Not Doing What You Love

I am not doing what I love.

I don’t really know what that means. I have many loves.

The most, the ultimate, the WHAT I AM MEANT TO DO (kanyecaps for epicness) still evades me.

Or at least, the feeling of fulfillment does. Reading an NYT op-ed today really got me thinking – not that just not knowing is acceptable, but that doing things we do not love is really important.

Now I’m not talking self-flagellation for flagellation’s sake, but rather work that emanates from necessity, from duty, from responsibility.

Slinging lattes and raising money for syringa vulgaris is certainly not anything I ever pictured myself doing at 29. However,

“Our desires should not be the ultimate arbiters of vocation. Sometimes we should do what we hate, or what most needs doing, and do it as best we can.” (not that an espresso is what most needs doing…)

Even as I move toward beginning my PhD this fall, I am dogged by a sense of questioning – of academic self indulgence, of vocational self indulgence (read: privilege), of public service, of duty.

A re-run of TAL this week also piqued this part of my soul. In Act III, a woman who has adopted Paris as her home speaks about the completely refreshing way of life in France. That even as a corporate lawyer her work hours are expected to form a part of life, not its entirety.

That seeking pleasure through life – food, wine, loved ones – slows the pace to one where one can appreciate it, and find fulfillment through those outlets. (that’s just so, so French).

And perhaps that’s the ultimate question: how does one balance society’s needs with our talents, our duties and our desires?

lilacs and compost

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May 19, 2014: Hiatus Break. I’m still grappling around what I’m doing here on the blog, but I will say this month has been bonkers. I think I’m going to start posting more when something hits me (hopefully not literally) and I have the time. Who knows – best laid plans right? 

Decisions

Some decisions come easy: coffee black or with milk? Black. Beer or cocktail? Both. Milkshake or no milkshake? Milkshake.

Others, not so much.

The closer I get to making a decision about a PhD program, the farther it seems away. It feels astonishingly good to be in conversation with so many intelligent, passionate, questioning human/scholars. It also feels so, so intimidating.

However, this trepidation is a new, interesting blend. I no longer feel that one choice is better than another, but that there is no bad option.

Well, shit. I’m waiting for the shoe to drop or something to fall out of the sky to make the decision for me. Like if I saw the bald eagle on the lake, or saw a wolf (from far away please) – then the animated, real-life mascots of my school options could guide me spirit-animal like into my next stage of life.

But, alas, I doubt that will happen and I’m probably going to have to do this boring adult style.

The pros have been pro’ed, the cons con’ed, and now it’s just me, sitting with two great options and little to no clarity.

A study I keep reflecting on, that I’m sure I remember from a Radio Lab or somesuch, is that humans are actually less happy when they have more options. That having a plethora of things to choose from makes us all doubt what we end up doing more – if we aren’t paralyzed completely by the anxiety of choosing itself.

Our satisfaction is higher when we ‘make do’ and when we are thankful we got a donut at all, let alone a spread of sweets (I somehow think this has something to do with sweets, but then I might also be thinking of the plot from The Five Year Engagement).

All that aside, put out some good vibes for me in the animal world, and I promise to keep an eye out.

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The Art of the Everyday – March 14: Choices, choices.

Plugging Along

This week has just been a laying on the floor week. 

laying down

(Also the week in which I discover a whole genre of stock photos of pill overdoses and murder through that very google image search…)

It’s been one of those weeks where you can’t help but think about the slog.

I’m sure it has something to do with it being March and that it snowed twice this week (yes, yes, lightly I know but COME ON.), and that the weather report told us to expect “winter like” temperatures until the end of APRIL.

The weather aside, it made me think about the monotony of adulthood.

How it can just chug along almost without notice, pull this lever now, push this button, sleep, repeat.

The escapism of entertainment, in whatever your chosen form, never fully made sense to me until I dealt with six bureaucracies in one day (I can sing you the FedLoan hold music if you like, but GoDaddy has some really nice New Orleans brass selections at the moment).

At times, the rhythm of grownupedness isn’t unwelcome, it can even be soothing. To know where and how to be, act and go about each day is just…nice.

But nice doesn’t pay my mental health bill…or some other metaphor that makes more sense. deal with it.

I need, even crave, for things to break through the day-to-day. To shatter my expectations, or to at least give me pause.

This week is Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday. The former found me in bed at 9pm (I so don’t live in NOLA anymore) and at the latter, lost and ten minutes late to the only evening mass within a 50 mile radius.

At the service, which I eventually found, the priest (new to the parish, originally from Nigeria – fascinating cultural dynamics in rural Maine, but I digress), reminded us of the traditional marker of Lent: “For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.”

A saying that always finds a different resonance with me each year: sometimes it angers me, sometimes it confuses me – this year it comforted me.

Not only the perspective of the circular nature of life, but the incredible capacity of humans in the face of that seeming futility.

