Solestep

Rhythm and movement are intrinsic to life. Solestep is my attempt to notice it, to capture its ability to humor, inspire, and reveal in unexpected and surprising ways.

Meeting Oxford

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It’s damp here. The rain outside pelts the cement floor with force and the small heater in my living room fights, but not quite winning the war to warm up the space between these white walls.

Living mostly in climates where snow and sun are frequent but rain is not, I have never had much need for umbrellas, raincoats or waterproof footwear. And being the sort of person whose philosophy on packing goes something like, “if you don’t have it now or forget to pack it, use your visa when you get there,” none of these items were on my list.

Until today. When I woke up to the same sound I fell asleep to. Which was the same rat-at-tat that welcomed me to Oxford one day earlier. And that same drum roll, according to my driver, has been making noise every day here for months.

The sound of water falling from the sky in force, whipped by the wind against trees, rooftops and windows. A beautiful, cold cacophony.

This is Oxford.

Known for its awe inducing spires. Loved for its romantic history; given to any child (and child at heart) who in reading of Lucy’s fated step into an old dusty wardrobe, or in remembering Bilbo’s dangerous step beyond his front door, dares to believe magic worlds really do exist.

This is Oxford. Inspiring. Cold. Romantic. Damp. Old.

We romanticize what we don’t understand, I think. I have romanticized Oxford for most of my life. I’ve romanticized every single thing I’ve dreamed of knowing for most of my life: America, Home, Getting Published, Independence, Family, Love, Fame, Wealth, Career, Belonging…

And the best things, the things worth romanticizing, I am still romanced by, even in knowing them. Because, in knowing any single thing, we come to meet its shortcomings, its disappointments, its failures and its lies: the things we wanted to be true but aren’t.

And just maybe, Oxford will find its way onto this list of best things. It’s too early to tell.

I know the things worth romanticizing by my experience of leaving them. I remember the beautiful and not the mundane, or the mundane becomes beautiful.

Like small town life. And Land, lots of it: wide open low density spaces. Like home and all its ordinary-ness. And love. With all its contradictions and constant disappointments.

Maybe its our memories, not these things, that are romantic. We hold what was in such grand light and long for it to return because it feels good. Because when it’s damp, and cold, and old, it helps to remember magic worlds were written about in the same damp, cold, old place. And that even though we can walk downtown in our small hometown and in knowing everyone feel like the world is too small, still feel the comfort of being known.

Or maybe it really is the thing, the qualities of the object we have developed this affection for, that romances us. Like the incessant rain in Oxford. Soaking me to the bone as I look for everyday things like spinach and coffee on an unfamiliar street because I didn’t pack an umbrella.

Who can tell. For now, I’ll buy a raincoat and better shoes.

Hope: a way to hold the unknown

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Hope: the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best; to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence; to believe, desire, or trust.

Hope reintroduced itself to me recently with a kind of bold certainty of unseen goodness that it caused me to reconsider all the cliche pictures I’ve had in my head about the nature of this four letter word.

Hope generally conjures pictures of sunlight breaking through fluffy white clouds against a blue sky and in my head I hear angels singing hallelujah.

But hope is less about fluffy feel good clouds and sounds more like “a cold and broken hallelujah” in the famous words of Leonard Cohen. Hope is the piercing point of every not-yet.

Every year, exactly four Sunday’s before Christmas Day, for as many years as I can remember, my mother lights a candle. Just one. At first. It glows all week next to three unlit, silent candles (purple, purple, purple, pink) placed in holes carved into a clunky wood log decorated with pinecones, branches and dark red berries. Until the following Sunday when the second candle is lit, and every Sunday until December 25.

This is Advent. We just marked it’s first Sunday. A season in the Christian tradition that observes the anticipation of Christ’s arrival. Advent invites us to wait, to anticipate with expectation the arrival and fulfillment of an ancient story.

