Sunday, December 26, 2010

Changing Destiny

If life gave us a map then we could not possibly discover the joy and surprise that accompanies a change in our destiny.

Last week I got my piece of paper. It was laminated perfectly inside of the red, official, book-like hard covering that validates your intangible academic accomplishment to the world. I've gotten two of these before-once when high school was over and once when I got a less advanced version of the same college degree. This time it said "with distinction"-a testimony to what I felt had to be re-written from the first attempt.

Before I received that piece of paper I felt pretty nonchalant about the idea of completing my Master's degree. At the end of two and a half years worth of countless twenty page term papers, essay exams, case analysis after case analysis and mid-term papers, I think my soul was just too exhausted to really care anymore. But when I opened it up and started to stare at that piece of paper with my name on it, I felt something I hadn't allowed myself to acknowledge-a sense of pride.

It wasn't a boastful type of pride or the type of pride that says "now I'm somebody." No, it was more of a sense of "yes, I did it." Yes, I did it despite the fact that at times I didn't think I could. Yes, I did it even though my initial reasons for wanting to changed midway through. Yes, I did it despite all the outside challenges and obstacles that could've prevented me from crossing the finish line. This time I didn't give up, I didn't stop, and I learned to accept something that the textbooks couldn't have possibly taught-that I'm still capable, validatable me with or without that piece of paper.

Chances are that I won't hang that piece of paper up on the wall in my office downstairs. I know it could find a suitable place next to the picture of Paris in winter, or the close-up of the white rose covered in a light mist of morning dew, or perhaps next to one of award plaques I received in my younger days. But like most of the downstairs space in my house, those walls are haphazardly put together at best. Most of it is still a random collection of boxed-up memories of dance recitals, early writing projects, forgotten letters of appreciation, and past choices and existences that still play out somewhere on reality's plane.

The other day I felt a sudden wave of sadness for no apparent reason. Prior to this wave of dichotomous emotion, I was reflecting on the possibility of change. Not just a little change, but a major one. The kind of change that ends one phase of who you are so that you can step into the phase of what you'll become. Sometimes we have to wait for that phase to completely fade into the background because we've created a situation for ourselves where there is no other choice.

I came across someone else's words that stated that "all changes, even the most longed for have their melancholy; for what we leave behind is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another." Even though death seems like a sudden event, it never truly is. I think it's a process that goes on while we're "waiting." Life's choices and achievements are always a two-parter: we have to let go of one concept of who we are and what we want in exchange for another, even if it's only temporarily.

Sometimes while we're busy pushing ourselves towards that new direction- that longed for new change-we get the opportunity to reconcile those parts of ourselves that we never really let go, but needed to. Those parts of us come in the form of people, boomeranged lessons, obstacles that will challenge our ideas of who we are and what we can accomplish, and perhaps the answers to buried questions.

2010 has brought all of those my way and more. So while I sit out these last few months before I fulfill my company's tuition reimbursement waiting period requirement and contemplate a decision on the next available path to take, I think I'll also find a way to be grateful that I got a second chance at closure. A set of closures that needed to occur so that I could be pushed towards my indefinable capability.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Little Expectations

Tonight was the celebration for my five year old nephew's birthday. He doesn't really turn five until Wednesday, but with everyone's work schedules and Christmas on Saturday, my sister thought it would be best to have his party the weekend before. I haven't been around "R" as much as I would like, but I remember the night he was born. That was the year I was still in a "vacation relief" straight salaried position with my company. I had driven back into town for a few days, but had to leave again the next morning.

I remember that winter was unusually warm for us-still raining well into January instead of snowing. My sister was still married to her ex-husband, who had illegally attempted to start a new life in the States after leaving a life of crime in Mexico. Yeah, I know-for those of you who have been reading about my life from the get go it really does have the makings of the next daytime drama doesn't it? Perhaps that's why I've always thought they were a tad more realistic than most people. But anyhow, my nephew was a little bit of a stinker. Like his aunt he didn't exactly want to make an easy entrance into this world and my sister ended up having to go in for an emergency c-section.

My mom and I stayed in my sister's hospital room while she was in surgery, nervously hoping that everything would turn out ok. I tried to get a few hours of sleep while we waited, but with my mother's constant panicky conversations with the nurses and family friends over the telephone, I didn't have much luck. In the end everything turned out ok, give or take a minor complication or two that healed on its own with a little nudge of modern day medicine. "R" looked exactly like my sister did when she was born, with Hispanic coloring, so there was no doubt he was ours.

The hurdles, challenges, and domestic turmoil that my sister had been going through and eventually conquered could be a tale in their own might. It's a tale I think that only she could tell authentically, so I'll do her the justice of fast forwarding through that part of our lives. Some say that before children are born, they choose the individuals they're going to be born to. The higher self chooses its current incarnation's lessons, if you will. If that's true, then "R" made the right choice.

