On Transition and Identity

I’m standing in the center of my room. Things surround me. Stuff. Material items. Yoga mats, Turkish carpets, records, books on sobriety, jewelry from Mexico, vintage binoculars, artwork by friends. And it hits me.

It hits me how much I leverage these objects to justify my self-created identity. And it hits me how deeply I pressure the tangible to communicate to others, and to affirm for myself, who I am.

On one shelf is a framed photo of my father and I holding a baby duck. I’m wearing a light blue bonnet and am no more than two years old. We’re both looking down at the new life, sweetly. If I had to hold only one photograph for the rest of my life, I would choose this one. Why? Maybe because it represents the tenderness and innocence of my father and I’s relationship, a dynamic that would extinguish in the years to follow, only to reignite once again. Maybe because it let’s me believe that my family is rooted in traditions, like visiting petting zoos, perhaps in celebration of Easter.

It’s in really looking, as if for the first time, at the hardly-used tambourine on the floor and the vintage binoculars Iimg_2303’ve never held to my eyes, that I see clearly how I lean heavily on these things, like a crutch. A crutch for interests and talents and skills that were always desired, but never actualized.

The tambourine reminds me that I’m “musically inclined,” albeit not a musician, because I never had the time to learn how to play. The binoculars convey that in another life I was a naturalist, a conservationist, and a defender of Mother Earth.

And then my eyes meet my meditation stool and yoga mat and suddenly there’s lightness to the weight of subconscious acquisition. I see these things as a natural extension of me; the instruments I regularly use to become a more practiced, whole, version of my self. These are the resources that allow me to continue to grow.

I’m in the process of transitioning my life, my things, my self from D.C. to South America.

This transition is teaching me that in letting go of superfluous things, I can shed attachment and damaging identity cloaks like old skin. Consequently, it’s teaching me that in holding on to things of genuine value, I am more succinct with my true, evolving self.

This transition is teaching me that in unpacking how I uphold my ego through a legacy of acquisition, I can unify the divided pieces of my self and tend to them with greater attention and conviction.

This transition is teaching me that in letting go we make space for possibility. This transition is teaching me that underneath my identity, is a self that is uncompromised and has never been more whole.

And so I stand in the middle of my room and I smile. I look at the narrative I’ve authored and the stuff that has held the pen, and I smile. I smile because I accept. I smile because I have faith. I smile because I surrender. All good things will continue to come.

 

Advertisements

On Learning To See The Way

We woke up on the floor; Yosemite Valley buried somewhere below the stiff climbing crash pad under our bodies. The single-room employee cabin smelt of stale trash and bouldering sweat and we were crammed between two twin beds, one that held his roommate who was snoring six inches from my face.

I blindly fumbled around until finding my glasses: the room was a sight. I climbed out from underneath the thin wool blanket and did my best to remain undisturbed while crawling through the door.dsc06901

Outside was a picturesque summer camp scene: the voluptuous curves and majestic peaks of Yosemite Valley towered over two thick rows of wooden employee cabins.

Chalkboards hanging above each cabin door exclaimed hand-written messages like “Life is an Adventure!” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough!” Front porches were decorated with small propane grills and fold-up REI chairs and chalky hiking  boots.

dsc06905

It was Saturday morning, just after 10:00am and not another soul was in-sight. And so there we were, Yosemite and I, alone together at summer camp.

After a morning of slow rising, we sipped coffee on his friend’s apartment terrace and discussed the day ahead: rocks to climb, land to traverse, direction to go. Once decided, we threw ourselves into a silver Xterra, fairy pouches full of climbing chalk in the backseat, and made way to the Yosemite Valley General Store.

img_0389The parking lot was packed with tour busses, rental RVs, and pedestrian excitement. Our friend, Matt, was working inside of a wooden box enclosure they called the Welcome Booth, reciting to tourists the most “bang-for-your-buck” lookouts in the Valley. When he wasn’t offering insights, he flipped through John Muir’s “My First Summer In The Sierra.”

img_0322Inside of the store were provisions ranging from water filtration systems to bear spray to dehydrated dinner packets, all of which pitted us, “The Humans,” against it, “The Nature.”

Next to the provisions were novelty items awarded only once you had conquered it: stuffed red foxes, plush grizzly bears, picture frames bordered with mountain peaks and running waterfalls. I smiled sweetly at the red fox and contemplated how it would fit next to my stuffed red panda, Rusty.

Away from the General Store, cars were stacked like pancakes along the single-lane road. A beautiful, towering blonde woman, a park ranger, directed one car after another. She was a sight. It was a sight. It was a sight that didn’t resemble a Yosemite postcard. And a reminder that, when traveling, experiences rarely do.