As a child I was always mesmerized by the lit candle—I felt like I could watch the flicker-burn-flicker-smoke-burn-flicker pattern of its flame for hours. This year, however, it is the absence of flame in the unlit candles that arrests me, stops me in my tracks. The breath in my chest descends like a rock into my belly as I pass by, followed by a ragged breath up the wind pipes. Those unlit candles, unmoving, dark, silent and cold almost involuntarily call up every experience of the “not yet” in my own life. Reminders of my own unknown, silent, uncertain future full of questions, and longing for a goodness I can’t see.

There’s no fluffy white clouds here. This is where hope lives. In the not-yet, absent spaces. The dark and uncertain spaces. The unknown uncertain future spaces. Hope believes—is certain—that those unknown future spaces have goodness in them.

I love my mother’s Advent tradition for the same reason I love great stories—they make an abstract tangible. Like hope. And Peter Jackson captures Tolkien’s picture of hope perfectly in this exchange between Sam and Frodo:

Frodo: I can’t do this, Sam.

Sam: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.

Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?

Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.

That’s hope. It digs up in us the ability to keep going, to finish. It’s better and stronger than what I’ve always relied on anxiety to do: drive results, make it happen…or else. But, where anxiety depletes, strips away and reduces, hope generates, cultivates and builds. The two words couldn’t be more perfectly opposed. Anxiety expects the worst. Hope believes the best.

Like Sam said, we need these great stories, real or imagined, to remind us that when the sunlight is buried beneath a mountain of doom, hope pushes us forward because there is good in the world.

I may not be on a quest to save Middle Earth or the Shire, but sometimes Monday morning FEELS like Mordor and I just can’t get myself out of bed. On those days, I know hope is with me looking at the unknown saying, “there is good in the world…and it’s worth fighting for.”

So I kick my feet to the ground, grind a cup of coffee and tell myself to trust there is good to be found.

May you sit with hope in all those unlit spaces this Christmas. Goodness is yet to come.

An Anxious Exit.

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Anxiety: a state of uneasiness or tension caused by apprehension of possible future misfortune, danger, etc.; worry. Intense desire; eagerness.

Anxiety. The first word I couldn’t restore to my personal lexicon.

Why?

I gripped the steering wheel with frightening intensity, hands positioned perfectly at ten and two o’clock, one eye on the road twisting dangerously around the coast in front of me and the other warily watching the car behind me creep on my bumper. Waves crashed with crushing force against the rock where the road suddenly and immediately disappeared. I turned in time of course, to the right where the cliff of another rock strongly suggested another curve to the left would be a very good idea.

Last week I covered a few hundred miles of white-knuckle coast from San Diego to Vancouver and if I had any doubt prior, a few 13 hr days behind the wheel of my car on Hwy 1 confirmed what I already knew about this consistently tumultuous relationship anxiety and I have had in every season of life.

1) Anxiety and I are a dynamite pair. In the worst way. We can generate a lot of action together. Whether its just one more mile in the dark, just one more email before I’ve brushed my teeth, or just one more cocktail before the end of the night. Anxiety is a strong motivator. He drives a lot of action. And action is the only currency that counts for a creative. Or anyone who wants something to show for the few years they have to say “I was here.” He says, “just do this and then you will be safe. For now.”

Anxiety is no-nonsense and his instinct is ALWAYS to protect. From what? The impending doom of course. It exists around every corner and it will fall, or strike, or deal a blow. Regardless it will be deadly. You probably wont survive.

2) Anxiety is powerful. When required he can immobilize all action—to protect me of course from said doom. His sharp and precise hook lands right in the center of my chest pulling down hard and fast causing my lungs to cave just before the sky falls. Phew he says, that was a close one. Dodged that one just in time.

His nature will never change. He’s expensive and always takes more than he gives. And what he does offer he takes back in sleep, joy, digestion and peace.

I broke the news gently. He didn’t leave quietly. He still calls in the middle of the night and shows up before breakfast most mornings. We’re working through it. Removing a word from your personal lexicon is a delicate task—all that emotion, memory, way of understanding wrapped up in a single word.

What fills the space anxiety leaves vacant? Good question. A new word. One that deals in uncertainties and unknowns, powerful enough to move me to act, strong enough to stand up under pressure. A visionary.

