Thursday, May 26, 2011

Mile 82

I left my regrets at Mile 82
along the river in the canyon
to the Rocky Mountains.
I left them there
because I didn't know what else to do.
Should I roll them tight to put in my pocket?
Should I hang them on a wall?
Should I try giving them to someone else?
Should I shove them in an abandoned drawer?
Should I pretend they don't exist, yet, be reminded of them every day?
No.
No.

So instead, I left my regrets at Mile 82
along the river in the canyon
to the Rocky Mountains.
I left them there because it just made sense.
Should I have carried them on my back with guilt?
Should I have tried to rewind and un-regret them?
Should I have blamed them on someone else?
Should I have held them tight in my heart as my deepest faults?
Should I have refused to forget in order to feel truly sorry and pay my debt?
No.
No.

So instead, I left my regrets at Mile 82
along the river in the canyon
to the Rocky Mountains.
I left them there
because it was time.
Time to let go.
Time to let it be.
Time to move on.
Time to exhale.
Time to make peace with the past that never quite cooperated because I had so much to learn.
Yes.
Yes.

I left my regrets at Mile 82
regrets that span decades
regrets that were old, rotten, and moldy
regrets that held a knife to my throat
regrets that kept me stagnate, stuck, scared
regrets that could have festered there another twenty-three years if I let them.
So I didn't.

I wrote them down,
gave them a face,
held them in my hands,
smiled at their puny size.

I walked down to the river.
I struck a match.
I set my regrets on fire
and watched them wisp away
in the mountain breeze
farther and farther
'till they landed in the water
and disappeared.

I left my regrets at Mile 82
along the river in the canyon
to the Rocky Mountains.
I left them there
because I didn't need them anymore
to define who I am
to determine my future
to cage me in guilt.

I left them there
because I am moving on.
And that is one thing I will never regret.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Dream

I'm not a natural born dreamer.

I'm a realist.
I'm logical.
I'll admit, I wish I were more optimistic. More exciteable. More dreamer-like. Because a fear of mine is that I'll never use the talents I've been given. And I'll die: comfortable, but completely unfulfilled.

I don't think my current dreamer status is stagnate. Unchangeable. For me, dreaming takes work. Effort. Emphasis. Intention. And yet, I feel it may be worth it. So here goes.


With the fast approaching end of my college career (December, 2011) and uncertainty about the future, I've been thinking: What do I really want to do? (I kinda wish it was teaching, as that is the degree that will be printed on my diploma, but I'm not sure it is)

The first things that come to mind:
-writing
-speaking
-singing
-counseling
-being happy, fulfilled, and alive

So I had this crazy, radical idea thanks to supportive friends and encouraging family members (and to my inspiring friend Emily Wilkens):

What if I traveled around the country speaking and sharing my story?

Ahh, scary!

What if no one wants to hear my story?
What if people don't like what I have to say?
What if it doesn't work?
What if it's a waste of my time?
What if I fail?

I've had this dream for several months now and have purposefully avoided writing about it here because then I might actually have to follow through with it. Which is why I'm writing it now.

I just sent 15 e-mails to 15 SDA college chaplains. I expressed my interest in speaking, my availability, and a bit about my story. I have no idea how they will respond. Maybe one will. Maybe no one will.

However, I do know this: I have a passion for authenticity. For telling an honest story. For sharing what makes me human, because we're all in this together. I feel the best way I can serve the world is being exactly who I am. We are made stronger by our stories. By sharing who we are with the world. I've been blessed by others who had the courage to do so, and now I want to do the same.

When I think about why I want to travel and speak, I know this: I want people to know they are not alone.

In fact, we're the majority. We've all got something. Whatever your stuff is. Whatever your struggles. Whatever makes you human. So be it.

The moments in my life where I have felt most alive are those when I have been able to connect with someone about more than the weather. About their lives. What hurts them. What exhilarates them. What lives within them. This vulnerability is scary, yet liberating. And completely necessary.

We're all really good at looking like we have it all together. But I've never met a single person who actually does. We are not alone. We can be who we are. Because when we do, we thrive. We live.

