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all the love you can muster

As soon as she said it, I felt my shackles go up and I was immediately jettisoned back to the last time this happened between us. Talking to a trusted colleague, I had a sour taste in my mouth from something she said in confidence. My response was a visceral one: I felt my jaw set and my head fix lower. She spoke to me as a comrade, as someone with whom she’d earned stars and stripes. All things told, it was fine and in no way malicious: a truth I could partially accept as my own.

But it triggered something deep within me: my pride? Old wounds?

I was sent into a tailspin the last time this happened between us. I was deeply perturbed, and sought relief by entertaining possibility after possibility (did she want me to agree with her? Was she testing me? Is she leading me to water but trying to be coy?).

Eventually, I chocked it up to ego. This person’s cardinal sin is her pride, and as hers swelled in the conversation in such a way that my ego was threatened, I slammed in to a fight or flight response. Rather than engaging in the conflict with my friend and comrade, I locked my jaw and sat on the defensive, keenly aware of the freshly drawn line in the sand between us. If she crossed it, I would cut her shit up. I sat back on my haunches and waited.

Except… it never came to that. (Thankfully! Could you imagine?! I try to be a chill person, but when I feel really threatened….) Eventually, I made peace with the moment by “owning my part.”  I told myself: “I’m just going to notice my ego response and watch it from over here.  S’all I’m doing. Noticing.  Just going to notice it from over here.  See what happens.”  I lightened.  Time eventually passed.

So this time, when I felt my jaw lock, I did the exact same fucking thing I did the first time. Haha. It’s like the neural pathway was already lit up for me, so I just walked down the damn thing. (It’s absurd and comical now.)  As I drove home tonight, I did that thing where you feel yourself “come to” as you pass through an intersection or round a corner, only to realize that you had been deeply on autopilot for some unknown (and generally ghastly, worrisome) amount of time.

I got home and knew I needed a workout to burn off some of my grueling work week. I thought to myself : I’m tired; it’s this damn Saturn-opposed-Sun transit I’m in the middle of; I’ll feel so much better if I just hit the gym. Feeling tired and gluttonous overruled healthful thinking, so I dipped some pretzels in cream cheese and went about some household chores. I didn’t set up music or light a candle or turn on my diffuser. I just started shepharding items around the house from wherever they were to wherever they were going and I just let the tension build and build inside.

What she’d said had bothered me, true. But by the time I’m finished unloading the dishwasher, the gremlin eating away at my zen and causing me strife has shapeshifted completely and I am now on the brink of questioning my execution, leadership, and attention-to-detail at work. My very fitness for the work, if you will.  And for one brief, fleeting, almost-missed-it, squint-into-the-sunlight second, I played the martyr.  Me.  The martyr.

When I stop.
I take a breath.
I realize: it’s not about her ego. It’s mine.
(You already knew that.)
Yes, but this time, use what you’ve learned and ask.

(Ask?)

Yes. Ask your ego what it needs and sit in that space holding all the love you can muster.

 

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Your time horizon begins

“The Warrior is called and the Warrior goes.  It has ever been so.”

“When I deployed for the first time [my wife] asked her grandmother for advice. Her grandfather served in Africa and Europe in World War II. Her grandmother would know what to do.

“How do I live with him being gone? How do I help him when he comes home?” my wife asked.

“He won’t come home,” her grandmother answered. “The war will kill him one way or the other. I hope for you that he dies while he is there. Otherwise the war will kill him at home. With you.”

“My world  became narrow and small– the thirty-five other EOD technicians I would deploy with, a base in Iraq, IEDs, the enemy.  Who and what you are leaving behind fades nearly unnoticed.Your time horizon begins when you step onto Iraqi soil and ends when you leave.There are no considerations beyond the handful of brothers in the room with you and the next nine months.  There is no thought to the consequences of your decisions past that abbreviated timeline, no imagining of what might follow you home.  Home is a lifetime away.  Your immediate present, your whole world, is the war. That is where you are going, like countless others before you over the centuries, a line of young men from American small towns and European peasant farms, from great Roman cities and Japanese pagodas on terraced mountainsides.  Don the armor, mount the horse, and join your brothers in battle.”