Have I made any new acquaintances? I think so. I’ll make introductions soon. Can I be sure it’s the right fit? Well, let’s say this. I’m hoping for the best.

Rest: A place to be. Not a thing to do.

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Rest: Cease work or movement in order to relax, refersh oneself, or recover strength.

"You have hair like Frosty the Snowman," was the most spiteful response the three year old version of myself could hurl at my mother whenever she put me down for a nap.

Tossing and turning in my crib, I’d cry a tale of woe to my ever faithful care bear, Sunshine despising every moment away from the action.

Why rest when I could play? Or work.

Somewhere between the three year old version of myself and the thirty three year old girl I am today, I traded in my care bear for a therapist with a brown leather couch and while I fell in love with afternoon naps, I never really found a good answer to that question.

Until one day while I sat cross-legged on that brown leather couch, with my fingers clenched in fists, trying desperately to look relaxed.

He said, “All growth comes from a place of rest.” In a matter of fact kind of way.

What I would have given for my care bear in that moment.

Growth comes from rest? Rest was the thing that showed up in fits and starts on weekends or holidays but never really produced anything worthwhile that I could tell. A few days into “reality” after a break and that old familiar anxiety muted everything.

Growth comes from hard work, drive and determination. Right?

The same hard work, drive and determination that landed me cross-legged on a brown leather couch talking about emotions I didn’t know I was feeling?

Ok. So I started listening.

And by listening I mean I quit my job, packed my bags and moved to Spain. In the middle of an economic crisis, working for free and paying my way. This may or may not seem like an appropriate response, but I’m not interested in appropriate. I’m interested in honest.

If growth really does come from a place of rest then it was clear to me I wouldn’t find it with clenched fists and a calendar as crammed full with stuff as my head felt crammed with chaos and anxiety.

Maybe I just needed a vacation. You know. A weekend away. But the truth is, and I learned this the hard way, rest isn’t about vacations or sleep or afternoon naps or quitting a great job and moving to Spain.

Did I find rest in Spain? Absolutely. You might say it’s easier to find there than, say, in North America. Spain is a culture that values slowing things down. Small towns still practice siesta. Spanish people are relational. Meals aren’t just about food. They are about savoring conversation and enjoying company. They make time for people.

While finding rest may have been easier in Spain, living from that place is hard wherever you are because it’s easy to miss and hard to cultivate. Rest resides inside at the center, a very still and small point.

It inhabits space close to criticism, self-doubt, anxiety, ambition and all those ugly, loud neighbors designed to exhaust and distract us. From what? From creativity. From solutions. From ideas. From doing something with those ideas. From growth.

Rest creates space. And shuts up those rowdy neighbors.

So, is there, three days after returning from Spain, a better response to the question that started this post, that eluded me as a child 30 years ago clinging to my care bear and confronted me three months ago sitting cross-legged on a brown leather couch?

Yes. I think so.

Why rest when I could play? Or work.

Because all growth and subsequently all rewarding play, work, and creativity comes from a place of rest. And isn’t growth the evidence that I’m really living? And isn’t really living the point of all this playing, working, creating?

Happiness has two wheels

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Rolling up to my front door this morning, legs a little wobbly from the stress of pedaling in highway traffic on roads with no shoulder, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face even if someone paid me to.

It wasn’t a long ride. Maybe 20km. But you don’t need more than 5 km on a hill in the Spanish heat to remember why you love riding a road bike. I’m pretty sure I had a love-struck grin on my face the entire ride from Calpe to Altea.

Riding wakes me up to life. It shouts belligerently in my face “GO FASTER!” and reminds me that really living is pushing into the things that hurt. Kind of morbid but probably any sport fanatic will tell you the same thing.

Anyway, bike adjustments complete and contract signed—thanks to my bike wizard Aaron at Solybike, who by the way I’m pretty sure watched me leave and thought to himself, ‘god I hope she makes it back in one piece’—my bike and I were off on our first adventure, map in hand.

Truth? Five minutes into my adventure and I was lost. However, I did discover some heart stopping views of the Mediterranean coast as I haphazardly searched for N-332—the road my ride and I would conquer first on our 10-day affair.

