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Friday, February 6, 2015

Keeping the Faith

She walked up to me. I hadn’t seen her in so long. I’m sure that if it weren’t for social media, she wouldn’t have even remembered who I was. Her hands wrapped around my upper arms. One of those intimate moves between almost-strangers that somehow is perfectly okay. Then, in the most generous and warm words, she explained how inspired she was by my writing. …I think I probably laughed awkwardly. I’m not sure, I blacked out for a second. Completely blown away by how raw and just plainly nice her words were.

I’m always so amazed that anyone other than my Mother reads anything I have to type, and when I’m reminded that these words go out into the ether and reach real lives being lived, it’s a phenomenon that I will never fully understand. But I will surely never, ever take it for granted.

Her words came at an interesting time. I was feeling buried. Far, far less than inspirational, I was feeling overwhelmed. And very, very small.

My mental state recently has followed the chill and energy of this crowded town during the winter season - where the streets are lonely with hurried boots and there’s no time for eye contact. Stinging eyes and frozen fingertips top priority. My inner self taking cues from layers upon layers of wool and down, covering and hiding. Curling up to just endure.

I haven’t written in quite some time. There are times when it’s best not to publish biographical materials as they’re unfolding. It’s better to wait until you gain perspective. When you’re in the middle of it all, you catch shards of truth and emotion as they come whizzing by, but it’s not until after the dust settles and you step outside that you can really see. And, it’s not that you aren’t still completely covered in debris, but at least at that point you can look back at the scene and see the place in which your body once stood.

Without going into too much detail, after nearly six months of instilling trust in someone, I was faced with some harsh realities. I had taken a leap, allowing myself to feel things that I wasn’t even sure I was capable of. But finally, late at night, with tangled limbs, and conversation rife with disappointment and hard decisions, it came to an end. I was hurt. And very tired.

Add that to the roller coaster of my precarious living situation – I’m left scrambling to find a roommate or risk getting kicked out of my apartment (which is an inevitability in the coming months anyway). Not to mention, there’s nothing like fretting over a three bedroom Brooklyn apartment at the age of 31 to make you reevaluate your life choices…

Every listicle on the internet wants to reduce life to numbered bullet points and linear moves. Make you believe that you can find love in 5 easy steps. Simplify happiness to 8 mantras. …How patronizing. No one seems to be breaking down 3 simple steps to kicking a crack habit or little known tricks to birthing a baby. Not that I have experience in either, but I’m guessing that that’s because those seem to be fairly hard and complicated things to do. And as someone who lives a real, and sometimes hard and complicated life, I know that there are decisions, and choices, and acts of extreme bravery that no listicle can lay out.

Life is … a lot. Every so often, I feel like the last kid to be picked at recess thrown into an Olympic level dodgeball game. And despite my best efforts, sometimes doubt infiltrates - accomplishments aren’t big enough, relationships aren’t anything enough, work not successful enough, life not…”enough” enough. Thoughts linger longer than necessary or helpful. And I worry. While the common idiom is not to “dwell in the past,” I think the real trick is to plan for the future, but not to dwell there either.

One cold and very early morning recently, completely taken by these insecurities, I came upon my Grandmother’s journal. I’m not sure what led me to pull the binder out for a read. Just one of those things. I remembered seeing it – the photographic memory of the black binding on my shelf. I didn’t read the whole thing, her handwriting was curvy and scrolling in a way that makes my eyes cross. A headache to ensue.

It was found in her room right after she passed. Tucked away. No one knew she had been keeping it. She was a religious woman – Catholic to be precise. Irish Catholic to be precise-er. And while I’m not the Churchiest of girls, I do believe the Universe must have known I needed the read.

She wrote word after word, explaining her unexplainable faith in things she can’t see. Her acceptance and strength in knowing that something else knew better. That there was a plan. And while I’ve never really believed in a plan, I do believe in the power of choice and in finding opportunity everywhere and in everything. Even in discouragement, and even in a hurting heart.

Unlike my Grandmother, I’ve never been a religious person. Chalk it up to my love of science, or my Jewish father, whatever the case, the only reaction church elicits is hives and irrational anxiety. But my faith, it seems, does appear to be just as strong as hers. A place of quiet knowledge inside that comes with practice and with intent. So, for lack of a more graceful mixed metaphor that she would approve of – it seems that when the shit hits the fan, there’s really no better time to stop and smell the roses. Take inner stock and be grateful. I guess it means we’re really awake. How nice it is that we feel so much. How lucky we are to have things that matter.

In the middle of working on this post, I went to Yoga hoping I could sweat and Namaste my way out of a hectic, buzzing mind. Afterwards, I walked up Broadway, yoga mat strapped to my back, snow boots making my gait a bit clumsier than usual. As I came upon the corner of Union Square, suddenly, like lightning strike, I was slammed in the head. Hard. I stumbled. Almost hit the ground but caught my footing just in time. My eyes saw starry fuzz. I was in shock. I held my hand to my head, still burning from the impact. It was wet and cold. I felt the drip of melting snow roll down my face.

I looked around for someone to commiserate with. But there was no one. No one stopped. Nothing changed. The world kept going, like absolutely nothing had happened... Upset and confused, I yelled, “What the fuck!” It was out of character, for sure, like I had temporary Tourette’s, but somehow it came so naturally. And, sure enough, a handful of people stopped dead, mid hurry, to stare. They looked at me like I was let loose from an asylum. I started laughing (which didn’t help my case), but I was taken by the fact that a random avalanche in the middle of Manhattan is apparently less conspicuous than a 5 foot 2 yoga nerd screaming the F word on 13th and Broadway.

I bowed my head. Smiled to myself. I guess it’s true what they say - It’s not what happens to you, it’s how you react that really matters. It seems inspiration doesn’t come from being unaffected. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It comes from being honest about all of that damn debris.

There are no quick fixes. No steps simple enough. No listicle long enough. I’m just keeping an eye out for falling debris, and trying my best to keep the faith. After all even Hail Mary’s are thrown with a background of experience and wholehearted hope.


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