 

― Brian Castner, The Long Walk.

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I had a conversation with Pain

I was lying face down on a heated massage table with acupuncture needles in my low back when it happened:

I had a conversation with Pain.

It felt like tapping into this deeply primordial being: the cadence of the voice and the cryptic simplicity of the words were enough to keep me suspended in that mystical in-between. I was able to ask questions and get responses.

  • Is this pain related to destroying root beliefs?
  • Is it all the financial legacy stuff [around which I've had some major shifts recently]?
  • Have you noticed that I’ve been listening more?

We went back and forth a few times before I raised out of the vibration.  Pain is very loving but also very low vibration.  As thoughts entered my head (“I should write this down! I don’t want to forget these lessons!”), Pain receded like the tide.  As it slipped away, and my vibration was buoyed upwards, I was struck with a realization:  I can visit with Pain any time, if I can get down low enough.  He is always there.  (What that means, I do not yet know, friends.  That’s one to sit with.  What if Pain is always there, but lies dormant?  That’s such a simple shift from western medicine’s conventions around pain, it kills me a little.  It appeals to me in a way that I can’t fully describe.  Like: what if we chose to respect Pain instead of fighting it or numbing it all the time? What if we asked Pain to tell us what he needs?  What if we choose a more harmonious relationship with Pain than the one we’re taught? …or the one we’re sold?)

I recounted this story to two of my trusted friends. One of whom listened, intently, and held great space for me. The other gave me suggestions on how to continue to converse with Pain. (Her graduate thesis, get this: “Working with Shadow.”  Amazingly brilliant woman!)

I was so tickled after this happened. It’s another Big Indicator that I’m living deeply and that my adventures with spirit are taking me further into unseen realms. I feel true fascination when I dive in and fascination is a state of being that I find playful and warm and safe and good- it helps me to nurture my inner child. (You’re welcome, baby Kate!)

The best, best, best thing?

Pain affirmed what I already intuitively knew to be true.  Pain bestowed upon me clarity and with that comes confidence that I’m making decisions and investing in ways that are serving my highest and best interest.

Above all, pain told me to keep b r e a t h i n g.

Namaste, dudes.

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The hustle of moving is over

The hustle of moving is over.

God, say it again.

The hustle of moving is over.

I got rid of objects for which I no longer feel love. I said goodbye to my Nashville peeps. My love and my cats and all of my belongings are in the new place. We are 93% unpacked. I’ve driven to work a few times now taking the exact same route. I have a grocery store and a backup grocery store that I like.

While I was busy going through the motions, my energy became completely focused on building the new.

It’s magical, right? That my energy could shift so completely and I would not even recognize it until later?

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment my energy shifted. The last day we woke up in Nashville, I was focused on the task ahead of packing the car. It was more about not forgetting something or accidentally locking the keys in the house. When we got in the car to pull away, I was focused on settling in to the car with three vocal cats and running through my mental checklist. As we drove through downtown and crossed Broadway, I remember being struck by how this neon-studded stretch of Nashville would always feel absurdly normal and oh, yeah, what’s the easiest route to get to I-65 from here?

The drive was mostly uneventful. We stopped to grab some food in Seymour, Indiana. I remember watching two people in uniforms near the soda fountain flirt with one another and I remember thinking: God, enjoy this time where the flirting makes you feel so alive and full of light and hope and daring. (It’s like a dreamspace, that time just before something happens.)

We arrived in Chicago ahead of schedule. Signing paperwork to get the keys for our apartment was surreal, and I remember just staring at the woman behind the desk with whom I had been happy and energetic a few weeks before and thinking: I hope this doesn’t take too much longer.

Keys in hand, my focus was on putting the cats in rooms and unloading necessities from the car. My back had been sore for many days in a row, and I was truly physically and emotionally depleted.

After we left, we went to the closest Whole Foods and ate $30 worth of food from the hot bar. I bought a quiche for the next morning in case we missed the continental breakfast.

