In Here and Out There

We’re in the height of summer now, aren’t we?

It’s time to hike all the hikes, buy all the flowers, wear all the dresses, grill all the things, eat all the berries.

I’ve got us covered on the fruit front. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably gathered Portland’s farmer’s market is in full swing.

The variety, quality, and quantity of produce is off the charts, but what I keep exclaiming over is just how glorious it is to walk around without an umbrella.

June, July, and August. These are the days, in the Pacific Northwest.

The salmon are running, the roses are blooming, the tiny gray storm cloud above my head is disappearing.

When given the option between “in here” and “out there,” there isn’t much deliberating to be done. Can you see what I mean?

I wonder if a lot of people find it hard to write during the summer months. After 3 years in Oregon, I feel morally obligated to be outside whenever the sun is out, but I’ve noticed I get a little antsy when I’m away from this space for too long.

Something always seems to shake loose when I write. I know it’s good for me. It helps me take a day off from exercising. It helps me remember how to be gentle with myself. It helps me feel more connected to people who couldn’t meet me for a picnic in an hour, even if they wanted to. On a good day (and today is a good day), writing helps me feel less lonely. And less sad, and less stuck.

Today it feels good to watch the sun come up from the comfort of my queen bed. It feels good to linger in pajamas for longer than is strictly necessary.

It’s a nice change: to ease into the morning rather than pole vault into the day. I’ve eaten breakfast and brushed my teeth; there’ll be time to shower and get outside later on.

I think I want to use this time to talk about 3 things that continue to resurface:

  • Place (meaning: do I stay or do I go, and how do I know)
  • Relationships/intimacy (I think I need a how-to guide, and also how are you people so BRAVE)
  • Body image/confidence

…but first, in the spirit of not always immediately jumping to do what is *SO HARD*, a list just for fun:

(Convenient segue, check!)

Interestingly enough, and as a sign of Good Things Happening, the primary topic of discussion at therapy these days isn’t food.

Talking about food has gotten boring, over time. I mean yes, I want to talk about what you’re doing with the squash blossoms you brought home from the market, and yes, I’d love to hear about a restaurant you tried and loved, but I no longer feel the need to go around and around analyzing where I stand on something I ate. Or not in my therapist’s office, anyway, where time is money and I know that no matter how much anxiety pops up at any given moment, the feeling will pass.

Now I’m hung up on something else: how to get brave enough to not play it safe.

  • How do you decide to shut the door on something that was good (at least some of the time) for something that could be great?
  • How do you find enough courage to leave one job for another?
  • How do you take a risk when the ones you’ve taken in the past have led to some pretty significant bumps in the road?

  • How do you know you’re resilient enough to handle whatever happens?
  • How do you make peace with the fact that there aren’t any guarantees, no matter what you choose?
  • How do you go about placing a fair amount of stock in yourself?

The awesome and annoying thing about therapists is they don’t give you any answers. You would think this would slow down the battery of questions on my part, but no. Not so much.

I have about 30 more on the dating/relationship/intimacy front. But on that stuff, at least, I feel like I’m moving in the right direction. I feel less rusty now, or not so frozen in place. It’s been interesting to discover there seem to be people who put me at ease and people who put me on edge. And I think my instincts are generally pretty good.

I don’t feel any less afraid of getting hurt or being rejected, but I do feel ready to let go of The Big Worry: that it’ll be my body that disappoints. That’s been a heavy weight to carry around. I feel lighter letting that one go. Sometimes I like to think of my worries like balloons, flying up and out of sight. There may be a lot of little pinpricks in my sky, but they’re getting smaller and smaller all the time.

What’s big and here and now is this burning desire to live — to really live. It feels good to let my body come back to life. It feels good to not be so tightly wound. It feels good to not care (quite so much) what other people think.

The other day my therapist asked what being weight restored feels like, and I had a thousand answers (not all fit for print), but the overriding, overwhelmingly positive one was: it feels like more things are possible.

I can picture small victories. Swimming in the ocean. Ordering an ice cream. Forgetting my cover up in the car. Getting home late. Kissing someone for a second longer than what is acceptable on a city street. Holding somebody’s hand. Smiling into a camera. Making a whole bunch of wonderful, new memories.

I can see myself enjoying the summer here, low-key looking for jobs, packing up my apartment, and eventually flying home. Just like I can envision enjoying the summer here, meeting a great group of friends, falling hard for someone, feeling good about a turn my job takes, and having more than one compelling reason to stick around.

