Too Much

In 2007, I got rid of everything I owned and moved to Chicago with just what I could fit in a rental car (an antique trunk full of books and knick knacks, two suitcases of clothes and shoes, and my cat). Ever since then, I’ve been slowly accumulating more crap. In fact, when I moved back to New Orleans four years later, my ex-boyfriend and I packed an entire moving truck AND a jeep full of crap. A little over a year ago, we broke up and I moved into a 400 sq. ft. studio apartment. Over the past months, I’ve been slowly making strides to get rid of the excess crap that I’d collected over the last eight years.

In my life, I’ve accumulated a lot of spiritual and emotional baggage, and though I’ve done my share of physical purges, the one I’m currently on is the biggest yet. I feel like it’s probably the most important one of all, too, since the last eight years have been particularly hard on my emotions, harder than ever before, and this has impacted my physical self in ways I never would have thought possible. Over the past year, as my physical self has gone into further decline, I’ve taken the time to get stronger mentally. You could say that I made the choice to take some steps backwards in order to get my shit in order, knowing that once I was healed I’d be able to make much stronger, surer strides in the right direction. And I finally feel like I’m almost ready to start making power moves.

My first big directive, starting this week, is to get rid of everything in my physical realm that doesn’t make my life better. Clothes that no longer fit or were never really my style, costume parts that see the light of day every other year, books that I’m never going to read again, craft materials that I’m never going to use…you get the picture.

It’s time to be honest with myself. Am I too fat for these jeans? Craigslist. Is this artsy fartsy thing that I just had to have five years ago just collecting dust? Ebay. Am I really ever going to use any of these years-old spices in the cupboard? Trash can. My apartment is getting painted at the end of the week, so I’m making it my goal to have all of the things that I could probably make money off of listed on Ebay by the time the painter arrives, and anything that’s just taking up space and squashing my chance at getting this place feng shui is getting kicked to the curb.

I deserve better. It’s time to make things better.

Holding Hands

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We like to imagine that we’re part of something. That there’s some group out there that accepts us fully, as we are, no compromises necessary, and that once we’ve joined hands, that bond will never be broken. And for awhile, that might seem like an option that could be true. For those of us who have families, those parents and siblings represent connections that we like to believe can never be severed. Some of us find those close ties with friends from school or work, or even through our extracurricular endeavors. But eventually school ends, office intrigue creates tension, our sports teams have to leave the field for the season. It’s then that we’re forced to acknowledge reality. We are alone. We’re born alone, we live alone inside our heads as we grow old and fat and begin to decay, and even if someone is holding our hand in those last few precious seconds of breath, we will die just as alone as we have been in every second that has come before.

Often these days I’ll be going about my daily business, renaming files or posting something on social media – something incredibly banal – and all of a sudden I’ll remember my boyfriend, and a hot flash of joy will splinter my thoughts for a second. It occurs to me then that he makes me happy. I remember how it feels to hold hands in the dark, and to open my eyes against the night to find that I can make out his eyes, also open, peering right back at me. I can’t see his smile, but I can see just a hint of a crinkle to the corners of his eyes, and I know he’s looking on me with love, a love that I’m beaming right back to him. I know that moment when it happens, and then I know it all over again when I remember it later, and I know it right now, as I type this. Most of all, I know that even though I am still alone, and will live and die alone as every other creature on this planet has since the dawn of time, I am not lonely. I’ll take that.

The Nightmare

After a few good, calm weeks, this morning I woke up with that familiar feeling in my chest. The anxiety is back. Maybe it’s because of the nightmare.

It was one of those ones that wakes you up and sits there with you, daring you to try to close your eyes again. You won’t like what you find, it says. You won’t, but I will. Nightmares like that just leer at you from their ephemeral hiding spots, somewhere between dream and waking, like the nearly invisible monsters that creep into their corners when you flip the light switch in the closet, or go searching under the bed for that box of sweaters from last winter.