So I'm starting with SDA colleges.
Then, maybe SDA high schools.
Then some private colleges and high schools.
Possibly some local churches or book stores.
Then, maybe a speaker's bureau (still not really sure what that is).
Then, hooking up with the National Eating Disorders Association.
And probably Oprah Winfrey eventually. Ha.

What scares me is: getting started. I'm not particularly passionate about networking and telling people I want to do this. I just want to do it. So that's why I'm writing to ask for your help.

Do you have any ideas?
A comment?
A suggestion?
A venue?
A group that might be interested?
A church?
A school?

I will be available for speaking from January-May 2012. I would be interested in speaking about the things I write about:
-student missions
-travel
-eating disorders
-addictions
-vulnerability
-guilt/shame
-spirituality
-questions
-women's issues

If you have ideas or a group/school/church that may want to hear my story, please comment on this blog or e-mail me at hbohlender@gmail.com.

Thank you.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Thoughts on Aging

Nana is one of the most difficult people I've ever met.

At 83 years-old she's got a body and mind overflowing with life experiences that often contradict with my own (and most other people's).

The other day, Mom and Dad were both gone and Nana and I were going to have over 8 hours together. Nana sat down to eat lunch as I was preparing my own. I wanted to make mine and run downstairs to hide and avoid interaction. But I didn't. I took a deep breath and set my food down on the table next to her and she proceeded to ask me for the 3rd time in ten minutes, "What is that? (scrunched up nose) What are you eating?"

I got up, walked around the corner, shook my fist at the ceiling, sought sympathy from Oscar (the family dog) and received none. So I took a deep breath, went back, and sat down. See, it isn't one comment, it's the multitudes of critical comments over the years. They accumulate like spontaneous second-hand buys that sit in your closet and never get worn. The comments just sit there, sometimes festering, but rarely forgotten.

I am not as patient as I could be because I still expect her to be as clear and equally critical as she's been my whole life. Alzheimers has stolen her memory. So now, Nana's equally critical, just less clear. Now she isn't being difficult on purpose and it's so hard to grant her grace when she lashes out.

"Nana, how was your dentist appointment? How are you feeling?" Nana complains a lot, so she took this opportunity as well. I listened. After about 30 minutes of circular remarks I've already heard at least four times since getting home four days ago, I asked her, "What would make your life better?" After about 20 minutes of keeping her on track and paraphrasing what she was saying, I looked at Nana differently: she's lonely.

Mom and Dad are gone for five days on a much-needed vacation from full-time care of Nana. I offered. So here we are. I have a break between school and camp, so I thought that maybe I could give Nana some of that quality time she's been craving. It's been a rough few days. I write this (as I do most things) for my own therapy. If I don't sort these things out in my head, I'll deal with them in a much less productive and more hurtful way with her later.

Nana does not like low-cut, strapless wedding dresses. I know. She told me 8 times on Thursday afternoon.

The "one" thing Nana does like about Colorado are the well-manicured lawns. I know. She told me about 6 times on Thursday afternoon.

Nana does not like clothes made with material that must be ironed. I know. She told me 7 times during our one hour in Old Navy.

Nana does not like fat people. I know. She told in roundabout ways each time she saw a person who is overweight.

Nana has something to say about people who are Mexican.
People who are Black.
People who don't have well-kept lawns.
People who don't dress their children well.
People who look, act, behave in a way that is "weird" to Nana.

We have a lot of circular conversations. I feel like I am giving up on her by not telling her she's repeating herself. But telling her this only makes for a nasty argument, which I witnessed this week. So I just say, "Uh huh. Yeah. Okay."
She hates that she's 83 years-old.
She hates that her health is failing her.
She hates that she is lonely.
She hates being bored and asked me yesterday, "What are you going to do to entertain me?"
Sometimes I think she hates being alive.

In sharp contrast to Nana, my Dad's dad, Grandpa Dale has a much different outlook on life. He's probably about 87 years-old and still farming. He's lost three wives to cancer and car accidents. He still gets out of bed in the morning and remains incredibly optimistic. He laughs. He tells stories. He lets go of things he can't control. He has something to live for. I'm not sure Nana does.

