Queen Victoria, Grief, and You

Queen Victoria wore black for forty years after Albert died.

Not black like a fashion statement. It wasn’t “her color.” She wore black like someone who is showing deep grief. Forty years of anguish until Victoria died, too.

That story intrigues me. Probably because I believe there was a point in there where Victoria felt ready to stop grieving, but she was uncertain how to shed the black mourning clothes. I’m not saying she wanted to go out in pastels, but perhaps a navy. Or dark green.

Some people think it was romantic. Victoria was wildly, madly in love in a way that few of us will ever have the chance to feel. And that could be true. But maybe, just maybe, she didn’t know how to allow herself to transition from the darkness. After all, if she showed up in something new, wouldn’t everyone assume that she had fully grieved her husband, that she no longer yearned for him? Did the green dress mean that she had moved on?

Or perhaps… she would want to venture out of her black clothes in stages. First, lose the shawl. Then, the petticoat. Then, the lace. Until, hopefully, she was a lighter version of herself. Maybe she could shed that grief in layers.

This will come as a shock, but I actually don’t know Queen Victoria personally. I know very little about the woman, except that she was the one to propose to dear old Albert. I am merely speculating on her feelings: her battle with grief and the decision of when to let it go. I’ve never lost the love of my life and I hope I never know what that feels like.

However, many of us have experienced unimaginable grief this year. Whether or not pandemic-related, most have lost someone or something important to us: a loved one, a memory, a year of life, or a special occasion reduced to a phone call. That is grief too. It’s acceptable to mourn.

I know the pandemic is not over, but the daffodils are out and I feel spring in the air. I am filled with a sensation that we may just have a hint of normalcy soon. But the question remains: how long do we grieve what we lost when the season changes?
How long until we can stop wearing black?

What a long way to tell you I don’t have the answer.
And neither does anyone else.

What I want you to know is that on the days where the sun comes shining in and you are feeling bright and full of life, it is okay put the green dress on. And in moments where the night is dark and even your bones feel lonely, it is okay to wrap the black shawl around you a little tighter.

And there will be times where you swear you will wear black for the next forty years.
And times where you swear you will never wear black again.
And times when you decide that black is not grief, it is your style.

What a long and terrible and beautiful year for everyone on this planet.
So here is your permission to grieve.
And here is your permission to dance.
And here is your permission to fall into the spaces in between grief and laughter.
And here is your permission to change your feelings as frequently as your clothes.

Notice the good. Let it fill you.
I hope Victoria knew that.

I hope you do too.

Business Stuff

The wonderful psychic medium Hilary Fosdal and I are teaming up to bring you a Writing Workshop using inspiration from Tarot cards. Our 90-minute workshop will teach you how to improve your creative process and think through new ideas with the use of tarot.

For those looking to learn more about tarot and how it can jumpstart your creative juices, this is the class for you. It can be a fun pathway back to writing with a free flow of ideas…. we will show you how. The workshop is $10 will be held virtually on Thursday, April 8th from 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm PST. Click here to register. Hope to see you there!

I love you.

Big Waves, Big Purpose and Flow

At the risk of sounding cliche, I truly can’t believe it has been an entire year since the intense onset of the pandemic.

A friend of mine here in town commented that she thinks people are feeling more anxious than ever before right now. It’s as if the year mark in our brains created some subconscious mental wall. We can handle the stressors and turmoil that the pandemic presents. We can go about our lives with a forced optimistic attitude. But only for a year. After that, the frustration starts to leak out.
It’s funny, because we were talking about this in our typical Friday after work routine. Pre pandemic Fridays, I usually would find myself at dinner with friends or looking for cute local bars that sold kombucha. Now, this friend and I had turned Friday evenings into outings where we would sit on yoga mats in the soaking grass of a Seattle park and do masked workouts.

“People just seem more angry than before,” I admitted, mid sit up. 

And of course, they have the right to be. I’ll be the first to admit that unspoken battles inside people’s hearts often look like middle fingers in traffic and rude emails. But I will also admit that for an empathetic human, the frustration of the world is a lot to handle right now. It feels winter coat heavy, when the heat is turned up too high and you can’t shed layers fast enough. That stuff is uncomfortable.