Which by the way noone in Calpe had heard of. Apparently. It is in no way possible they couldn’t understand my question, “Busco N-332?” or “Donde esta N-332?”

Forget google maps—I have no data plan here. So I took a deep breath, absorbed the view and followed my gut. Those who know me would agree that’s usually a scary idea when it comes to Gin and navigation.

But I did what what you do on a bike in Spain: follow the sea and climb hills. Because the sea is beautiful and I love climbing hills. It eventually led me to N-332. Go figure. And that’s when I got my introduction to highway riding in Spain. And that goofy grin on my face.

#1Climb hard.
It’s not that the hills are so steep you can’t find your breath, it’s more that there’s lots of them with tunnels and fast cars speeding past you. Oh and a hot hot sun.

#2. Descend fast.
Kind of goes without saying. Just remember #3.

#3. And watch out for the potholes on the shoulder.
In fact just ignore the shoulder all together. It’s hardly there to begin with.

In my excitement I forgot to set up my speedometer so I have no idea how fast (or slow) I was going. I also realized I was still wearing my white, too-expensive-to-admit leather sneakers when I finally did find the elusive N-332.

Not to worry. I was prepared. I pulled over as cars sped by, swapped my sneakers for the riding shoes in my backpack and left the speedometer for another day. Today was simply about riding.

Feeling exhilarated.

Being free.

Going fast.

Hearing that ‘click’ as my shoes snapped onto the pedals again for the first time in over eight weeks (an eternity when you’re in love with your bike), it struck me how ridiculously simple happiness is. It’s on two wheels, going fast, climbing hills.

And I’m thankful for that. Because it seems we waste too much time justifying happiness and complicating existence.

So for the next nine days I’m keeping it simple: a different route for every ride.

Tomorrow? The blue route. Covering 10 little mountain towns over 64 km on what they say is “medium” difficulty on hilly terrain.

Sounds like happiness to me.

Language: an inspired conversation killer

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The scooter was white. Vintage in the style of those dreamy Vespas. My helmet was orange. So was his. We matched.

Slight cringe.

He spoke only slightly more English than I spoke Spanish.

Awkward.

Orange helmet in hand, my lizard brain kicked in: “this is an exercise in frustration waiting to happen. You have ave about five words in common. Stay home. Read a dictionary.”

I’m not knocking my lizard brain—it’s great in survival scenarios. Just not anwhere else.

And when you’re looking for inspiration, vulnerability has a way of making rewards when you least expect it.

You’re rolling you’re eyes at this point. I know, because I’ve got a smirk on my face as I write this.

You’re thinking, “if you can’t find inspiration on a bike flying down the Mediterranean coast with a Spanish guy who hardly speaks a word of English, then what the hell is wrong with you.” And I would agree.

That’s when I did what anyone should do. I told my lizard brain to shut up, strapped on my helmet and got on the bike.

A good friend said it this way. “It’s about venturing out into the world, where people are and anything can happen, and where you are just a tad more vulnerable… For me that is key for creativity/inspiration.”

So really I shouldn’t be surprised that clumsily reading paragraphs about myself I had written in Spanish to a person I hardly knew after riding down the coast on a motobike made the synapses in my brain start to fire in all kinds of random directions.

Sitting there with a beer in hand watching the sun sink into the sea this kind-hearted Spaniard and I connected over verbs and nouns, laughing at each other trying to say, well, anything in a language other than our own.

"Como se dice…" he said pointing at the matching hats we sported on our little coastal adventure.

"Helmet," I said.

"Helmech"? straining his mouth to make that T sound.

"No. HelmET" I said emphasizing the way you press the tip of your tongue to the top of your mouth.

Insert laughter.

"Cosca sounds better doesn’t it?"

"Yes," I agreed. Cosca is a much nicer way to say helmet.

Sometimes it’s that venturing outside of what we know that makes all the difference.

So what’s the point of learning a few Spanish words if you don’t care about getting inspired? (Even though I think you do.) I thought about that too.

Try this on for size.