This week at the gym, an elderly man pointed to me and motioned that I come over to him. He introduced himself as David. He's 80 years-old and comes every day to exercise/flirt. His son died five years ago and his wife (whom he described as "drop dead gorgeous") died shortly after, from a broken heart." He continued, "She just couldn't let go. She couldn't see anything other than our son's death. She she followed after him."

Having Nana fresh on my mind, I asked him, "What keeps you young? Because as I've seen with Nana and my Grandpa, the best anti-ager is a positive attitude."

David nodded his head in agreement and said, "That's exactly what it is. Some people my age choose to die long before they take their last breath. A positive attitude, a reason to live, is what keeps me a live. That, and," he leaned in closer, "I'm a stubborn son-of-a-bitch!"

It's Saturday. I'd be completely content staying home and reading and breathing. But Nana is "bored." So we're going to go out to lunch and to a local festival.
Nana won't be changing any time soon.
She won't magically stop making critical and judgmental statements about myself or others.
She has Alzheimers.
She's going to forget.
She's going to talk in circles.
She's going to do things she doesn't know she's doing.

I can choose to react or I can choose to take deep breaths.

Just as I would hope others will do with me when I'm 83.
Damnit.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Whole

If you are a woman (or know any) you'll want to watch this.

"Ninety-seven percent of women, surveyed by Glamour magazine, have at least one 'I hate my body' moment daily. And on average, women have thirteen negative body thoughts daily."


Are you reading this? Are you hearing this?

This is your beautiful mom.
Your freckled and sun-kissed sister.
Your curvy girlfriend.
Your gorgeous wife.
Your perfect daughter.
That drop-dead gorgeous woman walking down the street.
That thin celebrity.
That busty movie star.
And apparently, now, that three year-old little girl.


The tips they offer to combat this are:

-Ask yourself, "Is this really about my body?" because it might be about insecurities in a certain situation with certain people.

-Exercise. Not because losing weight or gaining muscle leads to a happy life, but to feel more control and confidence.

-Say "Stop" out loud to stop self-critical statements. Seriously, look yourself in the eyes. Then, look behind your eyes to "see who is seeing" and say, "STOP!" Take a deep breath. Move on.

-Remind yourself that obsessing over your body won't change your body. There is absolutely no correlation between verbally abusing yourself to shreds and changing your body.

-Play up your strengths. Like your eyes? Focus on your eyes. Like your shoulders? Wear a tank.


I'm proud that my wonderful boyfriend, Jeremy, sends me videos like this. I'm pretty darn blessed to have him. We started our relationship from rock bottom: fully aware of each others "dirt", our addictions, and our struggles. No surprises. We're just two human beings trying to figure this out and I wouldn't have it any other way. He supports me in this fight. He reminds me often that I am exactly who I need to be.
No bigger. No smaller.
No more. No less.

It means so much to be in a relationship with Jeremy, as well as in a community of friends, that supports me and holds me accountable to growth and healing.

After all, the goal is not to be perfect. The goal is to be whole.

Junk Drawer

I read this blog called 1000 Awesome Things.

I can't remember when, how, or why I stumbled upon it, but these days we find blogs, YouTube videos, and news articles like we used to find a precious rock, an over sized safety pin, or those old sunglasses in our junk drawers. We find. We spread. And hopefully, we become better.

I've enjoyed getting fun, regular reminders of things in life that are awesome. Neil Pasricha blogs about simple pleasures like finding an Easter egg way after Easter, arriving at your destination just as your favorite song ends on the radio, or getting the eyelash out of your eye.

On a recent blog, Neil cited a e-mail from someone that saw his TED talk. TED Talk? Neil, you didn't tell me you had a TED Talk? Well, he does. Check it out. (If you haven't seen a TED Talk, you are way behind. So far, I can't even express. You better catch up. Right here. Right now.)



I like his idea. So simple. Yet, so profound: attitude, awareness, authenticity.

For some reason, I've been thinking a lot about the 100 year time slot he was talking about. Maybe it's because I could hardly believe, upon hearing about Osama Bin Laden, that it has been ten years since 9/11. Most of today's 15 year-olds don't really get what all the hubbub is about. It's just something they've heard of. Something in the past. Probably much like I read history books and see myself as separate from the people and events in them: "that was then, this is now" forgetting we are one. One planet. One people.