Of the ability to get up each day even just to press the button – and then to ask why the button is there.

To make it through the weeks that seem anything but worthwhile, but try even in the face of that at times overwhelming repetition to imbue some magic – even if it’s just an extra smile at a stranger or picking up a shift for a friend who is also too tired.

There’s real poetry to our ashes just after Mardi Gras, too.

Because if we’re all going back, we might as well have some fun first.

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The Art of the Everyday – March 4: Thinking about stuff and things

Adventure Sunday

Since moving to Maine, P and I instituted Adventure Sunday.

Granted, sometimes that adventure involves a lot of Netflix and naps, but nonetheless, we try to do something to shake up the routine. This past Sunday was particularly epic, as we first found our way to Lovell, about 40 minutes from our house, to do a short, gorgeous hike up Sabattus Mountain.

Real Talk. How did they get this bench up here?

Real Talk. How did they get this bench up here?

The hike was pretty fast, and P knew there were XC Ski tracks down in town, so we found our way (eventually) to the right parking lot and made our way around the golf course.

Despite an amazing amount of ice and a severe lack of grooming, the ground was flat and fast – perfect to zoom around in the first sun we’ve seen in a while.

After that, I had definitely earned my treat, and we headed over to one side of the golf course to the famed Belgian beer bar, Ebenezer’s.

Voted continually as one of the best beer destinations in the world (yea, you read that right, world), its unassuming decor and down-home snarky waitresses made for the perfect end to the day.

And of course, Belgian-style frites with aioli and an awesome sour.

To Adventure Sunday!

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The Art of the Everyday – March 3: Offbeat, out of doors.

Frozen Toes

Try the T-Bar, they said. It’ll be fun they said.

Even the kids do it, they said.

In my world, when you need to go up a ski hill, you sit your ass in a suspended chair and you get carried up. Not without risk, sure, but surely less dangerous than trusting a two foot section of 2×4 wedged somewhere between your knees and butt, if you’re lucky enough to get it in the right place.

After a couple seriously false starts – including falling off halfway up after holding the entire contraption with my hands after it slipped; why thanks, I did need more cardio today – I actually did get the hang of the damn thing, but come on.

Used for smaller hills (which still go up enough to have black diamonds, mind you) and a scion of ski times I thought long-past, this week’s adventure was brought to you by alpine night skiing at Titcomb Hill in Farmington.

A community ski hill, they hosted a free ski night, with $5 rentals. P thought it would be a great time to relearn on alpines and I readily agreed, excitedly thinking of teaching him the ropes of one of my favorite sports, having no idea what it would entail for me.

I’ve been skiing my entire life and absolutely adore it. Note this does not include suspension systems that require my utmost attention and balance as they yank me precariously up a hill ON MY OWN TWO FEET.

But after earning my “you’re a pro now, dude” from the lift op, a gigantic bruise on my thigh, and whizzing down some great slopes for the first time since last season (XC just doesn’t count, sorry not sorry) I felt a joy I haven’t had since I was a kid (although I was laughed at by a lot of children that night…).

The joy of mastering a new skill during something you thought you had down pat – and falling down in front of an entire line of people, and just getting up again.

As I warmed my frozen toes (it was in the negatives, y’all) in front of the fire in the tiny, packed lodge, kids whizzed around me, parents stuffed rosy limbs into down sleeves, and seemingly endless amounts of pizza were served, I was so thankful.

Thankful for the falls, the free skiing, the (eventual) laughter, and the unmatched freedom of pointing my skis straight down, and saying see ya later.

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The Art of the Everyday – March 1: Offbeat, out of doors.

The Lion’s Roar

If our hearts are ready for anything, we are free to be ourselves.
There’s room for the wildness of our animal selves, for passion and play.
There’s room for our human selves, for intimacy and understanding, creativity and productivity.
There’s room for spirit, for the light of awareness to suffuse our moments.

The Tibetans describe this confidence to be who we are as “the lion’s roar.”

Some days I feel like a lion.

Others more like a small cat – still shifty-eyed and crafty, but not so big and loud.

During those lion-days, however, I feel free. Bold enough to use my voice unafraid, playful enough to cartwheel in the snow, and rooted enough to feel peace in my life.

There is power in these days.

Not a power that overwhelms others, or tries to force everything into a mold of its design. Rather it is a power of release.

Of finding my way back to that essential self that flexes its muscles within the very real body, space, time, love and hurt that surrounds it.

Of being honest and real with my expectations, my shortcomings, my successes and my beauty.

It is a power of not being lost, even if for only a moment.

It is not a power of certainty, but rather resting with ambiguity and smiling in the face of it.

The lion’s roar is real. It is hearty, but it is fleeting.

Yet I know it will return, each time surprising me with its force, and delighting me with its presence.