I stumbled across it in an article about being a global leader (as opposed to the leader of a global corporation) written by Bronwyn Fryer in the Harvard Business Review. According to research, ‘cultural sensitivity’ is at the top of the requirements list for C-level leaders in global organizations. She says, “Cultural empathy requires a degree of egolessness, because you have to surrender the notion that your country or language or point of view is best. Cultural empathy means that you have to not just see through the eyes of someone who is different, but you have to think through their brain.”

And there is no single better way to think through the brain of someone else than to learn their language. I may be a several motorbike rides away from thinking through a Spanish brain, but learning even a few words has a way of building a kind of egolessness. You can’t help but laugh at yourself trying to pronounce a word like “bailabais”.

So, language generates cultural empathy. And it does inspire. What exactly, well that’s for another post.

For now, I’ll leave you with the words of Bilbo Baggins, slightly altered by my nine year-old niece to me in a recent birthday note, that’s got me thinking about what’s next:

"It’ a dangerous business, Gin, going outside your front door. You step onto the road and if you don’t keep your feet there’s no knowing where you might get swept off to."

May you all step into that dangerous business today.

Introducing Boundaries: a word worth knowing

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Boundaries: a line that marks the limits of an area; a dividing line. A limit of a subject or sphere of activity.

Boundaries. Rife with limits. Synonymous with what you can’t do.

Or so I’ve heard.

While most words I’ve been conversing with these days I’ve known for a long time, boundaries is one I can’t say I’ve ever spent much time with. Home, Stability, Crying—these words and I have been busy explaining past misunderstandings and looking for new ways to, well, connect.

But boundaries? What could a girl notoriously known for her carfree, spontaneous, and frequently perceived as “chaotic” existence have in common with such a word?

Good question.

Hence the introduction. We met in Spain of all places.

Surprisingly, for some, we get along like BFF’s. Love at first sight you could say. She’s the ying to my yang.

She sounds stiff I know. But trust me, she’s extremely flexible and surprisingly soft. Which is probably why she often feels abused, manipulated and at times ignored. At least that’s what I think. I don’t want to put words in her mouth.

Boundaries. Look at her. Listen to her name. It’s a word with shape, dimension, and depth when you say it.

I even love her definition: The limits of an area. A sphere of activity.

Here’s why.

Boundaries contain chaos.

And I love to play in it. It’s like my last boss once told me on a particularly frizzy-hair kind of day, “Gin you need a container for the chaos in your brain. Without it, you’ll go crazy and make everyone around you spin out of orbit.” The real challenge is finding the right container. A topic for another day perhaps.

Boundaries push toward discovery.

She gives us something to break down, push past. She’s not interested in being confined anymore than you are. As I discovered during a particularly fun therapy session, living life can be about asking the right questions rather than a series of decisions that narrow our existence.

Boundaries give us form.

And form can be powerful and beautiful when it’s given definition. So give something definition. Then enjoy it. At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself. Don’t worry. Few things are ‘fixed.’ As we add discovery to definition things tend to shift. I’m learning over and again that anything: a position, a relationship, an idea without definition is usually an exercise in frustration and tends to look like…not much at all really.

Boundaries give us structure.

Without her we become cogs. Saying yes to everything and so easily pushed around. I think she’s also been known as backbone. Tough if you’re particularly concerned about being nice. But necessary if you want to be healthy.

So what kind of boundaries am I playing with these days you might be wondering.

I’m keeping it simple.

My boundaries don’t attempt to remove the chaos, they make intentional space for it. It’s called creativity.

My boundaries haven’t confined my existence to a set of do’s and don’ts. They keep me actively open to the world’s grand surprises. It’s healthy curiousity.

My boundaries are not rigid, stiff or immovable. They express value and weight and importance. They make interactions interesting and strong.

Boundaries. She’s protective and has a calming effect on me. You could say she keeps me from burning up, burning out and burning down.

Not a bad word to get to know. Personally.

Ahora Que? You tell me.

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People, whether here or there, often ask me why I quit my job, packed my bags and moved to Spain.