IMG_0496.jpg

Time on the road is often dominated by the hours threaded between one postcard image and the next. It is evanescent landscapes that drip below the horizon, muddled between lookout points. It is insipid details too often overlooked: songs sung along to, how badly you had to pee, the awful taste of gas station coffee. It is incidental moments of self-awareness reflected by translucent lake water on warm September days.dsc07026

Adventure is easy to confine to a diorama – it makes sense to chronologically arrange journey by destinations and achievements. Progress from point A to point B is easily tracked, and the distance between the two, too often dismissed. Reciting where we were doesn’t require remembering the way.

But what we gain in repeating dry milestones, we lose in experiencing textured magic.

A recent trip to California reconnected me to the magic.

dsc06875

It invited the sacred space between mile markers and exit signs.

It sung of radio static, incessant laughter, and awkward playlists. It felt of heart-filled conversations as heavy as L.A. morning smog and as light as San Francisco fog lifted by the afternoon.

It offered grace and connectivity, clumsiness and disconnect; it moved hurriedly and flowed free of measure.

It was introspection in picturesque scenery and boundless contemplation in empty space, too. It was unpredictable. It was without expectation. It was never where we were headed or where we would end up: it was what happened in-between.

And in this space we reconnected with each other.

And in this space we reconnected with ourselves.

And in this space we lost sight of what we saw, and we learned to see the way.

And even though the trip is over, I’m here, in this space, and I’m learning to see the way.

It’s always learning to see the way.

DSC07081.JPG

On Choosing Self & Sobriety.

I don’t fit in with the sober kids. I didn’t find sobriety in the rooms: sobriety found me in Izmir, Turkey when she was the last thing I was looking for.

I didn’t work through the twelve steps: I took my own steps, set my own pace, and walked off-path, frequently, without knowing how to realign.

I’ve never read a page of the Blue Book: I’m currently reading a collection of short stories that are blissful confusion and strangeness and the cover does happen to be blue.

I don’t identify with a God and my notion of a higher power isn’t defined by a Higher Power.

On September 22, 2014, I didn’t introduce myself to a room full of strangers: I sat on the back patio of a Turkish mansion and asked myself to step away from my Self and be in objective observance. Was my Self and the decisions I was making in those surrounding days, in service of truest Self and deepest potential?

My first day of sobriety felt a lot like hosting a dinner party with old friends; unfamiliar characters began arriving in my mind.

The Creator was a guest. He mentioned that he hadn’t seen any of my recent work, I confessed I had none to share. The Daughter showed up unannounced, wondering why she hadn’t heard from me recently.

The Athlete. The Dancer. The Best Friend. The Lover.

All of my identities seemed to speak to me in isolation, neglected, undervalued, and frustrated that I had minimized their importance within my own Venn diagram. I had lost touch with conscious choice. I had surrendered decision making to a substance outside of my Self.

I sat inside the theater of my mind and let scenes of my life scroll behind my eyes like a film wheel. Years and months and days flowed past, and the character least familiar in every scene was my Self. I was embarrassed. I was confused. I was resentful.

Then it clicked. Rather than thinking hypothetically and retrospectively, I became curious: what would life moving forward be like if I removed the substance? The scapegoat? The crutch? The blame?

Could I develop a relationship between the strangers in my mind? Could this lead to an understanding of competing attributes: inferiority and self-confidence; vulnerability and reservation; trust and skepticism; masculinity and femininity; conservatism and sexuality; discipline and spontaneity.

On that back porch in Izmir, under a sunny Aegean sky and soft Mediterranean winds, surrounded by low-hanging pomegranates and bountiful figs, an acute awareness set in: if I ever wanted to truly love, to truly serve, I would first have to commit to loving and serving my Self. For the first time in my life, I decided to put my Self first.

And so began the commitment – surrendering to understanding this new reality by relinquishing control. And so began the understanding – breaking things down, digesting, categorizing, observing. And so began the forgiveness – acceptance, the wisdom of washing away, the power in letting go.

It was discerning. It was unifying. It took accepting both to begin to heal.

It’s September 22, 2016 and things are different now. I still have weekly dinner parties with the characters in my mind. I still struggle with balancing the patch-worked pieces of old decisions and new values. But things are different now: I have choice.

Every day I chose to cultivate an honest relationship with my Self; one that offers more love, confusion, frustration, and peace than I ever knew existed. It’s this honest relationship that allows me to trust. It’s this relationship that is a daily reminder of the powerful combination of choice and discipline. We chose to change, our actions drive the choice.