Even life 100 years ago in the 1900s was drastically different than it is now. The Industrial Revolution changed the world. Women gained rights. The invention of the phone. The television. We launched into space. We fought for civil rights. The invention of the the internet. (Don't critique my time-line. I'm no historian)

We hit the treadmill running and just go with it, living inside our own heads thinking that it's really, "All about me." We have a limited perspective. A miniscule role in our huge history and most-likely insurmountable future.

I'm almost 23. Nearly a quarter of my life is over. I'll be lucky to be granted 75 more years. Life is short and fragile and fleeting. And yet I get stuck in moments where I feel like I have forever. I have time. I'll accept myself later, ya know, once I've accomplished what I want to. Once I've graduated. Once I've gotten married. Once I've found a career I enjoy. Once I've mattered.

Is this really all it's about? It makes me kind of depressed to think about just settling down, and finding a job, using the money to pay off student loans, pay off the mortgage, and pay off credit card debt. Do I really want to spend the rest of my life paying for college, a house, and some lousy material possessions?

I'm not sold.

So now what?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Infant

Nana is one of the most difficult people I've ever met.
She's 87 years-old.
She has Alzheimers.
She's passive aggressive.
She complains a lot.
She's often rude and critical.
She's been living with us for the last four months.

Today, Mom and Dad were both gone and Nana and I were going to have over 8 hours of quality time. Nana sat down to eat lunch as I was preparing my own. I wanted to make mine and run downstairs to hide and avoid interaction. But I didn't. I set my food down on the table next to her and she proceeded to ask me for the 3rd time in ten minutes, "What is that? (scrunched up nose) What are you eating?" I got up, walked around the corner, shook my fist at the ceiling, sought sympathy from Oscar (the family dog) and received none. So I took a deep breath, went back, and sat down.

What I hoped would be a 15 minute lunch turned into an hour conversation that made me look at Nana differently. She talked quite sadly about her poor health and how much she misses Papa who died in December. These are regular conversations. This is what she spends most of her time thinking about because she most of her days are spent at home alone when Mom and Dad both have to work. As I was listening to her list all of the things that were going badly, I asked, "Nana, what would make your life better?" She said she didn't know. I pried deeper. Nana is lonely.

Today, in her tears, I considered--possibly for the first time--what it would be like to walk in Nana's shoes. It's kind of like when I realized that once upon a time, my parents were 23 once too. It's easy to think they weren't. They've always just been my parents. Nana has always just been Nana, but she's human too.

What if at 87 years-old, my husband--the love of my life--died?
What if after 60 years of marriage--and love and passion and memories--I lost him?
What if I could no longer make decisions for myself?
Or go to the bathroom myself?
Or remember what I ate for breakfast?
Or my grand-daughter's name?
What if I couldn't drive or go where I wanted to go?
Or eat what I wanted to eat?
What if I had to take 15 different medications just to somewhat sleep, to keep my heart pumping, and to lessen the aching pain in my body?
What if I woke up one day and cell phones, computers, and the Internet had seemingly taken over and I missed the boat?
What if I felt homeless?
Purpose-less?
What if all of my brothers and sisters were dead, as well as most of my friends?

Up until the last year or so, Nana has been present. And feisty. She's hurt my feelings. She's left some scars. Now that she's more vulnerable and fragile and losing her memory, it's really hard to give her the mercy she deserves. She's spent so many years being difficult, it's hard to love her and help her when she's actually not trying to be difficult now.

Nana cried. Hard. And gasped for air as I reached across the table to hold her hand. She's scared. She's terrified. She's lonely. She misses Papa. So she sleeps a lot. Or reads. Or sleeps.

I've not spent much time considering the end of my life. I haven't had to. I'm 23. That seems so far away. But when I watch Nana, I realize that at the beginning and the end of life we are forced to be vulnerable and dependent on others. It's like life's setting us up. Giving us guidance and a nudge in the right direction from the beginning: "You're human. Take it easy. Lean on others. Forgive yourself."