A childhood friend of mine (turned internationally known photographer) tattooed something on her wrist years ago that never made sense to me until recently. It says, “Go gently.” I suppose it is a nice sentiment, no matter what season of life you are in, but it seems especially relevant now. Whatever strange heaviness the world is throwing at me today, I need to go gently. I must go gently with the understanding that the heaviness before me is bigger than my hurt feelings. The heaviness before me comes from a hurting world.

I have never spoken to another surfer about this, but I suppose now, I will. There is a moment in time when you are hit by a wave that catches you off guard and so completely that it feels less like a wall of water and more like the hand of God. You are thrust under water and forced to spin with the current for several very long, chilled seconds. 

Big waves, big purpose

Here, you have two options. The first is to panic. This means you scramble to the surface as quickly as possible, regardless of the fact that the wave has not yet passed. The problem with this option is that you are unsure which way the surface is, and it often leads to frantically swimming in the wrong direction. If you have never choked on salt water before, now would be the time. As the panic leaks in, so does the water, and I speak from experience when I say salt water burns.


The second option, I have recently deemed, “Going gently.” And it is exactly as it sounds. The giant wave catches you off guard, and you feel your surfboard being tugged at the end of the leash around your ankle. Your body is whipped into the white water and you aren’t necessarily sure where you are going to emerge. Now, you must let your body be soft, and flow with the wave. Keep your eyes closed and your heart slow and know that the surface is waiting for you as soon as the wave passes. 

And the wave always passes.

I heard someone say recently, “Our purpose in this life is now.”

Now is not when the pandemic passes or the heart ache passes or the wave passes. Our purpose does not present itself, finally, bright and shining, when the world is fair and our days are less hectic and the earth gets a little kinder. The purpose is now, and with it, the present mountains and valleys and whitewater. Now, with the frustration and exhaustion and sadness. Now, when we are tempted to spew back the bitterness that the world has taught us, instead of flowing with what we know we were created for: love, love love.

And when that feels like too much, and you don’t know if the salt is from the waves of the tears, it’s ok, love. You don’t need to conquer the ocean. You just need to be gentle enough for the water to take you where you are meant to be.

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Doris, Bertie, and the Swiffer at the New Year’s Party

Dear Doris and Bertie:

Do you know who starts their letters like that? It’s not some fifties sitcom, if that’s what you are thinking (I was). It’s also not a letter to an advice column, even though these names fall right in line with “Prudence.”

Doris and Bertie are who Warren Buffet imagines he is writing to when he creates his annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway’s shareholders. If you don’t know what Berkshire Hathaway is, it’s Warren Buffet’s giant conglomerate of a corporation that has millions of people with vested interest.

And who are these lucky ladies, who get a letter written directly to them, from one of the richest people in the world, and sent to countless investors all over the globe? Doris and Bertie are Warren’s sisters.

I’m not crying, you’re crying.

“It’s ‘Dear Doris and Bertie’ at the start and then I take that off at the end,” Warren once said about creating these letters that are known for their authenticity. That’s how he wanted his advice to come across. Easy to understand. Approachable. From someone who truly cares about them and their future. 

I think about this a lot because I have sisters. 

Several, in fact.

The REAL sisters. ❤

Two biological ones, then three in Seattle, five in Denver, one in New York. 

And that’s just domestically. 

And I wish, I so often wish, I could talk to everyone like I talk to my sisters. The customer service guy, the intern on the phone, and man with his dog on my running route. 

Not because I have some type of advice like Warren does. But because sometimes people need someone to talk with them like a sister would.

My letter would sound like this:

Hey Sister-

Can I please wear your white tank from Abercrombie that’s long in the back so long as I promise not to drink red wine in it? I know there was that whole thing last summer in San Diego but as I said: no red wine. Only seltzers. Think about it.