My nightmare made no sense. It wasn’t even scary. But it did its job. I awoke with dread, and it’s grown throughout the day. Now that it’s time for bed again, I find myself near tears. Of course, it’s Sunday, and Monday morning fills me with much the same sense of dread, so it could just be the work week that makes me hate Sunday nights. Who knows?

I dreamt of elevators going up, and escalators going down. There was a painted owl, stolen from a thrift shop. Decrepit old ladies in kimonos danced their way through some odd version of a tea ceremony on the sidewalk of my dream city, spitting hot tea like fire breathers. A man kept a house of feral cats, supported on the donations of passersby. I brought them a giant bag of food, and some litter. For $28, I could have my fortune told, but the woman I visited was trapped in a hospital bed, a sheeted corpse in a wheelchair to her left. She said I had no future, that it was invisible through a wall of gray smoke. I thought that she wanted to kill me, to steal my soul. So I woke myself up and lay there in the bright light of early afternoon, heart pounding, stomach churning.

There’s so much to accomplish tomorrow, but I can’t remember any of my tasks. They’re all a jumble, swooping through my head, crowding the space around my heart. The dread hangs on. I’ve taken a couple of sleeping pills, just so I can relax enough to get past this and get a little shuteye. I should probably close the laptop so my brain can start to power down away from the backlighting. But I can’t handle the darkness tonight.

I need someone to hold my hand and tell me it’s all going to be alright. I don’t think it is. I try to peer into my own future, and there’s nothing but that smoke.

Record: Personal

Cat, Kimono and Book

Munky’s a total whore for head scratches.

Here’s what I like to do late at night: drink a glass of wine, and sit, wrapped in my kimono, feet propped up on the footstool, lap full of computer and Munky cat, and do a little window shopping on Modcloth and Ebay. I never buy anything anymore – I’m getting better at taking care of my finances – but I love to look for things. I check out all the new dresses and shoes on Modcloth and dream of being a size 8 again (back when I thought I was fat, isn’t that hilarious?), then I go over to Ebay and look up things like Czechoslovakian tea tins, West German Christmas ornaments, and porcelain from Occupied Japan. I love to collect things from places that no longer exist.

My favorite place that no longer exists is the 1893 Columbian Exhibition, and I have a decent handful of keepsakes from that particular of the world’s fairs. I have a shoehorn, and a token, and two ruby glass tumblers inscribed to two different women. My favorite thing from Chicago that year, though, is a genuine cabinet card from the fair that features the Ferris Wheel. That was the world’s first Ferris Wheel, you know. It was a marvel, and a terror, and now it’s a bit of a mystery, because it was buried after the fair ended, and now no one remembers exactly where it is. I like the cabinet card most because it reminds me what it means to truly love and believe in someone. Not just to love the person, or the idea of the person, but to believe that they know what they’re doing, and should not only be trusted, but admired for their work.

George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. invented the Ferris wheel, even though everyone told him he should abandon the idea. Up until it spun into motion successfully for the first time, the prevailing thought was that the wheel would cast free of its base and roll away, squashing bystanders and flinging passengers to their deaths. Nevertheless, when the wheel came to life for the first time, Ferris’ wife stepped into the first car. Proving her faith in his work was that important to her. My idea of love that works, that lasts, is buried in her action that day. I want to feel that fiercely about someone, and to have them feel the same way back.

I got a mani pedi today, and my nails are painted black. I love it. I was looking for a color that would make me feel even more like a badass at the gym, and this is going to be epic. This last week has been a really good one for me at Iron Tribe. At the end of last week, I got a PR on my deadlift. My previous record was 105 lbs, but I went up to 135 lbs for my 3 rep max on Thursday. I’m pretty confident that if we’d been doing a 1 rep max, I could have hit 150 lbs. I’m really looking forward to hitting a 200 lb deadlift, whenever that might be.