It’s a fair question. However, for every answer I’ve come up with I promise you’ve heard a version of each one before. Julia Roberts already answered it with more drama than I could as the diappointed-with-life divorcee who eats, prays and loves her way across three countries in a (successful) attempt to wake up her soul from certain death while living out the American Dream.

Enough said. Sometimes we all need to leave to live.

But it’s not really why we leave that matters so much, is it?

It’s how we answer the question, “Ahora Que?” that’s infintely more interesting. And in the eight weeks since I boarded my plane in Seattle I’ve been in a sort of wrestling match with this question. He’s a bit sassy, always punchy and never backs down.

So what now? Ahora que?

Let’s start with a (short) list. There’s many still trying to make the cut. Consider this a preview of sorts on the way to learning how to live:

- Laundry and other domestic rituals.
- Sleep. Another enjoyable Spanish habit.
- Language: the ultimate converstion killer.

The feature length answer is currenyly in progress. For now, which answer would you rather here my musings on?

Reclaiming Home. A person, place, or thing?

Home: the place where one lives permanently, esp. as a member of a family or household.

It’s been a while since I’ve redefined a word in my personal lexicon, my little inner vocabulary by which I understand the world on this obscure corner of the interwebs. Almost 4 months to be in no way particular.

But I’ve been out in the world, gathering evidence and experience as fodder for new definitions of old words. You could say I’ve been out looking for a different way to live, and in that way, making old, familiar words new.

It feels somehow fitting that the first word I would hope to reclaim since leaving that well-known Okanagan life one unassuming day in June would be “Home”.

The subtext…or context:
Forty days ago I quit my job, rented my apartment, I packed my bags, boarded a plane and moved to a country I’ve often felt more “at home” in (despite having visited it only twice) than the place I’ve hung my hat for the past seven years. How is that for a paradox when trying to understand the notion of home?

So here we go.

Home. According to a common dictionary defintion it is, “the place where one lives permnently, esp as a member of a family or household.”

Like the definition above, Home has often been a dull or boring word. It reminds me of lazy, colorless, Sunday afternoons with Air Supply on the radio. Don’t get me wrong—I grew up in a family most people in the world have only dreamed of. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’ll tackle that other tough word, “family” another day. I’m talking about Home as that domestic place where the picket fence is egg-shell white and the dog always answers when you call.

These are pictures—of permanent houses we live in for a lifetime, of hanging my hat, or my keys, on the same hook year after year—meant to produce comfort, instead have always produced for me a choking sensation in my throat and a tight, closing-in sensation in my chest.

Home by this definition suffocated.

And home by all the cliched descriptions always causes me to involuntarily smirk with a sort of pitiful disdain. “Home is where the heart is.” Really? What if your heart is hung up on someone who hurt you, broke you, left you? Home sounds pretty crappy to me. “Home is where you hang your hat.” Are you sure? What if you are, like so many in the world, without a hat or a place to hang it? Home sounds like a place only for the priviledged few.

Yes. It’s true. These are just metaphors. But still, I want to believe home is more transcendent than a place to hang a hat and more accessible than a place for only a priviledged few.

So I propse a different definition. One we can all own, whether or not we have a permanent address or a closet full of hats or a person to say we really did live.

Maybe home isn’t a person or a place or a thing. Maybe it is all of those things. Maybe it is more simple than any of those things.

Maybe the person who coined the phrase originally, “home is where the heart is” really meant “home is in the heart.” Which is simply to say, home is wherever I am. Corny? Quite possibly. But, no one can take that place away, it can always be filled with the person and the people we love even when they are gone, the places and memories and moments we have collected, and it goes with us wherever we are in the world.

You might be thinking, “home HAS to be more than ‘me’—otherwise why are we running around looking for it?” If you are, I would have to disagree. Because maybe we really are running around looking for ourselves. Home—an experience more transcendent than a permanent residence-is found wherever, whenever and with whomever I find my true self being reflected back to me. Home is finding an echo of myself in an other—a person, place or thing.

Which is, you could say, to find myself.