How is your mind and how is your heart? How are the people you love, the ones that I don’t know? I hope they are loving you the right way, especially right now. I hope they know you like words of affirmation more than gifts and thin crust. I hope they know how much you like the windows down.

I read recently that breathing slowly can make you live longer. Just felt like something I should pass along. Apparently slow breath can calm us down and soothe our body enough to ward off sickness. So try and take deep breaths, sis, even when it’s stressful. Especially when it’s stressful. But don’t stop laughing. 

Do you remember that time at the New Year’s Party where we played limbo with the Swiffer? Do you remember how warm it felt, surrounded by people who loved us, even though we were acting crazy and had no money and no idea where we were going in life? That’s how I hope everyone loves you: wild and warm and boundless.

What’s the plan for the new year, sis? Whatever it is, I hope you make it a little bit bigger.

I hope you make your voice a little bit louder than what was planned, and dye your hair a little bit brighter. I hope you are 10% braver than whatever you initially intended. I don’t know why, I guess because I know you can be.

Don’t forget to wash your sheets, and drink lots of water before you sleep if you have been drinking (and even if you haven’t). Take your makeup off before you go to bed. Try handstands. Try a new recipe. Try to remember my silver sandals next time I see you, and call grandma more.

Just know I miss you. Just know I’m always here.

I love you.

E

360,000 Babies. A Wandering Planet. And You.

Four babies are born every second.

That’s 250 new lives entering our world, taking their first breath, fluttering their eyelashes for the first time, every single minute.

If you are good at math, you know that’s around 15,000 each hour and 360,000 new humans on our planet every single day.

And then, there’s you.

Those on this earth that are currently alive represent about 7% of the total population who have ever lived. This means that 93% of human lives have already occurred. They were born, fell in love, felt their heartbreak and cried when no other emotion would do. They made terrible mistakes, saved someone’s life, inspired a generation, or touched no one at all.

 Of all the people who have ever existed, we only have the chance to run into 7% of them – scattered around the world – speaking different languages and calling God different names. 

And then. There’s you.

The word “planet” comes from a Greek word planetes, meaning “wanderer.”

One giant ball of water and life, so big and vast and all encompassing. And we simply drift. 250 new lives each minute, and we all just wander. Plotting the same course. Watching the same constellations change with the seasons. 

I feel like a planetes most days, I think a lot of us do

Untethered and celestial. 

Distinguished by the stars with motion we think is our own. 

Strikingly unaware of the world and the beauty that is constantly created on the surface of our own skin.

If  you do not set your New Year’s intentions by doing this type of abstract research about humans and life and planets… then you have made the right choice. My problem is that I tend to feel small when making goals for myself… and it prevents me from even trying, so I find the research that backs up my feeling of smallness. This is called confirmation bias.  YES I could make that financial/physical/self improvement goal; but look at our world! Billions of people. Trillions of goals.

And then. There’s me.

And what is ten minutes of meditation per day, when monks do it for their whole lives?

And what is another marathon when I went to college with a woman who ran four in four consecutive days like a divine made machine?

And what is another book, another thought written down, when 93% of humans who have ever lived are already dead and won’t be around to read it?

I am small and this world is large and my goals are inconsequential at best, and silly, at worst.

But then. There’s you.

Another human in this vast and wandering planet… who is alive at the time I am. Who speaks the same language as me and has chosen to read what I write or texts me “Good morning!” or texts me “I’m sad,” or cooks me food or lets me watch movies on your couch or sends me kind emails that say “I don’t know you, but I am grateful for your words. I am grateful for you.”

I read recently that the biggest gifts humans offer to our planet is the gift of intentional gratitude. And while I am often overcome by the vastness of Earth and multitudes of lives and the unending cycle of death, rebirth, love, loss, struggle, I am choosing my new years resolution a little differently this year. 

Instead of feeling as if I am one in seven billion (and surely, I am) my focus now looks like this: billions of souls, and countless stories and people choose to be part of my life and my story. And for that, I am overwhelmingly grateful.

Thank you. I love you. Happy New Year.