Yet somewhere in the middle between 1 and 70, we become independent, self-sufficient, individuals. We dread the end of life because it feels like a cop out.
A giving up.
A compromise.
A sell out.
An embarrassment.
We are no longer what we were: our strength, our endurance, our careers, our memory, our health, our independence. Gone.
We are again infants.
And it humbles. Or angers. Or depresses. Or a host of other emotions.

Watching Nana confirms a huge lesson I've been learning for the past several years:
the value of authenticity.

Trying to maintain a "perfect-looking" life isn't a life at all. Honesty has saved my life and continues to. While completely terrifying at times, vulnerability and transparency are completely necessary. I want to live an authentic life where I am reminded often that I am only human. I am entitled to mistakes. I'm not perfect and never will be.

Nana reminded me today that I don't want to fight the future. I can't slow down the passing of time or the addition of wrinkles. I can however control my response to it. I am far from infallible and actually quite fragile.

I'm human and that's okay.
One day I'll die. And however that happens--the process or the last breath itself--I just want to feel human and whole.

Quotes written on a piece of paper and I don't know where else to put them so I don't forget them so I'll put them here

"You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake." -Jeanette Rankin

"There never was a good war or a bad peace." -Ben Franklin

"Today is the tomorrow that we worried about yesterday." -Unknown

"We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience." -Teilhard de Chardin

Monday, May 9, 2011

How to Be a Real Man

I so appreciated Dan Mulhern's considerate look at the role of men in today's society (from the May 9, 2011 edition of Newsweek), I just had to share.


How to Be a Real Man

Editor’s note: Mulhern is married to star Democrat Jennifer Granholm, the former governor of Michigan. After reading NEWSWEEK’S April 26 cover on how the Great Recession has left many men feeling shamed and powerless, he composed this letter to his son.

Dear Jack,

At your physical yesterday, the nurse measured you at 5 feet 9 inches. You have officially passed your old man. And at 13, you’re not done growing.

There’s never been a better time to grow into manhood, but not everyone thinks so. NEWSWEEK recently reported on the plight of the “Beached White Male.” “Man down!” they’re crying—and insisting we’d better man up. It got me thinking about what it means to be a man.

I always thought that I would become governor, and then I’d “be the man.” But the train tracks got switched, and instead Mom pulled into that station. I came to wonder about my strength. Do you remember when I took you along to my speech about leadership to some Cisco executives in Chicago, where you ran the PowerPoint slides? During the Q&A someone asked you why your dad was a great leader. You told them that I faithfully visited the young man I mentor in the Big Brother program, even when he was frustrating and difficult. Then someone asked, “Why is your mom a great leader?” and you said, “Wow, my mom—where do I even start?” I felt my armor pierced by that contrast—Mom’s obvious, overwhelming heroism, and my leadership, such as it was, smaller, humbler.

Male armor had always seemed to fit me well. As a young man I felt comfortable behind Ivy League walls, then moved easily through halls of power. When I launched my leadership consulting business, I enjoyed “eating what I killed,” as the macho maxim puts it. But the choices Mom and I made to put her public service in front of my career, and for me to lead at home, left me vulnerable and caused me to rethink what it means to “be a man.” It has not been a tragic end to my manhood, but a wondrous beginning. It’ll get even better for you.

mulhern-co06-tease

When your grandmothers were raised, being a woman meant being a housewife. But Mom and her generation seized new opportunities. As a prosecutor and attorney general, Mom developed extraordinary executive skills. I was proud, and learned to exult in her strengths. Her success freed me to see a man can be good—or great—without being a hero in war, sports, business, or politics. A strong man, Jack, is not threatened by others’ greatness. He’s comfortable with his own.

I have loved raising you and your college-age sisters. It’s been a gift. I stepped out of my male armor. I now cry when I’m sad, afraid, or just overwhelmed by the beauty of a sonata or a newborn baby. I don’t feel less of a man. I do feel more of a human being.