The other thing I just accomplished at the gym was on Monday, when I got my first double under…and then my second through tenth!!! For those of you who aren’t quite sure what that is, it’s when you’re jumping rope, and instead of the rope going under your feet once while you’re in the air on a jump, you rotate your wrist really fast and get the rope under your feet two times. I’ve been struggling to try to get a double under for six months now, and then we had a really intense workout on Monday and I got my first one by accident, almost. I was so surprised that I stopped where I was (in a timed workout, with a room full of people), and yelled “I GOT ONE!!!!!” Everyone started laughing, the coaches came over to give me high fives, and a bunch of people shared their stories about their first double unders with me after class. I felt a little better knowing that I wasn’t the only person who’d struggled for so long just to get one stinkin’ jump!

I found out tonight that my ex started a blog for his photography, and that there are a couple of pictures of me on there. You can’t tell that it’s me – he only used the artsy ones – and I don’t mind. He takes beautiful photos. But it makes me sad, because I feel like he must still be sad. I hope not. But what can I do? Life must go on. We can’t stop living because other people need things that we can’t give them. We can only be our best, and hope that they share our understanding that life cannot stand still. I hate knowing that there’s someone out there that has to dislike me. That’s my problem, though. I hope disliking me helps him feel better, and get stronger, and find the real person he’s supposed to be with someday soon.

This Body

I had something really strange happen today. I found myself, for just a few seconds, actually appreciating my body. For the first time in I don’t know how long, I loved my physical self. And it was a strong burst of love, strong enough to throw me off guard. It was like living in a place where it’s been raining heavily every day for as long as anyone can remember, and then one day the sun punches through a tiny spot in the clouds for just a second or two, and shines so incredibly hard that the person who was standing right where the sun happened to touch is now sporting a George Hamilton-level tan.

It happened like this: I was walking to work this morning. Since it’s already getting hot here, I wear my workout clothes to walk to work, then change into other clothes once I get to the office, so I won’t be sweaty all day. My workout clothes are pretty basic – spandex capris always, then whatever t-shirt suits me that day. Sometimes I wear sneakers, but I can’t stand for my feet to get hot, so lately I’ve been walking to work in my hiking sandals, Tevas.

So I was walking along, feeling kind of like a stuffed sausage in my form-fitting clothes, but overall just enjoying the sensation of walking. I really love the new sandals, and they make my walk feel more like an adventure. I was within five minutes of getting to the office, just starting to cross over a busy street, and all of a sudden – whoosh! I found that I loved how strong and capable my feet and legs felt, and how easy it was to carry my (kind of heavy, actually) work backpack. And then I thought “I bet my butt’s looking really great right now with all those squats I’ve been doing at the gym” and from there I started to smile, and felt like someone really should notice me, walking across the street, looking great. Wouldn’t that be a treat for them to see a strong, happy woman going about her day? And then I realized that I’d just experienced a moment of truly liking being in my skin, and it all disappeared again.

But it was there. I felt it. I know what it’s like. So that’s a start, right?

Sunday Picture Show (Keeping Afloat)

I’d typically be calling this my Photography Friday post, but since I’m two days late, we’re trying something new. This week’s Photo Challenge prompt is to share photos that exemplify what “afloat” means to us, and I’ve taken quite a few lately…

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My workouts at Iron Tribe can be a bit intense, but I love every minute of it. Even better than feeling strong and capable is the fact that a hard workout every day keeps me happy and relaxed. These are the blisters on my right hand after a kettlebell workout earlier this week.

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My Isabel. I love my cats – there’s nothing like having a good cuddle after a hard day, though Izzy isn’t prone to being that affectionate unless it’s bedtime. When I was sick and feeling miserable last week, she came and napped with me on the couch.

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One of my favorite things to do is walk around New Orleans and take photos of the things that capture my attention. Street art never fails to captivate and stir my imagination. I take a lot of photos of cool graffiti around town, but this one struck my fancy last week. Let me find out, indeed.