Psychic Soldiers and the Heart of Boss

Every day, I wear shiny black tourmaline beads on a bracelet to ward off any “unwanted energy.”

Not energy like enthusiasm, or the third cup of coffee. Energy like bad vibes.

All of  my empathetic wanderers in the room will know how this feels: the abject reality of picking up others’ mood and emotions without ever asking for it. It’s the mailman who just received a distressing phone call, the barista who had a fight with his kid, your partner who clearly hit traffic during rush hour – that speaks loudly and clearly to some without anyone even saying a word. Intuitive people pick that stuff up without even wanting to. So…I wear the tourmaline around my wrist. It wards off the bad juju and I get on with my life.

If this all sounds like “woo woo” hippie talk, I will admit, it is. That’s why I was delighted to learn that the Department of Defense has invested millions of dollars in researching “intuitives” and how to teach others in the military their keen perception skills (although they never mention black tourmaline.) Of course, the U.S. Military doesn’t call the psychic phenomenon “magic intuition.” They call it “sensemaking.” 

The Department of Defense frames their studies like this, “a motivated continuous effort to understand connections (which can be among people, places, and events) in order to anticipate their trajectories and act effectively.” Ok. So they want low key psychics. That’s fine with me, I think it’s true: there is immense power in what our gut is telling us.

Apparently, this study was inspired by several reports from Iraq in the early 2000’s. There were accounts of field agents, that when debriefed after a mission where they narrowly missed an attack by an IED (improvised explosive device) could explain nothing further than they “felt it was coming” so they made plans to circumvent the attack. Several of the agents described a sixth sense that helped them avoid the dangerous situation and, in turn, saved themselves as well as hundreds of brave soldiers. 

Currently, the U.S. Military doesn’t seem interested in getting to the bottom of why this intuition occurs. They are more interested in seeing how they can teach that type of intuition to others. I will admit, I am an intuitive person, but I don’t think I would be cut out for the military. (I cried when I caught a fish this summer, and spent the evening googling what level of pain the average fish could feel.)  But even if you are not using this power in combat, I genuinely believe it can be used to better your life (or our world.) 

What a long winded way to tell you I quit my full time job at a Public Relations firm to start my own content and ghostingwriting company, Ella Kerr, LLC. I talk to people and help them tell their stories, whether that is in the form of a full length memoir, or simply getting their thoughts into text onto their website. It’s hands down the most rewarding thing I have ever sunk my teeth into.

Ella Kerr, LLC – http://www.ellakerr.com

The decision came at a strange time: I was holding my own in the PR world and I was thankful for the stability it provided in the midst of the pandemic. But that pesky sensemaking! Nagging at my gut and whispering, “You were made for something different than this. Comfort is not your calling!” Oh Lord, wasn’t that the truth.

Pair that with the subconscious planning I was doing in the back of my head. This newsletter marks one whole year of (and fulfills my 2020 resolution) of writing something true and inspiring each month. That’s a hard task to take on when your world is inundated by a PR job and Covid. Yet, I promised myself that if I fulfilled this resolution, then something good would come. Something spectacular even. And now, here I am. Leaping off the precipice of certainty and into the world of owning a business and highlighting stories I believe are worth sharing.

I suppose this is a way to tell you that if you are looking for a sign, look inside. If there is a strange uninhibited voice inside talking (incessantly) about big dreams and big plans that you constantly silence with the phrase “One day we will. One day.” Or if there is a gaping whole in your heart, or if there is an opportunity that flirts with your brain like you are the last woman on earth, dear God, I pray you take it. 

There is more to intuition than a zap of lightning in our consciousness; and it can’t be repelled by a black tourmaline bracelet. And if you feel it, and are drawn to it, place value on that. The Department of Defense sure does.

Adam, Eve and the Bad Girls Club

Worth Noting. I wrote a version of this article for Elephant Journal that can be viewed here.

I was at the Seattle Art Museum recently and read the caption underneath a giant strange canvas. Instead of just paint, it was smeared with ash and concrete and silk, ripped and strewn across the canvas. The painting was called “Lilith” and gave the summary of an old Hebrew Myth that I had never heard of before.