And that’s why I can meet a perfect stranger and be “at home” in their presence or walk the streets of a city I’ve never been to before and find myself saying “I’m home.” Because these people and these places reflect something of myself back to me. And that’s why I don’t need a permanent residence to have home.

So what of leaving home, you wonder. It’s important I agree. We grow up when we live home don’t we? Maybe to leave home is to venture outside or just beyond my own heart. And that to return home is to come back to myself with a clearer or truer picture of who I am. Whether I have a backyard to miss or not.

So, here in this small town in Spain, I am reclaiming my home. It’s in my own heart. Where I carry the million, tiny memories and moments, the people, places and experiences that make me simultaneously unique and familiar.

Here, I’ve found a way to say, “Ah. There you are. I’m home.”

A Post-Thought:

My sister-in-law gave me this quote by Brian Andreas some years ago when I think I was feeling a particular sense of ‘homelessness’ about my existence.

"Someday, the light will shine like a sun through my skin and they will say, What have you done with your life? And though there are many moments I think I will remember, in the end, I will be proud to say, I was one of us."

I’ll leave it with you and maybe it will say something to you like it did to me, and as this writing has today:

You are already home.

Crying: A word that moves me

Week 3. Word 2.

To cry: To sob or shed tears because of grief, sorrow,  or pain; weep, exclaim, proclaim. 

I sit with these tear-shaped drops of water often just beneath the surface. They threaten to make a scene at the most inconvenient times. They don’t listen to reason and yet they have no shortage of reasons. 

I don’t know many people who are at home with their tears. We seem to avoid them at all cost. Alone or in the presence of others. And yet it’s one of the first things we do when we show up in this world. It’s, as one man once told me, “as natural as breathing.”

When, how, did we lose our ability to cry when we arrived in this world with the ability to do it with such flare and expression?

Crying. The second word I’ve decided to invite back into my personal lexicon. I said I’d post a word a week, but this everyday word required a little extra time to befriend. It wasn’t a word I expected to need any time with. It’s such an ordinary, household, seemingly childish word. There’s no confusion about it’s meaning. Nothing to debate. 

I’m starting to realize it’s not the controversial words that I need any reconciliation with. It’s the words I’ve discarded and tossed aside without a fair fight. It’s the everyday words that have too many memories, too many pictures to flip through that I’m bumping into.

Crying isn’t the sort of word you casually pass by. It’s pretty vocal. It’s punchy and tough. It can take a beating. It’s comfortable around a mess. In fact, the less composed I am the better we get along.

Maybe that’s why we’ve become strangers.

I suppose I’ve valued composure—being strong, being positive, being happy—over most things for a better part of my life. I’ve had no room for tears.

Until recently. When a friend asked me a very simple question. “How do you feel after you have a good cry?”

I didn’t have to think long about that one.

"I feel rested, at rest," I said.  Peaceful and empty—but not vacant. I feel a little lighter. Like there’s more room in my soul for other things—not just fear and pain and shame. There’s space for light and hope and acceptance.

"I know you won’t like this," he said. "You need to find your tears. They will bring you back to baseline." Baseline. That state of rest we find ourselves in when we’ve removed all the ‘crazy’ activation from the past day, week, month, year, decade. 

And he was right. I didn’t like it. Crying means giving up composure. Admitting all the ugly, negative, heavy emotion no one wants to be around. It means being vulnerable. 

"You mean I have to do it more than once?" I said. "I thought I could just get it out of my system and move on."

Turns out crying is as natural as breathing for a reason. Finding my tears keeps me honest about how I feel. It is a friend to fear, shame, grief and pain without giving into them.

So when these tear-shaped drops of water threatened just beneath the surface this morning, driving on my way to an Easter breakfast party I surrendered. I let them spill over and down my cheeks waiting for the red light to turn green. I let the word be in action a deep comfort to all the reasons reason could not explain. I let the tears roll and roll and roll. 

They often say that in heaven there will be no tears. I think that’s because the road there is filled with them. Maybe it is in the crying—in the embracing and sharing of our sadness can we begin to approach the other, its opposite—which is what we want when we think of heaven anyway, isn’t it?