It doesn’t get easier, I never believed it would. But it’s two years later and the decision to be sober still promises to be worth it. It’s worth working through. It’s worth fighting for. It’s worth all of it’s tests and tribulations and questions without answers. It’s worth everything. It’s worth you.

Two years later, and it’s so damn worth it. You are so damn worth it.

Tis The Season To Tilt

If the Earth had no tilt, there would be no seasons.

If the Earth had no tilt, our lifetime would be lived out in the same plane.

If the Earth had no tilt, we would exist in perfect polarity, in harmony, without any opposition.

The Sun would always live on the horizon. We would never grow closer. We would never move farther away. Perspective would become relative to this.

It’s September now and the days are growing shorter. Light is fighting for brightness. Dark is opportunistic.

While our axis, our centerline, has begun to tilt away from the Sun, Earth has decided to move closer to it. Dynamic opposition: growing away from and moving closer to.

There is a deep intelligence in this nature system, this opposition in motion. As polarity presents itself, perspective has the opportunity to reawaken around it.

In September we straddle our dynamic opposition, our own beautiful contradictions: Contentment with consistency, Curiosity of variability. Desire to ground down, a Need to sway like the branches, to Fall like the leaves.

Perspective unearths the realization that we are not mutually exclusive and only by tapping into our dynamism can we grow towards true balance.

In September we reexamine. We begin to see both from close-up and from a great distance away. We exist as the Observer. We become students to Earth’s rhythmic cycles and their abilities to shake the ground we stand on. We open our mind to recalibrate before being swept into the seasons.

And with an open mind we can fill our world with anything: Intentionality. Inspiration. Connectivity. And with an open mind we can choose how to define ourselves: Courageous. Creative. Content.

In September, We Tilt.

93b4d797e2c7893ef203c7a9a6b5baea

 

A Letter To You.

Dear You,

Thank you.

Thank you for being my friend. My lover. My sister. My brother.

Thank you for being everything.


Thank you for being there for me.

Thank you for supporting me, especially when you didn’t realize you were.

I know we don’t hang out as much as we should, or talk as much as we’d like, but just knowing you’re there is more comforting than you’ll ever know.

Thank you for reminding me that community is all around and all I need to do to feel it is to Take A Step Back. Observe. Realize. And Be Grateful.


Thank you for all the times you answered the phone when I needed to talk.

Thank you for all the times you didn’t answer your phone and let me leave a voicemail. Because you knew what I needed was to talk it through.

Thank you for letting me talk it through.

Thank you for telling me to stop talking and to just listen. To hear not only my words, but the words and subtle messages all around us – the hymn of the wind within the branches, how much is said without words.


Thank you for teaching me your mother’s way of making quiche and your father’s way of brewing coffee.

Thank you for showing me how to do a handstand, how to change the flat tire on my bike, how to take a good photograph.

Thank you for your patience. Because of you, I never want to stop learning.


Thank you for approaching that group of guys at the bar with me, and thank you for telling me that they weren’t worth my time. That I was better than that,  then them, even if, maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t.

Thank you for holding me to higher standards.


Thank you for questioning my morals. Thank you for questioning my beliefs. Thank you for redefining who I am.

Thank you for challenging my world-view and for shifting my perspectives, even when I was stubborn and stuck and you couldn’t stand me.

Thank you keeping me accountable to becoming a better person.


Thank you for pushing me to my limits and empowering me to exceed my own expectations.

Thank you for never letting me forget my dreams and for helping me to dream bigger and bigger, year after year.

Thank you for reminding me that no dream is too outrageous and that it’s all within reach.


Thank you for experimenting with vegan brownies and taking 1am photo shoots on North Capitol and driving to the beach in the middle of the night to watch the meteor shower.

Thank you for being ridiculous and child-like, for embracing spontaneity and for making me laugh.

Thank you for brightening my world.


Thank you for helping me cultivate Self-Love.

Thank you for making me vulnerable to Love again – for inspiring me to continue opening my heart. To stay open.

Thank you for loving me for me and for making me promise to never change.

Thank you for letting me fly. Thank you for stumbling alongside of me. Thank you for letting me fall.


Thank you for leading me to exactly where I am now: single and sober and bursting with twenty-six years of patch-worked insights and experiences and heartache and scars.

Thank you for encouraging me to keep on the path I’m on. I know I’m not an easy friend to have, but I’m so, so grateful that you’re willing to sacrifice and make space for me, for us.

So Thank You. Thank you for helping me through these last twenty-six years. And Thank You for being a part of this next journey around the sun. Twenty-seven. 365 more.

I couldn’t have made it without You.

Yours,

C.