Lilith, supposably, was Adam’s first wife (that is, Adam – the first human created that lived in the Garden of Eden.) Unlike Eve, Lilith  was created from the same clay Adam was made from: she was not a rib pulled from Adam’s side and formed into a woman. Instead, God created her with the exact same dust he used to form Adam, not aware of the consequences of this action. 

But quickly, God realized his mistake. This brand new woman was too much like the man, they were made from the same material after all.  Lilith was hard headed and stubborn. She was opinionated and outspoken and when God told Lilith he had created her to be subservient to her partner, that she had been made with the sole purpose of tending to him, she calmly reminded God that he had created her with the same clay that he had used to create the man. That alone made them equals. And she would not submit.

I’m sure God threw up his holy hands and rubbed his holy temples and muttered under his holy breath to the stubborn woman, “Fine, just go then. I’ll create someone else to serve this man.”  And Lilith did go, carried on by her rebel soul, content to leave the Garden of Eden that was supposed to be paradise just so she could retain that independence. And God started again, Plan B this time. He put Adam to sleep, took a rib from his side and created Eve,  a new partner, a better partner, with fewer rebellious desires, albeit, an affinity for strange fruit.

But the world didn’t let Lilith leave without gossip. They were not content for the confident woman to find her own path outside of the prescribed paradise. Instead, the stories of Lilith multiplied. Lilith was a demon, a night screamer, someone who wanted nothing more than to steal your babies at night, and carry them off into whatever cave she lived in, wherever she hid since leaving the Garden.

“That’s why you do what is asked of you,” I picture some tired parent with rings under their eyes saying to their daughter, begging her to sleep or come home, or stay out of the mud, “You know what happens to little girls who think they are something they are not. Who try to be more than what the world asked them to be.”

The little girl nods because she knows. Those little girls become baby stealers who live in a cave. They become ash and soot and concrete smeared on a canvas.

But still. But still. There is a flutter in that young girl’s chest. And she thinks that perhaps, there is a chance that she was not created to submit but to lead. And perhaps that flutter grows louder until it pounds in her ears, and the name Adam doesn’t ring a bell anymore. And she ties her shoes tighter and she holds her head higher, because there is a chance that she was created for something bigger than a Garden and passivity. For a moment, she has a feeling of knowing, of being absolutely certain  that she was created from the clay and not the rib, that she was made equal to the leaders and that this stubbornness was not a curse, oh no. That stubbornness was put there with intention.

But I don’t know. It was just a painting.

The Creation of Lake Washington (and other mindless things.)

The first thing you need to know about cold water is how to entertain yourself.  Otherwise, you won’t last too long.

I try to think of something light, something playful that I can easily bring to mind. Like the song that played at high school homecoming. Or when my dad would let my sisters and me eat cookies for breakfast on Saturdays, so long as we ate them like cereal: with a bowl and spoon.

I learned these things because I swim at the lake after work some days. Even when it’s cold. If you can keep your mind positive and warm, you can usually stay above the chill. If you can’t, you are in for a very long swim.

Usually, I stand at the shore for a moment with my feet in the wet seaweed that grows by the edge and wish a shock of sunlight would burn through the fog and illuminate the frigid water, but it never does. So I breathe deep, swim out to the graying dock, adjust my goggles, and swim back home again. 

The first day back in the water after weeks of being cooped up inside during the West Coast wildfires was especially tortuous and the lake shockingly chilly. While the rain had provided some relief from the smoke, it cooled the water, and my lungs burned with remnants of ash you could still see when the wind blew north. 

Someone had told me of sensory deprivation chambers: small pools with no light and no sound that instilled a sense of peace while you floated. This swim was not like that. It was panicked and tiresome: my arms hurt and my mind was blank: too chilled from the water to recall anything to occupy my mind, let alone relax in stillness. No recollection of music from 2009. No sugar rushed memories of Saturdays mornings. My brain was as vacant as the strip of water I had flung myself into that afternoon: numbing and void and getting colder.