And I’m a goddamn coward but then again so are you, and the lion’s roar, and the lion’s roar.

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The Art of the Everyday – February 19:  Inspired by and quoting this post by Tara Brach, and my soul singers First Aid Kit.

This I Believe

There are beautiful hearts in the world.

Hearts desiring deeply, caring broadly, and loving with wild abandon.

I believe that these hearts beat together when a hug comes when most unexpected, but most needed. When the grinding triviality of days is broken with a touch, a smile, a song.

When your pulse is in your throat as you run together toward the ocean, not caring how your body looks, but how alive it feels.

When you feel you might burst as you crest the final rise, and then forget how you ever found it hard, embraced by pine-covered peaks and rocky slides.

There are beautiful hearts in the world.

Hearts struggling, resigning quietly, breaking open.

I believe that these hearts beat together when we know we cannot understand, but we can listen. When the only thing to hear is your breath with mine, and the only thing comprehensible about life is that it continues.

There are beautiful hearts in the world.

Hearts that are your own, that you wouldn’t recognize now. Hearts that feel, that grow, that change, that fail.

Hearts that love anyway.

There are beautiful hearts in the world.

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The Art of the Everyday – February 17: This I Believe, inspired by my wicked smaht, gorgeous, co-fighter for love and justice, Courtney. Visit her here, she’s moving and shaking, people.

Titcomb Hill

IMG_2858

 

Saturday we woke up to absolutely gorgeous fresh snow, and P decided it was the perfect day to torture me with his newest favorite hobby: cross-country skiing.

Surprisingly, I’m not outfitted with the butt and thighs so prominently propelling the world’s greatest in Sochi, and this is now my fifth time trying this wack-a-doo sport.

I’ve had skis on my feet since I was three, my brain and body are programmed into very specific behaviors when I put them on; none of which include my heels being unattached.

Now, I grew up alpine skiing on Mt. Hood. This pass time makes sense to me: Oh it’s nice and snowy! Let’s ride on a nice lift and then go really fast! Then drink beer! Awesome.

Cross-country, I’m finding, makes you work for it.

My nemesis.

My nemesis.

Although I’m still struggling with why you wouldn’t just go hiking and/or snowshoeing, I’m starting to get the hang of this glide-ski-walking-hiking-struggle.

Yesterday, we went out again in even more powder and as we laughed and fell our way down (seriously that heel thing), I was glad I could at least try. My sore butt may beg to differ.

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The Art of the Everyday – February 15: Old(ish) Dog, New Trick – reflections on learning from scratch while looking at 30.

Week of Happy: Yogini Day

A woman dedicated to the pursuit of spiritual knowledge and mystical insight, or a Yogini, has many faces: from devotional to demure, and from fiery to fierce; all of these can be embraced under the rubric of a Yogini.

Kristin-Yogasmall

Kristin

Yoga teaches me to be flexible. To listen. To honor my spirit and my body by nurturing it.

Yoga gives me the space to allow things to emerge from the depths of my thoughts, from the place I put things I don’t want to think about, to see, without judgement, what I’m holding on to.

I’m not “good,” I don’t have a stereotypical “yoga body,” my butt dislikes Lululemon, and I will never fit the Western yoga mold – nor do I want that.

The practice has already given me back so much more than I could’ve imagined. If nothing else, it got me through 2013 – my most challenging year yet.

When Kristin died last May, I cried at yoga class. I still do sometimes.

As I move through the thousands of years old poses, as my teacher says, I let them do the work. I focus on my breath, steady and sure, and let my nagging thoughts flow over me like waves – releasing them out.

I breathe in peace, and breathe out love; among other t-shirt worthy slogans.

And I find a little slice of calm. A moor within myself and its connection to elemental existence.

Its a grounding from which I am learning to bend, and sway, and grow – but never snap.

Please consider making a donation to Bodhi & Mind, Kristin’s brainchild continued by the work of her amazing husband and my friend DJ at http://bodhiandmindyoga.org/

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The Art of the Everyday – February 9: Week of Happy – Enjoy this series of simple (and some not so simple) things that make me happy while I’m on vacation!

Week of Happy: Oregon Day

I miss my home state.

I haven’t lived in Oregon for a decade now, but I still call it home and miss it with a fervor I find unique (and at times overwhelming) to those from the independent nation of Cascadia.

Although I wouldn’t trade the past ten years hopping around the country (Northern California, New Orleans, Boston, Maine – I just need something in the Midwest and then back to complete the loop!) I do hope I move back someday.

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, the great Beaver State isn’t known for its hyperactive economy or booming career opportunities – unless you count the Beard Olympics or sustainable-free-range-his-name-was-oscar-style chicken farming.

Regardless, let’s all just bask in its wonder for a bit…

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The Art of the Everyday – February 7: Week of Happy – Enjoy this series of simple (and some not so simple) things that make me happy while I’m on vacation!