Far be it from me to know exactly what his life lessons are, but when a new child is born there are often a set of expectations about who they already are, who they're going to become, and whom they should be like. "R" is a quiet soul who is very picky about what he eats, who likes to give his mom and "Grandma" hugs, who can often be seen actively observing his environment, who doesn't like to share his toys, loves Sponge Bob, and knows how to pose and smile perfectly for the camera. He has an infectious laugh that is more like a series of giggles and will softly tell you what he wants to if you just sit back and let him.

Like his aunt he will never know his biological father beyond a few stray photographs, a few faded memories, and a word or two of caution mixed with small pieces of good that couldn't quite overcome the darkness. Like most of his family he can somehow sense what you can't always see. He knew who his grandfather was from a randomly placed photograph in my mom's house, even though my father passed two years before "R's" birth. I've often told my mom that dad still comes to "visit"-now I like to think that she has a little more proof.

I know it's still a little early and "R's" got a lot of changes he's going to go through. But when I'm around "R" he has a way of reminding me of the little girl I used to be. He even has the "Irish temper" at times and the perfect way of pouting in "rescue me" silence when he doesn't get his way. Yes, it's a little early, but I think we might have another hsp on our hands. No matter who "R" grows up to become, I'm glad he's a part of the family.

That's the funny thing about expectations. We always have this picture in our minds of the way we think something should be or how we think something should turn out. The thing is life surprises us a lot of the time. It unfolds in this sort of mystery of luck and beneficial growth disguised as temporary heartache. What we've conjured up for ourselves doesn't have to manifest to the "t" in order for us to be happy.

The only thing we can do is make our choices, sit back, feel lucky for what the experience gave us, and let the universe do the rest.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Loving What Is

I think it is funny how we humans always seem to be longing for what we don't currently have or see before our eyes. Tonight I logged into Facebook and decided to actually attempt to scroll through some of those 300+ updates I receive on a daily basis. I've got a mixture of "friends" on there-some I knew in high school, some from my list of jobs over the years, some are friends of the family, some are fellow HSPs I've "met" online, some are just random people who share similar interests, and some of them are actual close friends whom I'm extremely grateful for.

Now quite a few of these people live in Colorado and we've been experiencing some "spring" like weather, if you can call it that. Mid 50's to 60's in the middle of December isn't unheard of out here, but a lot of folks don't like it. They'd rather see snow, cold, ice, and a little touch of "Christmas Wonderland." I can understand, sort of. Back in the 80's and early 90's Colorado used to get a lot more snow on the plains during the winter months, and now it's haphazard at best. I understand that's one of the reasons why people live here-they like the snow and everything that comes with it.

I, on the other hand, am enjoying this warm touch of "springtime." To me it seems silly not to. The snow will come and when it does we'll all be complaining for it to hurry up and melt. The majority of us will anyway. The majority of us that have to actually get up and drive around in the crap while we silently say "hail mary's" or whatever in hopes that we don't get into an accident.

I'm enjoying what is because I know that it doesn't last. I'd rather enjoy the good in today than worry about what I might be missing. I think if you do that then you actually miss what the universe is trying to give you-its momentary beauty that you're a part of.

Each morning I still witness the sunrise. I've been witnessing it now for a little over seven years, give or take a few "slept-in" mornings here and there. I'm not what you would call a "morning person" by any means, but I'm always glad I'm awake to see what can only be duplicated on the canvass of life. Not only is the light against the sky, the clouds, and sometimes a mountain range or a stretch of sand different each time, but it stops you in your tracks. Its vision makes you take a moment to be filled with the warm feeling of gratitude that something miraculous still exists.

Moments like these make you stop and just be. They can take your breath away, often leave you speechless, bring a smile to your lips. These are the type of moments that make you realize that life isn't about what you are but who you are.

Worrying about what will be or what isn't is senseless. I've found that tomorrow usually takes care of itself, unfolding in a mixture of our choices, circumstance, and a little touch of magic we can't quite explain. Somewhere, where time doesn't exist, we know different. What was will be again, what is will be what was, and what is to be has already been.

The true challenge is to love what is. Some say it's because it's not coming back. Others say it's because you never know when it might be the end. But I like to think it's because we're still learning to believe and embrace the whispers of who we are rather than the outer shell that shouts what could be.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Reminder of Christmas

As I child I adored Christmas. It was my favorite holiday-from the eggnog and "Newman" exclusive Christmas molasses/date/cherry cookies to the colored lights and promise of something "magical" in the air. It was as much a religious observance as it was a commercial celebration in my parents' household. In addition to the Santa cookies, Christmas tree and presents, there was the advent wreath, the church services, and a Happy Birthday Jesus cake. No, I'm not kidding. That cake was something that got made no matter what-complete with white icing, red and green sprinkles and "Happy Birthday Jesus" spelled out in red and green lettering.