It occurred to me, as I made my turn at the dock, that I could invent my own song or story, if there was truly nothing I could recall to distract me before making it back to shore. It wouldn’t even need a tune or structure, just a mantra to mark the time and distance, a few words strung together to give me something to hold onto until my hands brushed the slippery weeds that grew just before the shoreline.

Love, love, love I began singing in my head, and forced my strokes in cadence with what I had created. I told myself to sing it three more times before I captured another breath, before I took stock of where I was in relation to the shore.

 Love, love, love. 

Love, love, love. 

I read recently that at all times people are doing one of two things- either showing love or crying out for it. I wondered which this was.

Love, love, love.

Love, love, love. 

And that is how I made it back to shore: swimming through dark water in a gray world, singing love into the waves because that was the only thing I could remember. Then, foggy rocks of the shoreline came into view, and goosebumps pricked my legs, but the panic lifted from my chest because I knew I was close. 

 Then, the strangest idea caught in my brain between my tangled braids and my second hand swim cap as my strokes quickened for the homestretch.

“This must be how the world was created,” I thought,  “One lonely god, whispering love into the darkness until she felt something below her feet.”

Rum, Raspberries, the Gray and the Art

Technically speaking, the universe smells like rum and tastes like raspberries.

Well, more accurately, it smells and tastes like Ethyl Formate; the chemical that gives raspberries their taste and rum its smell – but that doesn’t sound nearly as poetic. Astrologists have gone out there and done it: taken a sample of the dust cloud that forms our Milky Way and tested it to see what our universe was made of. 

Rum and raspberries pair well with a variety of things. Like Brie. And Sprite. And dark chocolate almonds, and for a moment, the briefest moment, as I consider what I would eat in conjunction with a big bite of the universe, it seems like everything is going to be okay in the midst of a dark and stormy year.

When I was young there was a hymn we would sing in church, called “How Great Thou Art.” I was admittedly way too old (mid twenties)  before I realized that song was not about how great the art was, it was about how great the God was, spinning mystically in the universe above us, drunk on raspberries and rum, and insisting that we use old English to discuss how wonderful the divine is. But the truth was, I thought singing about the art was more interesting than singing about God. I think that God did, too.

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“Art.”

There’s a name for the color that you see in the dark. It’s called “eigengrau” and it means intrinsic gray, or the color when you are thirsty at 3am, or restless at 3am, or just coming home at 3am. It is the color when dark that surrounds you. I’ve talked to a lot of people lately, who have told me that life these past few months have been fairly eigengrau: shapeless and gray, fuzzy around the edges, with an increased probability of stubbing a toe. I understand that feeling. I think a lot of us do. 

To every person who has admitted shyly with a nervous laugh that waking up is depressing right now, I wish I could tell you that the eigengrau feeling would be lifted soon – but I can’t. I would be lying if I said that. I can’t say if the bleakness of the world will miraculously dissipate when the wildfires are under control, or the pandemic is handled or the economy is fixed or the society is not broken or your family is together again. In fact, coming from someone who lives in the Pacific Northwest, I can assure you: the world is fairly gray, regardless of the current crises we are experiencing. Because of that, I have half a mind to suggest we start seeing the gray as part of the art.

In those moments when the sun is not yet risen and you stare blankly at a ceiling that has yet to give you the answers, or stare blindly at a screen that has yet to accurately determine your worth, I beg you to remember this: we live in a universe that tastes like raspberries and smells like rum, even on the gray days. A world where sunflowers reach stories high and babies are born with perfect curled ears and the rain hits the roof when you are the only one awake.  And someone has whispered “I love you,” and someone else has whispered, “I’m proud of you,” and someone else doesn’t need anyone whispering to know they are strong and capable and enduring. 

And tomorrow might just bring some more sun but maybe not, and tomorrow might just be enveloped in the biggest peace you have ever known, but maybe it won’t and tomorrow might just be the day that the world changes. Tomorrow you may feel the butterflies inside your chest instead of outside your walls and there will be dancing. And there will be you, looking for the light in the eigengrau, and swearing you caught the faintest whiff of raspberry in the evening breeze. 

