Express Yourself

Often for those around me, not knowing my opinions on something is like trying to ignore the butts in a twerk video.

I also don’t have a problem repeating it five different ways until you get it, either.

By the way, I’m also totally right.

This hubris is most likely why I’m drawn to the academy (I love me a good soapbox), blogging (self-indulge much?), and public speaking (everyone look at me!).

Not surprisingly, it’s taken me a few years to arrive at the fact that this might not always be a good thing. And yet I still don’t really know how to shut my mouth.

This personality trait has gotten me in a bit of hot water in some work/relationship/public situations, but if I’m really honest I wouldn’t change it.

However, the difficult growth I’ve experienced and been exposed to – whether by my friends, family, or clients who find themselves homeless, abused, new arrivals in a strange country, or imprisoned – have all forced me to work on the opposite side of the coin: forgiveness and listening.

To value the interchange I am allowed to have with others when they choose to share their deepest convictions and most difficult times with me. To not only provide forgiveness and understanding to them, but to ask for it when I inevitably stick my stinky foot in my too-large mouth.

To remind myself again and again to really listen and respond thoughtfully – even if I completely disagree.

To provide the people I encounter with the grace that I have so often been offered in my most challenging times.

But, no matter what, I will always express myself.

[As a special bonus – my favorite “Express Yourself” creation; one of the only visual depictions of New Orleans that actually feels a lot like what I did when living there. Fair warning: Butts. Lots. Of. Butts.]

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My creation for “Express Yourself,” today’s Daily Post Challenge. Other participants include:

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Clean is the New Way

This weekend was one of domestic tasks. I’m not sure what it is about the changing of seasons, but something in me is begging for a routine. For a world of order and a scuz-free shower.

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As I threw in the final of four loads of laundry, swept and vacuumed the never-ending pine needles, and listened to P splitting and stacking wood, I started to feel like my corner of the world was just a little bit more habitable.

I long avoided the super-cleaner instincts that run deep in my blood, but in the past few years my mother’s influence has caught up with me.

While I for sure do not heavy clean each week – I most assuredly do not ever polish the floor boards as was my task in childhood – I now appreciate how great fresh sheets and a (somewhat) tidy house can do for my mood.

Living working/student poor in large cities with many, many roommates increased my tolerance for grime and compromise on decor (I guess that weird skeletor painting does add something to the bonus room…), but I love having my own space.

Space where I can add P and I’s collected tchotchkes, art, books, books and books.

Where I get to decide when to do (or not) the dishes.

Although if I’m truly, deeply honest, I may also be procrastinating (oh hey, PhD applications are due in a little over a month?!?)….but look! Look at the shiny floor!

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My creation for this week’s writing challenge: pick out the 4th and 14th words (that aren’t “the” or “an”) from your favorite blog. Drop them into this phrase:

“_____ is the new _____.”

There’s your post title. 

And, check out other participants!

I Can’t Feel My Foot

Walking up dark, 3am streets in Washington, DC, people filtered out of every door; filing quietly, quickly toward the Capitol.

Despite the small, traded smiles, I couldn’t help thinking that the mass of bundled-up bodies looked like the calmest reaction to a city-wide evacuation ever (think the complete opposite of ID4).

Running on a few hours nap after an evening spent carousing with SCU alums, I was nervously excited. And cold. So, so cold.

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A few months earlier, sitting at my desk during Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (oh Grad School, you are so useful…), I finally put my finger on the odd feeling of lightness that had overcome me. For the first time in my conscious, active, public life, I was for something. Not against. Not opposed. Not fighting to tear down.

I felt finally free to create, and as corny as it sounds, to hope. I had hope for my government, not the need to rail against it.

Just the prospect of not lying when I traveled (I’m totally from British Columbia) was exciting.

As most liberals of my age bracket can attest, the Bush years (starting when we were freshmen in high school), 9/11, the subsequent wars, the lackluster Kerry campaign of our college years, the PATRIOT ACT and all the rest, added up to a pretty demoralizing young life.

Frankly, I often felt like my efforts were as useful as mittens for a cat.

Now, over five years after that twenty-degrees-is-the-high-temp-you-have-to-be-kidding February morning, the government sits not only in sequester, but is almost completely closed.

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Despite all the political wrangling and lack of care for people that emanates from the Capitol right now, I remember how I felt that day.

Actually huddling with a literal million of my new closest friends, trying to keep warm, straining to find a good view of the jumbotron, happy for a fresh start.

I watched little old ladies cry, little girls get lifted into the air to sit on shoulders, and listened as the crowd starting singing “Na na na na, Na na na na, hey hey hey…GOODBYE” as Bush’s helicopter lifted off after the ceremony.

I hobbled back toward my friend’s apartment, resisting the urge to buy a Michelle Obama spray paint T-shirt, wondering how to keep this hope moving – to translate it to action and make changes to better our world.

While I don’t claim to have found those answers, I know that one of the most positive and powerful things I can do with my life is to be for something.

To not let obstacles, or disagreements, or even fundamental truths make me purely anti, purely against. Rather, to continue to create, even in small ways, the world I want to leave better than I found it.

And just for the record, it was so cold that my doctor told me my foot sprained itself.

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This was my creation of “Living History” for this week’s writing challenge.

Mission Memories

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Somehow the air always smells sweet.

A mix of honeysuckle, just the right amount of dew drops, and dirt baked by the sun. Even at night, laying in the grass, breathing in the deep tones of grass and wisteria.

Incense often winding its way out of the Mission, mingling with roses and palms. Walking barefoot through heavy doors, feeling the almost too-smooth bricks underfoot. Sitting in a wooden, rigid-backed chair, looking up.

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Eyes adjusting to a sudden cool dim,  not threatening but rather comforting in its difference. A welcome silence apart.

Hands running along roughly stuccoed hallway walls, finding an excuse to escape their confines for a late-night respite under vine-covered arches. “Stealing” proffered fruit, hanging in baskets off neighbors’ fences.

Feeling the juice of a fresh-picked orange run down an arm, still sweaty from the late fall sun.

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Vaguely aware that the rush of wind is just as likely to source from the jets landing next door as mother nature.

Knowing without realizing that these stolen moments will endure – through the tumult, through the everyday, through the soul-rending life ahead.

Walking the paths, again and again, of two tiny acres etched into feet that all feel like owners of larger past.

Seeking, but not finding, forever rebuilding anew.

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This post is a response to “Outside your Blogging Box”. I chose to explore a mix of sensory memory, creative memoir, and a dash of revisionist history.