to life and all the possibilities it brings. Yet more than ever I feel the need to look out for myself. Continue reading

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The Delicate Dance Between Holding on and Letting Go

This is part of the Choosing Vulnerability Series. Read more about it here.

“How can I live in the magic of the moment and let it go right after,” this question plagues me as I sit across from Stefan, look into his eyes and take a bite of the vegan lunch we prepared together. We agree to eat a meal in silence while staring into each other’s eyes the whole time. Later that night at Kirtan (a form of bhakti yoga that involves singing and chanting), Samata tells us to think of a moment we felt love in our lives. I think of that one. Sitting across from Stefan after weeks of sharing our views on life, our dreams of community, raw cacao, homemade chai tea, giggles, dance moves, intimacy, and my twin size bed.

My connection with Stefan came out of nowhere. After months of hoping to find a partner and searching for one in each attractive passerby’s eyes, I connected with Stefan beside a fire on the last night of a sweet summer gathering all about love. Finally I felt like someone looked into my eyes and actually saw me, looked into my eyes and felt my heart. After months of knowing Stefan from similar traveling paths, everything just clicked. I had long admired and respected him, and now I realized I wanted to get to know him on a deeper level.

I felt that ‘je ne sais quoi’ connection with him, that unexplainable feeling of sharing buzzing electricity with someone. I felt it every time our eyes met and every time we were near each other. That feeling was there and so was the laughter, the playfulness and silliness, the freedom, the right combination of lightness and seriousness, and of course, the always looming realization that he could leave at any moment. Stefan has been on the road for five years. Gypsying all over the place with the biggest free spirit and heart to match. I first saw him at Envision Festival in Costa Rica as Rising Appalachia performed. My friend and I were dancing and singing along to the traditional folk song, “Who’s Gonna Shoe Your Pretty Little Feet.” As we sung, “Who’s gonna be your man,” Stefan appeared behind us dancing and laughing. He danced in and then danced right back out.

How can I appreciate what’s happening when I know it’s not going to last? How can I love and then instantly release? And how can I do it without being so overly analytical all the time?!

How do I do this when I want to know that something is real and not just the magic of the moment. For the most part I understand to appreciate the feeling in the moment you feel it because life only exists within the moment, but at the same time if I feel a strong connection with someone, I want to explore the possibilities of what it means. As I write this I feel conflicting thoughts: knowing that that feeling only exists in the moment and that I have to let it go after, yet wanting to preserve it in some sense.

Does this feeling of preservation come from a desire to hold on to something to prove that it happened? Like obsessively chronicling all these moments and journaling as some sort of subconscious validation and proof that I am alive and breathing.

“She was lost in her longing to understand.”
—Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

I know that love is everywhere. Love is around, within and inside of me constantly. I know I can access this at any moment. I am extremely grateful for the moments I’ve shared love with people. Yet sometimes I feel a pang in my heart, a longing to consistently share this love with one person in a secure, safe, comfortable place.

I crave the security and knowledge of love. To know that the love, that feeling in that moment is lasting in a way. To know that it’s real beyond the moment and that we share a mutual connection and appreciation. But nothing is lasting. If nothing is lasting then how can something be secure? Is love only meant to last in these fleeting moments? Is love only a fleeting moment? Is life?

“Albert Camus wrote that the only serious question is whether to kill yourself or not.

Tom Robbins wrote that the only serious question is whether time has a beginning and an end.

Camus clearly got up on the wrong side of the bed, and Robbins must have forgotten to set the alarm.

There is only one serious question.

And that is: Who knows how to make love stay?

Answer me that and I will tell you whether or not to kill yourself.

Answer me that and I will ease your mind about the beginning and the end of time.

Answer me that and I will reveal to you the purpose of the moon.”

– Tom Robbins, Still Life with Woodpecker

It’s the same questions over and over. The same questions in the form of another face, another soul connection, another place. Months after connecting with Stefan, my friend and I tell each other that those are the only questions. Loving and letting go is the only lesson. Regardless of how many times I learn this, it always stings. Maybe it gets easier to some degree, but as I come to realize what I want in a partnership, the questions and the longing burn deeper.

It’s been years since I’ve been in a committed monogamous relationship with someone. Being around Stefan made me see myself in the perspective of a relationship. Weeks after our first connection around a fire, I realized some things about the kind of relationship and love I want in my life as Stefan and I were once again around a fire (there’s a lot of being fireside in this community). I craved Stefan’s attention and affection and wanted him to sit next to me. I thought about him leaving and daydreamed about the possibilities of traveling again, spending more time with him. But then I realized that’s not the kind of love I want. I pulled out my journal and started writing with the light of the fire:

I want to love without attachment. I’m learning to love without attachment. I choose to love without attachment. I want to give without expectation. I’m learning to live without expectation. I choose to see people for who they are on their own path and not try to fit them into who I am on my path. I choose to accept people for who they are in each moment without expecting or needing more.

