Alone

Four years ago I started this blog to record my thoughts and personal opinions with the void.  However, I’ve come to realize that this was mostly a space that acted like a dream-board without me ever having to admit that I had one.  Before writing this, I browsed through my old posts.  An old collection of aspirations, dreams, and poems that expressed how I felt better than I could, I decided to leave them as they were.  The past may look messy and it was sure as hell unpleasant to walk through at the time, but it was necessary to get to the present.  Today, I am alone.  Tomorrow, I will be alone.  And this is okay.

To be clear, I am alone but I am also not–meaning that I am always accompanied by the past, certain events, people, and the spirit.  The spirit is something that tends to follow me around all the time.  It sits just behind me or with my heart as I go about my days.  It peers from behind my shoulder, watching me write.  It looks at those I talk to and whispers reminders to see the world and the people in it through grace.  This is not easy to do, and I often fail.  Sometimes you have to look really hard for the light that is in others, sometimes they will not want you to see; but it will always be there.

As the world and its glorified treasures fell away or deserted, the spirit remained.  Then, (something that I had not done for a very time) I turned around and looked it in the face.  Looking back at myself was a mirrored image of what looked like a happier, more at peace ‘me.’  Odd.  How could ‘me’ know what was right and wise while also ‘me’ flitted around messing everything up and bumping into things?  So in that moment, I decided to give myself a hug, and let the spirit ‘me’ be my guide.  This is not a post advocating for one to find God or the spirit as the personal self…I don’t know if I could say those were the same things.  However, I am saying that trusting yourself and letting the spirit of God or whatever drives you, be your guide.

In less than a month I will be moving to Boston.  Accepted as a masters student at a very important institution, I am getting ready to begin a new and very scary chapter of my life.  Hopefully, the spirit and I will find new life there, a new home, and a new purpose.

Until then, peace.

Happy Holidays

Image result for poinsettia

Happy Holidays!  For some of us, today is Christmas, and for others it may have been or will be Hanukkah or Bodhi Day or Three Kings Day (to name a few).  Whatever you celebrate or hold in reverence today, I wish you the very best.

Did you know that religious holidays have this funny way of occurring around the same time?

 Hanukkah (Dec. 24-Jan. 1)

Hanukkah, or Chanukah, is an eight day celebration that commemorates the re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in the 2nd century BCE where legend says that the Jews had risen up against their Greek-Syrian oppressors. Often called the Festival of Lights, the holiday is celebrated with the lighting of the menorah, special foods, games and gifts.

Bodhi Day (Dec. 8 and/or Jan. 5)

Bodhi Day celebrates the Buddha’s enlightenment under a Bodhi tree.  After six years of meditating and contemplating the pain, suffering, and illness that he had witnessed, he reached enlightenment and achieved nirvana.  People will often celebrate in different ways depending on the tradition and country.  However, it is often observed in a quiet way with informal Bodhi decorations or simple gatherings as a gesture toward the Buddha’s important quest for enlightenment.

Christmas

Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, who Christians recognize as the son of God.  This day marks the beginning of the prophecies of the Old Testament that a Savior would come to save God’s chosen people and take away the sins of the world.  As both a sacred and commercial holidays, it is often celebrated with a decorated Christmas pine tree, gifts, or a Christmas church service.

Three Kings Day (Jan. 6)

Día de los reyes (Three Kings Day) is celebrated on January 6th to honor the Wise Men, who brought gifts for the baby Jesus. On this day, many families in Mexico, the U.S., Spain, and others exchange gifts and serve Rosca de reyes, or King’s cake. “Rosca” means wreath. This shape is then decorated with dried colorful fruit to represent what a crown may look like. Children will leave out their old shoes at night and wake up to find them filled with gifts from the Magi.

 

Butterfly Cake

Image result for butterfly

Scenario: When you are sitting in a room and your friends refer to your person and what you have to offer as a “butterfly cake” that is too good to be appreciated half-assed…to be clear, this is NOT a cake made out of butterflies, but more like a metaphor for two really good things put together.  If you’re reading this because you wanted to know about a cake made out of butterflies, you will be disappointed.

When you are feeling down and out, it’s always good to have a few people around you to reflect your value and worth, especially when you are not capable of doing so.  This was me a few nights ago, and as Thanksgiving has come and gone, I am feeling an amplified gratitude for the wonderful people that are in my life.  Depression, anxiety, and BFRBs are tough to deal with on a normal day when nothing seems to be going wrong; and they are so overwhelmingly crushing when everything around you is going the wrong way.  It can feel as though you will never be alright again, knowing in some part of you, that you have caused someone great pain and suffering.

It takes a great courage and a great humbling of yourself to admit that you are in the way of someone’s happiness.  However, I think there is a great myth going around that tells us that we are to find happiness in other people and our circumstances.  People and circumstances change which ultimately means that happiness, no matter how hard we work to ensure that it will always be there, will leave us.  That doesn’t mean that it leaves forever, but it does imply that we are forever at the mercy of chance and bad luck.  I, for one, am possibly the worst at following my own advice.  I constantly tell myself that all things are passing and that in order to gain consistent happiness: I must be happy with myself and practice being happy everyday.  Now, does this ever happen?  Sometimes.  Most of the time, though, I am sad and anxious, and constantly looking for validation from others.  This exercise, mental and social, is exhausting and I often envy those who seem to be so happy or who effortlessly garner praise for even the smallest of tasks.