And that, my love, is the art I’ve been singing about.

Shy Movie Stars and the World’s Newest Hostage Negotiator

If you can get past the neon gel pen ink, the salacious amount of acronyms, and the fact I kept citing my favorite color as “clear,” reading childhood journal entries are kind of cute. I will admit there is a lot of skimming because the details can get a little cringey, and some wondering how I ever passed eighth grade English, but I had some big goals. The real problem, in those childhood journals, was my dreams and perceptions were unfocused and scattered and quite frankly, unreasonable. I wasn’t going to be something I was going to be everything. 

For example it was a priority for me, around age ten, to become a movie star, noting that I would really like this job, but I wouldn’t want to do the kissing part.

Around age twelve I determined I was destined for the Olympics. The entry was a lengthy pro-con list of whether I should pursue swimming or track and field for my Olympic dreams, with a sad asterisk at the end noting that at age twelve and nearly 5’7” I would probably be too tall to ever be an Olympic gymnast.

This was also around the time I vowed to buy myself a tree house when I was grown up, and wrote (what apparently was the main critique of this idea) that I would still be okay with living in a treehouse, even if I couldn’t get a refrigerator up into the tree.

In 2006 there was an entry about being nominated for homecoming princess. I wrote that this was the best day of my life. I wrote “there is no way I could possibly be happier.”

Senior year of high school, I wondered what people possibly did with their free time in college if they didn’t have a sports practice to attend, or weekends filled with games or tournaments.

In 2012 I would never get hired again, for the rest of my life.

In 2013, I would never be in love again, for the rest of my life.

In 2016 I would never leave Africa again, for the rest of my life.

In 2020 I would never leave my house again. For the rest of my life.

I don’t know when it was, but at some point I decided, “You can be a movie star or live in a tree house, but good Lord, you can’t do both.” There seems to be a threshold where we all determine that the wild and outlandish and all consuming convictions were far fetched – and only probable dreams and reasonable goals are acceptable. It is a defense mechanism, I know it is: our brains shield our hearts from unlikely plans with the hope they don’t stop dreaming. But the result is this: we edit our dreams so they fit in a box when dreaming is half of the reason to stay awake. 

My partner and I have an agreement where if one person is excited about something, no matter how ridiculous or unlikely, the other shares that excitement too. (This agreement came after we watched Waco and I claimed I was quitting my job as a consultant to become a hostage negotiator. ASAP.) Because maybe it never happens, but maybe it does, and maybe I just want to dream about. And because we get to choose if we are confined to the tiny cages of our identity that our world puts us in: we do not have to stay. Even if it’s unlikely. Even if it never comes true.

Recently, I read this poem Hafiz caught my attention:

The small woman

Builds cages for everyone

She

Knows.

While the sage,

Who has to duck her head

When the moon is low,

Keeps dropping keys all night long

For the

Beautiful

Rowdy

Prisoners.

The way I see it,  this small woman is the one who puts their aspirations in cages to protect them from “unlikely.” But I turn thirty this month, and I hope this next decade makes me the sage: dropping  keys at the cages of anyone who has ever changed their mind, and telling them to keep wondering, keep dreaming.

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Cageless.

I hope I say, over and over again, “You lover and fighter who thought they wanted to be a businesswoman, then thought they wanted to be a healer, then thought they wanted to be a teacher, but turned out to be wrong: it’s okay to change. To the heartbroken heartbreaker, peacemaking instigator, treehouse lover in the city: step out of your cage and be all of those beautiful, breakable, unshakeable things. And if it doesn’t work? Then dream again.”

What’s Inspiring Me Lately?

Monique Sar. Monique and I grew to know each other through our non traditional methods of navigating a career – trying a lot of different industries and professions until finding one that sticks. She is now a success coach and consultant to help clients create a legacy for themselves and their families through their business accomplishments – something Monique says is what motivates her to keep pursuing her dreams. “I grew up with immigrant parents and what do immigrant parents know how to do best? Work hard. So what did they do? Work hard. They didn’t want me to live just an average life. They have really worked to give me the opportunity to have a better life, and I am motivated to continue succeeding to add onto the legacy that my family has already started.”