This has been my mantra since I wrote it. It’s always a work in progress. Especially the bit about seeing people for who they are and not for who I want them to be.

Now that time has distanced the intensity of the connection, I can look back on all of this with a lighter feeling in my heart. But I’m always dancing with the feelings of holding on and letting go, longing for love and saying goodbye.

How do you handle these types of situations? How do you embrace the moment while the very existence of it indicates an end?

*Update: After posting this I was reading one of my Rumi books. I thought that this poem fitted so well with the theme of this post and couldn’t resist including it:

 

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It’s worth it to keep trying, to keep trusting.

“Trust is a confusing thing. It seems so simple, but when you try to pin it down it can be elusive. We talk about trust as something you build, as if it’s a structure or a thing, but in that building there seems to be something about letting go. What it affords us is a luxury. It allows us to stop thinking, to stop worrying that someone won’t catch us if we fall, to stop constantly scanning for inconsistences, to stop wondering about how other people act when they’re not in our presence. It allows us to relax a part of our minds so we can focus on what’s in front of us.”

“Trust is your relationship to the unknown, what you can’t control. And you can’t control everything. And it’s not all or none. It’s a slow and steady practice of learning about the capacity of the world. And it’s worth it to keep trying. And it’s not easy.”

“I almost imagine trust as these invisible hands that we stretch out into the world looking for someone to hold on to.”

How can you grow your trust?

I’m glad I didn’t have something better to do

“I was driving home in Detroit one day, and Brendan Benson, who is a singer in this band, asked me if I could stop by after lunch and help him with this song. I said okay because I had nothing better to do. This is a warning to anybody who has something better to do. The great actor Johnny Depp once drove his friend to an audition. His friend did not get the part, but the director said, ‘What are you doing?’ and Johnny Depp starred in A Nightmare on Elm Street. Well I’m glad he didn’t have something better to do. Albert Einstein was a Swiss Patent Clerk who was expected to crunch numbers all day. In his spare time, well, I guess he just explained to you why you’re here. I’m glad he didn’t have something better to do. I gather that some of you are in college right now…I hope you pay attention because even if you become some sort of businessman or lawyer or something like that…I hope you think about this sentence, ‘I’m glad I didn’t have something better to do.’ Can you agree with me on that? No matter what happens tonight can we at least agree on that?” -Jack White during his headlining Bonnaroo set Saturday, June 14th, 2014

Do you really have something better to do? Or are you just making excuses?

 

Go For A Walk In The Woods Today

Today I was en route to a meeting when it got rescheduled. Errands to run flooded my mind. Before I had a chance to reroute Plan B with my GPS, I ended up at the Asheville Botanical Gardens. Before I turned in, for a split second the thought crossed my mind, “Maybe I should Google to see if they’re open.” This thought partially stemmed from thinking I had too much to do to spend time elsewhere. It also showed me the unnecessary reliability I’ve had on technology lately.

“But, I’m already here,” I thought and turned in.

Trust that life organically takes you where you need to go.
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It’s okay to let go of control.

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Once I started walking around, I realized how much I needed fresh air, green plants, trees, and grass. How much I continually need these things. Nothing else I “needed” to do just to “fill my time” mattered.

Trust in the path even if it seems confusing, painful, challenging or impractical.
flowered path

Sometimes it looks like the path goes nowhere. And sometimes the path goes nowhere. It’s okay to take that path anyways. You never know what you’ll discover along the way.
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Being outside is the best medicine. I grew up with acres of woods in my backyard. Being in the woods surrounded by plants and trees has always soothed me. Sometimes I spend so much time indoors that I forget how nourishing and replenishing life outside is. Spending time in the woods helps me understand that what we are a part of is so much more than broken hearts, aggressive drivers and to do lists.

tree river

Watching a dragonfly flutter from one plant to the next helps me appreciate the depth of a moment.
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Getting up close to a bug reminds me that life exists in so many other realms.
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Trees remind me that sometimes beauty can’t fit into frames and parameters.
tree at botanical

It shows me that we’re not the only ones who get all tangled up.
tangled plants

Even in the prickly places life blooms.
prickly

Wild bleeding hearts can still be beautiful.
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Today I walked into the woods feeling hurt and upset about recently discontinuing a romantic relationship in my life. I left the woods feeling hopeful, replenished and happy.