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Small details help keep me grounded (or afloat, whichever turn of phrase you prefer). I love that looking for little things helps keep me mindful and “in the moment”, and while I’m walking around town, I try to capture these moments in photos if possible. This is a shot I took of water droplets collecting on a newly painted front stoop the other day. I loved how the water was pooling, and was pretty satisfied with the colors of the shot in the end. The stoop was a brilliant shade of teal, but the shadows gave a purple sheen.

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The idea that I’ll be leaving for the Camino in six months is definitely keeping me sane and happy. I walk to and from work (about 2 miles) each day, and on the way to work, I cross over Spain Street. Each time that I notice the street sign, I can’t help but be reminded of how lucky I am, and how amazing it’s going to be to finally get my boots on the ground in Spain this October.

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You, you amazing man. I don’t know how I made it this long without you in my life. You’re everything I’ve been looking for for all this time. Thank you for making me so much stronger, and giving me the strength to realize that I didn’t need a man in my life to be complete – but having the right one could make everything that much sweeter. You make me laugh, you make me think, and you’ve helped me make myself whole. Your encouragement and faith have pushed me to new heights as a person, and I only hope that I can return the favor. I love you.

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On Passion

Awhile back, I was having one of those mini-crises I always seem to be having. You know, the kind where I question everything that’s going on in my life, why I’m here, what my purpose on the planet is, if I’ve been screwing everything up, etc. As an overthinker, I tend to work my way through that thought process on a daily basis, but it’s one of those broken records that seems to really start driving you mad after a couple of weeks on repeat. That day, Boyfriend was talking me down from the metaphorical ledge (as he does so well) and one of the things that he said was that I needed to find my passion, stop wasting my time on the other crap, and go for the thing that made my heart sing. Or something like that. He generally speaks much more concisely than I do, so it was probably something more like “Pick a passion and go!”

Anyway, I agreed. Still do. There’s only one problem – I have no clue what my passion is. Well, that’s not exactly true. It’s more like I know of several things that make me happy, but I don’t really know how I’d transform them into any kind of solid life plan. Basically, when I was in my 20’s, being a starving artist sounded romantic, but now it sounds like a really stupid idea, best avoided at all costs.

In times like this, creating lists really helps me out, so this is my list of things I’m passionate about. Maybe it will help spark some ideas.

  • Origami
  • Photography
  • Paper
  • Crafts (in general)
  • Organizing parties/events
  • Organizing people
  • Marketing/PR for parties/events
  • Helping out my friends
  • Making people happy and more relaxed
  • Animals & animal rights issues
  • Fitness / being strong & healthy
  • Singing
  • Writing
  • Walking
  • St. Francis
  • The Camino de Santiago de Compostela

Out of this list of passions come a few different business/career/life ideas. As far as life goes, I’m combining my love of fitness, St. Francis, the Camino, and walking this fall when I embark on my first Camino journey – that famous 500 miles across Spain to Santiago de Compostela. I’ll probably be tying my love of writing in there, too, as I plan to write a book about the experience. Whether it will be non-fiction or fiction remains to be seen. I’m not sure if I’ll be tying photography into the journey. Obviously, I’ll be taking photos, but not sure if I’ll be taking photos in a more serious capacity, or just for my own joy. But then again, does it really matter so much?

As far as my work goes, I’m stuck in my current career cycle for the time being, and it’s not horrible to make enough money to live and pay my bills. It’s just that I’d like to be more deeply satisfied with what I do for the majority of my waking hours. I’d like to be really helping in some capacity. I guess life would feel just about perfect if I could be spending my daytime hours helping plan events, and my spare time making origami to sell at craft markets and online. To tell the truth, I’ve thought about trying to get into the movie business, but the idea terrifies me as much as it feels “right” somehow.

I think that for now, I should stick with what I’m doing, career-wise, and start making more efforts in learning to craft in paper, and in writing on a regular basis. Of course, this is very easy to say.

Have you found your passion? Do you have a clear idea of what it is, and how to follow it every day? Any stories to share, or advice to give? I’d love to hear from you.