I had the next day off– a Tuesday. I know we ran errands around town, because it was strange to do so: everything we bought had to be shoved into the car, and then carried upstairs, and then assembled or hung or both. We created a tremendous amount of work for two people who had been so, so tired. But we knew – and a good question is, would I choose differently next time? – that we had a small window of time before we would be preoccupied with unpacking and finding places for things. We could have done anything (no rules!), and I pitched everything from the movies to a museum to staying in bed all day… and yet we agreed that what we wanted to do was run errands.

The next day, I was at work by 8:30am.
(That’s a whole different story.)

So when did that shift happen? Like most things, is it fair to say it was gradual and then all at once?

Our household arrived that following Saturday. I took the next Monday off from work so that I had time to wake up and be in my new house.

We had a houseguest that Thursday night, and the following weekend, we hosted friends who live on the North Shore.

Just yesterday, I think it was, I emptied my suitcase.

Maybe that’s the moment I was waiting for: the symbolic “I am no longer transient.” I am not trying to be sane while I’m moving because I’m not actually moving anymore.

That process is over, and now I’m fully invested in the next: which is building a new nest, exploring my new surroundings, and deepening my inner work.

I made it!

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It’s hard today.

Today, it’s hard to be here. I’m freaking out internally and the evidence is a mountain of questions: What was I thinking? How will I do this? I get mental flashes of myself stranded in a snowstorm on the side of the road. Of my vehicle totaled. Of myself crying because it’s so hard to be here when it seems like the elements are stacked against you. (Why did I relent? Why did I think this was okay?)

And then I remember that hundreds of thousands of people live in this area. That humans are nimble, and we adjust to climates ranging from arctic desert to… well, to desert desert. And I remind myself: I, too, will adjust.

Occasionally, I picture Christmas movies set in the Midwest: all those kids in big puffy snow suits playing ice hockey on ponds and licking telephone poles and so on. I think to myself: people live in MINNESOTA. They live in Canada! They live in Russia and Finland and Norway. Thriving in the Chicago winter requires the right gear and there’s nothing stopping me from getting every last bit of gear that I may want or need.

 

Do you guys know anything about snow shoes?

 

I saw a quote recently that I really liked; the jist of it was that birds don’t land on branches because they trust trees. They land on branches because they trust their own wings.

There’s something in there for me – about trusting my ability to adapt when fear and self-doubt starts to creep in. I’ve got a fantastic track record so far of adapting well to circumstance… so… there’s that.

 

Plus, I’m 1000% certain I am in need of a good workout.

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Our last day in Nashville

I am leaving Nashville feeling accomplished.

 

I set my intention early: “an adult study abroad,” I told people. You know, the travel, the friendships, the intensity, the transient nature of it all.

 

I’m leaving Nashville feeling like it was exactly as I had hoped. Professionally, I accomplished what I was there to do. Start a new office. Infuse company culture into a high-performing team. Let them bloom on their own.

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Personally, I wanted to knock off all the states in the South from my list. At least, as many of them as seemed reasonable. I wanted to try living way from my family, with an empty schedule. I wanted to understand a region of this country that has always been stereotyped as being Republican, insular, and other. I wanted to be able to say: I did it.

 

What I didn’t know, and couldn’t have predicted, is the following:

I would fall in love. I would meet some of the most splendid people, who offer a kind of soul enrichment you just don’t know how to ask for. I would have that right place + right time feeling, and I would be a part of that for other people, as well. I would learn how to slow down, how to dig deep, and how to walk the path of a woman who is in touch with her own spirit. I would lead, and I would keep my head up, and I would be helping people see new possibilities in themselves. I would never quite feel like Nashville is home home, but I would be there at a time that it was fighting to evolve in important ways and I would find many comforts of home. I’d come to value Southern culture, and Southern tradition, and Southern cooking in a whole new light. I would be less afraid of Christians, and more loving. I’d cook more local food, and I’d find over and over again that people will help you – sometimes without asking. And importantly, a message that I’m really trying to integrate: grace isn’t something you earn, or that you deserve. You just take it when you need it, and there’s always more left over.

 

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Our actual last day in Nashville and we are tired.