At this point in the semester, the practice of self-centered-ness has come to be one the greatest tools that I have in my little emotional survival kit.  Not only do I have to learn how to be on my own, I must relearn what it means to make meaningful connections with other people and how I want to connect with them.  Most of the time we are told that we should care more about others that we do ourselves, or that to have infinite compassion is the best way to be a good person.  However, I think we…or I should just say I, in this case…have forgotten that incredibly critical step to having infinite compassion for others; and that is having infinite compassion and love for ourselves.  What does it mean to love yourself?  How do you avoid becoming arrogant or narcissistic?  I don’t have the answer, but I do know that there is an eternal quest hidden in all of the books and movies and music and faiths where we seek to find happiness and love for ourselves.  This is just my uneducated and totally subjective hypothesis right now: That to love your self unconditionally is allowing God (or who/whatever you may let guide you) to show you just how much love there is to have and how infinite it is in such a way that you can share that love with others by making meaningful connections.

From what part of your center do you move in this world?

 

 

Painting by: Eric Sweet

 

 

Studying in Argentina: The Best-Worst Time Ever

It has officially been 3 months since I arrived in Argentina to study at the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba.  In this short period of time I have gained a new understanding of a language, a city, and its people.  Argentina is a beautiful country with possibly the best food, people, and climates one could possibly ask for in a single breath.  However, I can safely say, with two more months to go, that this time has been the “best-worst” time ever.

Why the “worst?”  Well, I’d challenge anyone to go abroad for more than a month with a minimal grasp of the language and little knowledge of any of the customs of that place (I would recommend studying up on the place beforehand!), and not deal with culture shock and homesickness every once in a while.  To take yourself out of the everyday context of your life and to transplant yourself in a setting in which all the things around you are completely different, all of a sudden all the little things that you never noticed that were feeding your bubble of identity just stops and you are surrounded by people who expect you to know and understand their ways of living.

For this and other reasons, I miss “home” considerably.  But then there are those moments when you happen upon a free concert or you find a great bakery with the best little sweets, and everything seems okay for a little while.  I don’t expect this type of living to change when I return to the U.S. either.  Why?  Because as of lately I haven’t been able to shake this feeling of Missing that hangs around every free moment and empty thought.  Perhaps this is a sign of discontentment, or perhaps it is a sign that once again, things are changing.  But the thing is, they always do.  Things always change and we must be ready to accept that every day contains some good and some bad, but the overall trajectory of our lives cannot be determined on how things affect us in a positive or negative manner.

Things are going to suck.  The other day, it was cold, raining, and there was mud everywhere.  I had just missed my bus by a fraction of a second so I had to wait for an hour in the rain until the next one came, full to the brim with people stuffed into a humid, and dirty bus.  I was almost late for my two exams and upon arriving the professor read aloud our grades in which I received the lowest, embarrassing.  However, at the end of the day I sat myself down at a cafe to drink some tea and eat a croissant.  The next thing I knew I was listening to the city sounds and watching the wind carry autumn leaves up to the tops of tall apartment buildings.  The rain had ceased and the city of Cordoba looked a little bit cleaner.  It made me realize that good/bad is severely relative in a personal/daily basis.  I realize this sentence contains many unacknowledged aspects that could be analyzed in a long essay, but for now, this will do.  To know I have the freedom to choose how I will respond to certain situations, to an extent, it not a bad thought, no?

So for this and many more reasons, my time in Argentina has been the best/worst time in that I am learning so much about myself in a place that all the opposite of what has informed my identity.  I can’t imagine what will come next, but as always, we have a choice to make for ourselves to acknowledge both the good and the bad and not let either one deceive us from the reality of the freedom waiting for us beyond this fixed duality to which we often fall prey.

Best to you,

Keys2Change

A New Adventure…Argentina!

Monday, 18 Jan. 2016

Dear Reader,

I hope this letter finds you well, and that you’ll excuse my writing as I have not written a letter in a while.  What should I include, what should I leave out?  These are the questions that make it difficult to even begin to start writing.  As always, you’ll hear from me when I am on the brink of a new adventure, when the nerves that come with starting something new are really the only motivation that prompts these words.

In less than a month I will be shipping myself off on a plane to Cordoba, Argentina to study for 6 1/2 months.  Yes, I have planned and saved all this time to go to another country for half a year…to go to school.  What a nerd you must think I am.  I wouldn’t argue with you and I might even add in that it was my choice (and my privilege) to study Spanish and the Argentine culture.  I’ll say here that I have yet to finish preparing for my trip and by the looks of it, my room at school must had a tornado go through it.  It seems as though I am either packing or unpacking my life at this point.  Is this what getting older feels like: making choices that require planning and patience and commitment?

For now, I can only hope that you are doing much better than I: sleeping well, eating healthy, and getting plenty of exercise.  Maybe we can take up the occupation of someone’s pet?  They always seem to have more than enough of those things.

Best,

Keys2Change

Just a Few Words on Love

“Cultures of domination rely on the cultivation of fear as a way to ensure obedience. In our society we make much of love and say little about fear. Yet we are all terribly afraid most of the time. As a culture we are obsessed with the notion of safety. Yet we do not question why we live in states of extreme anxiety and dread. Fear is the primary force upholding structures of domination. It promotes the desire for separation, the desire not to be known. When we are taught that safety lies always with sameness, then difference, of any kind, will appear as a threat. When we choose to love we choose to move against fear–against alienation and separation. The choice to love is a choice to connect–to find ourselves in the other.”

— All About Love, bell hooks, pp. 93