What does she recommend to other entrepreneurs or dream seekers in the making? “Take some time to write down and journal literally everything you really enjoy doing and find a way to monetize it. Do this in the morning when your mind is clear, grab your tea or coffee, and get into flow state. It’s not going to be easy – but it is worth it and I hope it inspires action. After your journaling exercise, really DECIDE that from this point forward you’re going to bet on yourself and chase your dreams and all that you desire.“

 

Sixty Cigarettes and the Boston Marathon

The book I am reading right now is about a guy who decided to stop smoking sixty cigarettes per day and pick up running instead. He made that decision in his mid thirties, with no prior athletic experience, and he turned out to be a pretty impressive runner. Or, if not impressive, at least consistent, despite the fact that he didn’t even buy a pair of running shoes until he was three decades and thousands of Marlboros in.

I haven’t finished the book yet, but I looked ahead and the writer didn’t win any big races. He didn’t qualify for the Boston Marathon his first time out of the gate, and he didn’t light a celebratory smoke at the end with a zippo lighter engraved with “26.2.” He didn’t go to the Olympics. He broke no records. In fact, not a lot happens in the book that is worth putting on his resume, his dating profile, or arguably, a full length memoir. But here I am, intrigued by a story of a man who didn’t always get it right.

The point of the story is that this guy’s big win wasn’t crossing a finish line (as you may have guessed). His big win was Tuesday mornings. When he was tired from closing up the bar where he worked, and the sky was spitting half snow, half rain, and he still decided to wake up and run. 

I’m sure our human obsession with victory can probably be traced back to some sort of evolutionary criteria.  We want others to know us as the last woman standing! Not “explorers.” Not “learners.” Not the lady who “got it wrong lots of times, but still hangs out.” We tear up our rejection letters and frame our degrees and fail to remember any journey that wasn’t success. We mold and form the very fibre of what created us into this mindset where we must come out as victorious or nothing at all,  instead of better than we were. We complete a milestone and are forced to answer “Did you win?” Instead of, “Are you stronger now? Did it hurt less this time? Are you learning?”

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Running for the journey (not the medals.)

And I am one of the guiltiest. I shy away from challenges, where winning is not in the cards, or where failing is likely. Yet, here we stand halfway through 2020 where we are asked to do one of the scariest (or bravest?) things that any human can do: be wrong. The social fabric of our world and the hope for a better future depends on our use of this battle cry, “We got it wrong before: our laws and our actions and our words. And we will probably get it wrong again. But I am still going to put my running shoes on.” That is not a short story with a big win.  But I am realizing now, that’s never what the world asked for. All we have ever been asked to do is to show up even when it’s raining.

Beautiful humans, this life, this world, this desire for a better humanity is not a sports game with confined rules and time limits, and you will not win with defense. It’s a jog by yourself after you have decided to stop smoking sixty cigarettes per day. There is not a winner, and no one is handing you dixie cups of blue Gatorade at the thirteen mile mark. It’s just you. Deciding what the bravest thing is for that particular mile. 

I wish we could remind everyone of this fact, especially those who sit behind keyboards on social media, and wait, crouching in the figurative Facebook bushes for someone with a differing opinion so they can pounce.  I wish we could let them know that the ferocity that you defend your beliefs does not count as a win without integrating new ideas or new perspectives or new facts into your thinking. Neither does staying in your comfort zone. You don’t score points by being loud or being right or having a track record free from any past mistakes. In fact, you don’t score points at all.

Our hurting world does not need one more perfect person ready for contests they know they can win. Our desperate earth, riddled with growing pains and battle cries and a faint glimmer of better days on the horizon, only asks for this: someone who is going to show up on Tuesday after thirty years of smoking cigarettes, knowing they probably won’t win this one, but they are here. And, Lord, they are better than they were before.