I've never really questioned why I celebrate Christmas or why I love it so much. Even after I'd moved back to Colorado and took on a paper route as a part-time job so I could buyout the lease on my car, I took the time to admire the lights each dark, cold morning. Maybe it was the crisp air, the Country Club neighborhood's extravagant displays, or the cookies and generous tips my customers would leave for me. Whatever it was, it was a piece of magic and joy that made me believe in possibility again at the age of 27.

Somewhere between 27 and 34, I again lost what I did in my late teens-the belief in possibility. You could also call it a spark, a light, a hope for something we can't quite see, touch, or explain. But even though we can't grasp it yet, we can feel it. We can feel its warmth throughout our soul as it carries us to imaginary visions of how our world might be.

Across from my townhome is an assisted living center. There is often a lot of traffic from the RN's and CNA's who have to park on our street in order to get to work each day, the delivery trucks delivering the home's necessary supplies, and the ambulances that drive into the parking lot with their blaring sirens when a resident decides it is time to pass.

Despite the bleakness of the reality that exists within its walls, the facility manages to put up lights and decorations around its landscape. From my upstairs living room window and across the courtyard you can see a string of yellow, green, red and blue on an evergreen fir. Until this past weekend, I just glanced at that string of lights as if they were there year round-as if they were nothing special.

Well, if I've learned anything in the past year it's that life has a funny way of returning you to reminders of what was once subjectively important. It's kind of the Universe's way of getting you back on track if you've become lost, I think. So there I was on a Sunday, trying to write my third article for the week and I suddenly became extremely disinterested in divulging on why Generation Y has the least amount of employee loyalty and satisfaction amongst today's working population.

I decided to go upstairs and do what I do best when my mind is tired of trying to accomplish something-lay down in a "cuddle and snuggle" with the dog and find a movie or two to lose myself in temporarily. The first one I chose was so awful that I fell asleep about 20 minutes in and wasn't the least bit sorry when I woke up at the end, just in time to see the last scene.

But the second was a tale about seeing light within the darkness and finding a way to share that light with others so that they can see the true nature of who they are. It was a tale of spreading inspiration, helping each other when it's needed the most, finding the meaning of love and hope again-exactly the way it should be.

That's why I've always been in love with Christmas. Not because of the gifts, or the candy, or the traditions, or what we think it might stand for. I love it because of its light-that magical combination of love and hope that keeps shining until it finds a way to make a difference inside our hearts.

The same way that string of red, white, blue, and green became more than an everyday vision viewed across a courtyard from inside a thermal windowpane. Those lights became an outer reflection of the goodness that has always existed behind the eyes. The goodness that will continue to exist, even after that string has been taken down and stored away until we need a reminder of its possibility.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Light of a Star

There are people that will come into our lives somehow that end up needing us. There are a few people whom we might see, know, touch, or experience in some way that we'll end up needing too. I'm not really talking about needing someone in the sense of "I'm a damsel in distress stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire and need someone to change it for me." Although I've been in that exact situation a few times in my life, today I'm referring to needing someone in a spiritual sense.

Some people refer to sensitives as lightworkers, and I think this can be true in many ways. Most of us feel the desire to "help," to "soothe," to point out the "good" in a "bad" situation, to even "protect," and stand up for the "right" principle when it goes against the grain of politics, greed, and the "way things have always been done." I think that we also literally have a sort of "light in our eyes" that goes deeper than a superficial smile, a random moment of happy, or a temporary display of kindness. It's a sort of deep compassion for humanity that makes us appear sweet, innocent, and vulnerable at times. It's a genuine feeling of appreciation that arises from within because we recognize the beauty in ordinary existence.

The description of lightworker can live up to its name when a sensitive fulfills a role they were meant to. The lower self, of course, doesn't always know why it is being "called" towards something, someplace, or someone. But when someone starts performing the "right" work and fulfilling the "right" role, a little something called the magic of anonymous spiritual inspiration starts to happen. That individual starts to help others through an intangible glow that provides both comfort and the desire to overcome the darkness of life. Not on purpose, not by intent, not by always knowing exactly what they're doing or whom they might be touching.

The act of performing the role may not last forever, but we can only hope that the results do. For a long time I've held the belief that hope, love, light, and triumph always find a way to sustain themselves in the end. I'd like to think that I won't be disappointed by this notion.

This isn't to say that a lightworker doesn't ever need a kindred spirit, so to speak. In my eyes there shouldn't be any shame or feelings of inadequacy when you view someone else as some sort of star shining in the distance. They're no better or worse than you. They're just a person, complete with their own talents and their own faults trying to navigate this tangible thing we call life. Yet inspiration and light are still exactly what they appear to be-a gift that promises something better than what we think we see.

Needing a reminder of that gift from time to time isn't a sign of weakness, a burden, or something to be ashamed of taking. Chances are that the source of that distant star doesn't see you as beneath them or too far away to touch. Your value is just as important as their own might be, because the star doesn't think of itself as any different. Not the slightest bit different from the rest of the lights hanging out there right beside it.