At the end of my walk I saw this quote in the information display case:
do not let the world make you hard

The world is still filled with so much sweetness. Sometimes the best way to figure this out is through having a broken heart.
botanical bumper

Asheville Botanical Gardens:

The Botanical Gardens at Asheville is a non-profit, volunteer-based organization. They aim to preserve and promote plants native to the Southeast with an emphasis on the Appalachian region. The Southern Appalachians have the richest diversity of native plants outside of the tropics. The gardens are open from sunrise to sunset. There’s no admission fee, but donations are appreciated.

Directions: (Or you can just trust that life will guide you)

151 W.T. Weaver Blvd.
Asheville, NC 28804-3414

From Downtown Asheville
Take Broadway/Merrimon Avenue (US 25) north for approximately 1.5 miles to the traffic light at W.T. Weaver Blvd. Turn left. Pass the entrance to University of North Carolina Asheville (UNCA) at the traffic circle.  Entrance to Gardens is the about .2 mile on the right.

From the South (Hendersonville)
Take I-26 West. As you approach Asheville, I-26 will be joined by I-240.  Continue to follow signs for I-26 (future I-26). Once the road begins to cross the Smokey  Mountain Bridge, move IMMEDIATELY into the left  lane. Take LEFT Exit 4A. Go to Exit 25 which comes up quickly.  At the bottom of exit ramp turn right. At second traffic light turn left on to W.T. Weaver Blvd. BGA’s parking lot is first driveway on left.

From the North (Weaverville)
Take I-26 East to Exit 25.  At the bottom of exit ramp turn left. At second traffic light, turn left on to W.T. Weaver Blvd. BGA’s parking lot is first driveway on left.

Once I got in my car I put on the Sim Redmond Band’s Live at GrassRoots album. When I can’t get outside, Sim Redmond and GrassRoots will usually do the trick for an uplifting, soothing outlook. Here’s the soundtrack:

 

One more reason to trust and know that everything’s going to be okay.  Once I got home I saw this quote a guest left:

happiness is a choice

It’s okay to be private; it’s okay to cry.

Some days I just need to hear this song.

These words have comforted me, encouraged me, made me cry, and inspired me.

Expression is okay. Sadness is okay. Loneliness is okay.

Thank you, Ayla Nereo for oh so many things.

Asheville: Planting Roots to Rise Up

After traveling and being on the move for three years, I’ve found a place to stay for awhile.

Blue Ridge Mountains photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Blue Ridge Mountains photo courtesy of Creative Commons

In April I returned to the states from Guatemala and packed most of my belongings in my car. I left my childhood home to drive south on the night of a Taurus new moon.

“The moon in Taurus is a time of recognizing and aligning with what we truly value, and then vowing to live our lives in a way that truly upholds and reflects it.”

A few things I truly value: clear and honest communication, lasting relationships, people who aren’t afraid to look you in the eyes while speaking, community, caring for and preserving the planet, conscious consumerism and repurposing, health and wellness, spending time outside, practicing yoga consistently, and eating local plant-based diets. And so I headed south to Asheville, a big city with a small town feel where I can foster all these things and more into my daily life.

COURTESY FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS

Downtown Asheville Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons

Asheville is the perfect meeting point of north and south. I’ve never lived in the south and want to experience life in this part of the country. I grew up vacationing at the Outer Banks and have always had a deep love for North Carolina.

I’ve spent so much time getting to know the ins and outs of other countries, and now I want to get to know more of my own. When I first visited Asheville in June 2013 I knew I’d end up here someday. It’s a traveler’s haven with a mystical allure. Being here will help me understand the concept of place and how certain places have a pull on us all.

What is it about certain places that call to us? What makes one place more alluring then the next? How does place and our attachment to place affect who we are?

For the past few years I’ve been exploring jungles, rainforests, mountains, beach towns, volcanoes. Each environment has had different effects on my well-being and circumstance.

Now I’m ready to remain in one place, in one piece and see what happens when I just let myself be. I’m ready to embrace one place, one region and see how that affects me.

For me stillness has always been in the motion. I’ve found clarity from running, from escaping, from dancing, from road tripping, from plane hopping. I’ve needed to keep on moving to find peace in my mind. The movement has been my meditation, my way to quiet my brain, my way to sort things out. Like Bob Dylan says, for awhile the only thing I knew how to do was to keep on keepin’ on.

Now I’m planting roots so I can rise up. I’m planting roots so I can branch out in ways that only come when there’s stability.

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

I’m ready to be a local at the community yoga class, know the farmers at the farmers market, build lasting connections, attend weekly bluegrass jam nights, complete projects, have a favorite coffee shop and so much more. At least for now.

“Perhaps the most radical thing we can do is stay home so we can learn the names of plants and animals around us; so that we can begin to know what tradition we are a part of.” -Terry Tempest Williams

Not long after I landed in Asheville I read that quote somewhere.

Here’s to being radical, getting to really know a place and through that getting to know a community and myself.