Jack, you can play all kinds of roles in your time. You can whack at someone with a lacrosse stick—or express courage as you did last week, when I watched you console your goalie while everyone else was mad at him for giving up the deciding goal. You showed me a strong man.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Spice

What if I looked like this?
Or this?
Or this?
Would I be happier?
More loveable?
Peaceful?
Content?
A better musician?
Writer?
Would it be easier to look myself in the mirror and accept that this is what I've been given?

I know from experience that losing a few pounds does not guarantee happiness. In fact, it made me neurotic and irrational and frankly, crazy. And when it was all said and done (by way of anorexia and bulimia), I hated myself just as much as I did before. Just as much, if not more.

It's not about the weight, it's about the soul inside. And that soul defines who I am. That soul has courage and heart and intelligence and spice.

I am not a body. I have a body.

And if my body looked anything like the pictures above, I wouldn't be able to do this...
Or this...
I wouldn't have the endurance for snowshoeing the Colorado mountains in the winter
or hiking them in the spring
or winning the ASB dodge ball tournament two out of the three years.
I surely wouldn't have survived a year in Cambodia.
And I couldn't teach energetic Zumba classes twice a week.
If my body were not the exact size and shape that it is today, I wouldn't have been able to run 13.1 miles in the half marathon and feel the pride in my body afterward.
Let me clarify: not every woman thinner than me is anorexic. Some people are just born smaller. However, my body was not.
My body was built differently.
My body was meant to be solid and strong and enduring and tough.
My body was meant to be one hundred and fifty pounds.
To have powerful legs.
To have strong arms and shoulders.
To have cellulite that I'm sure serves some valuable purpose as well.

The way I see it, I have a choices.

I can be model-thin, have sticks for legs, a double D chest, firm and bronzed skin, and the energy and strength of a dandelion

OR

I can climb mountains and dance and travel and run and play and hit kids with dodge balls. And do so with all the energy that I need and with a wonderful body that has, that is, and that will continue to carry me through.

Familia

May 4th arrived.
I finished final exams.
I packed my things.
I drove home.

It continues to amaze me how this transition from an academically-saturated environment to a family-potent one happens so easily. I suppose I feel at home in both.

Home reminds me of who I used to be.
How life was in the past.
My priorities.
The school I grew up in.
The Sonic where we regularly overdosed on Coconut Cream Pie shakes.
The grocery store with the same familiar faces.
Those things rarely change.



But the people inside this house?
We're always changing.
Us kids have ended up like-minded politically, where at times, I swore we'd never agree on anything.
Ten years ago I wouldn't have seen my brother and I getting along, nonetheless, enjoying each other's company.
I see my parents more as human beings the more I embark upon my 20s. I used to look at photographs of my parents: newly married, late twenties, making babies. And now that my twenties have caught me off guard, I realize, "They were just as lost and confused as I am now."

Some things stay the same.
Chris pokes fun.
Mom's not super techy.
Dad makes huevos rancheros.
When the family gets together we find our roles, and yet we constantly create new ones.


I consider myself blessed to have a family that mostly gets along.
We don't yell (we're only a bit Brazilian after all).
Some things try to get swept under the rug.
Other things get brought out into the open.
Some things really annoy me.
Other things surprisingly bring a smile to my face.
Like playing UNO with Nana when she just randomly throws cards on the pile assuming that it'll fly. Oh Nana.

We're not perfect and we don't have it all figured out. We're just as dysfunctional as any other. However I think recognizing and accepting that has made this work.

I often think of this in relation to my brother, Chris. I don't know who changed first? Was it him? Was it me? Or did we both just wake up one day and decide to give the other person a break? We get along better than we ever have. We're still quirky. We still annoy each other at times. But when I stopped focusing on everything I couldn't stand about him and found some common ground, it seems he did too. Maybe we both reached our twenties and just tired of acting like children. Either way: I'm grateful for change.

On weekends such as this we eat good food.
We sleep in.
We do yard work on Mother's Day (as is tradition).
We laugh.
We re-tell old stories.
We go for walks.

I got me a good family.

I like them a lot.

They are good for my soul.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

New Design

If you only read this blog from a feed, you should definitely check out my new blog design compliments of the one and only Ben Yancer.

Thanks, Ben.

You're good.