It feels more conceivable, now, to consider a life in which there aren’t just two roads to chose from. Maybe there are dozens. And maybe there’s a next step that isn’t too overwhelming, and isn’t either 100% right or 100% wrong. In fact: edit, undo. I’d even go so far as to say in all likelihood. 

I bet that’s true in all likelihood, right this minute.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

“You have a right to experiment with your life. You will make mistakes. And they are right too.” -Anaïs Nin

“You don’t think your way to a new way of living. You live your way to a new way of thinking.” -David Schnarch

“I think it’s important to stop defining this chapter of your life as a failure simply because you weren’t christened a rising star and rewarded with a circle of adoring friends. There are dead ends along the way for everyone. Start by forgiving yourself. You took on a giant adventure, and had no idea how it would turn out. Give yourself a break. Savor where you are now. Slack off at work a little, if you have to. Take your time looking into new jobs and new places. Be truly, completely good to yourself, which includes consistently quieting the voice that says you’re a loser and a failure, and replacing it with a new voice: ‘You are so brave. Look at how much you’re learning, every day.’ I know that’s the hardest thing to do. But that’s where your happiness lies. Not in a place or in a job, but in that good feeling inside your heart that says, ‘I am doing my best. I took a big risk and I floundered but I’m still trying so hard, and that’s a beautiful thing, maybe even more beautiful than sailing across some imaginary finish line.’” -Heather Havrilesky

“I want to write books that unlock the traffic jam in people’s heads.” -John Updike

“When you are struggling in your writing (art), it usually means you are hearing one thing. But writing (creating) another.” -Nayyirah Waheed

“Time is a created thing. To say I DON’T HAVE TIME is like saying I DON’T WANT TO DO IT.” -Cheryl Richardson

“Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.” -Erich Fromm

“Do you remember when we first met? I thought I had wandered into a dream.” -J.R.R. Tolkien

“The figs we ate wrapped in bacon. The gelato we consumed lustily: coconut milk, clove, fresh pear. How we’d dump hot espresso on it, just watch it melt, licking our spoons clean. The potatoes fried in duck fat, the salt we’d suck off our fingers, the eggs we’d watch get beaten ’til they were a dizzying bright yellow, how their edges crisped in the pan. The pink salt blossom of prosciutto we pulled apart with our hands, melting on our eager tongues. The green herbs with goat cheese, the aged brie paired with a small pot of strawberry jam, the final sour cherry we kept politely pushing onto each other’s plate, saying, No, you. But it’s so good. No, it’s yours. How I finally put an end to it, plucked it from the plate, and stuck it in my mouth. How good it tasted: so sweet and so tart. How good it felt: to want something and pretend you don’t, and to get it anyway.” -Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz, July

“As someone who always believed in love, and then finally found what I was looking for (with all of the work and struggle that entails, even after you’ve found it!) I have to tell you that the dream is real. The dream is real and it’s worth it. Life is not long and boring, it’s short and exciting, and sex with someone who you love like crazy does not get worse and worse, it gets better and better. Knowing that someone is on your side — really, truly on your side — and sees you clearly, and forgives you every day for your shortcomings and your bad moments and your … well, multitudes? There’s nothing else like it. You turn to this person who knows you so well, and sometimes you just say ‘Eh’ at something you both saw at the same time, and you both start laughing, because you understand each other. ‘Eh’ means ‘What the hell was that?’ or ‘Jesus, your aunt is crazy’ or ‘Let’s not call him back’ or ‘Why did we get another dog, again?’ or ‘Too bad it’s a Monday and we don’t have a babysitter.’ And it’s so mundane but goddamn, to say so little and know so much, to know so much and still want each other. Hold out for exactly what you want. Believe in it. It is anything but boring.” -Heather Havrilesky

“Never give up. No one knows what’s going to happen next.” -L. Frank Baum

“Grapefruit mornings and summer sundresses; the way the warmth washes over us in the grass. I am drinking the sky and lacing my fingers through yours. My soul might finally know rest.” -Schuyler Peck

{Plane over Bend via @stevereekie, mountain layers via @loveyerland, You’re Doing Great via @roxsincich, Mt. Hood sunrise via @jakeegbert, Mt. Rainier reflection via @ambisoul, kayak via @treasuretrev, Haystack Rock via @jakechams, Oregon coast via @stevereekie, cutest door in all the land via @thecabinchronicles — all on Instagram.}

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