Saturday, December 29, 2012

Challenge

Yesterday, I remembered where I've been.

I looked over pictures of myself at nineteen. At twenty. So young. Living alone in Cambodia trying to navigate anorexia and bulimia and God and culture and myself. She looks weary. And tired. And scared. Yet, present. And bold. And alive. And I'm proud of her.

That was the most difficult, most trying time of my life thus far. And five years later, my life seems pretty calm. Which I'm happy for. Excited about. Glad to be healing. Glad to be on this side of that mountain. So grateful.

And yet, I long.

I don't long for the mountain.
I don't long for those trials.
I don't long for separation and loneliness and desperation.
No. 
But I do long for that passion that keeps life interesting.
I miss being challenged.

I miss being in college.
I miss bumping into someone in an unlikely circumstance and having a meaningful discussion.
I miss thoughtful classroom lessons.
I miss teachers who were mentors who were friends.
I miss writing for the school newspaper.
I miss being part of larger community where I felt invigorated.

Today, my life involves being newly married. 
And so happy.
Going to work.
Savoring weekends with dear friends.
Having down time. 

My life is a bit more predictable.
More routine.
Safer.
Calmer.

And I'm all about peace. 
But I'm also all about a challenge.
I fear playing small.
Getting comfortable.

What will my next great challenge be?

Will I push harder at learning guitar?
And become a rockstar diva?
Write another book?
Start something new?
Join a different discussion?
Learn more?
Move to a brand new place?
Try on a new profession? (he hem...a.k.a."find" a profession)
Will I build something?
Who can I help?
Where can I be used?

I'm seeking a challenge.








Wednesday, December 26, 2012

This Is It

What does marriage mean to me?

It means having two people to do the dishes.
It means sometimes feeling like there is only one person doing the dishes.

It means being head-over-heels crazy in-love with this guy.
It means being outrageously irate to the point of tears when we disagree.

It means always having your best friend nearby.
It means being stuck in close quarters whether or not you want company.

It means being surprised when he puts the toothpaste on my toothbrush.
It means getting upset when I use the wrong toothbrush at 6am.

It means having a hand to hold walking down the street.
It means learning to walk the same speed.

It means building a home that is all our own.
It means disagreeing on how a home should look.

It means having a joint bank account.
It means talking about "budgets." Argh.

It means spending our first Christmas together.
And him having to work on Christmas.

It means setting Christmas gift price limits.
And then both blowing them.

It means planning the perfect surprise.
And then him having to work late.

It means deciding that our Christmas will be on Thursday this year.
And being just as excited for the faux-holiday as the real deal.

It means getting the cold. Again.
And him still wanting to hug my snotty-self.

It means taking it one day at a time,
and sometimes both loving and hating the journey on the same day.

It means euphoria and disappointment.
It means adventure and routine.

It means taking small sips of this delightful moment
and regularly acknowledging:
This is it.
We're doing it.
And we're doing really well.




Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Viewer

Sometimes, I look at myself
from another view
from the store-front window
from the security camera
from the three-paneled mirror
from a passer-bys comment
from my own soul

and think that:
she must be, indeed,
a very intense person

with small eyes
and sharp features
a too-large shape
a demanding presence
and noise
too much noise

and I shrink and think
she should be softer
she should be smaller
she should be quieter

but she's--I mean--"I" am not

I am whatever the viewer thinks I am
so, my soul knows
Be kind, girl. 
You'll see differently tomorrow.

Leaning In

by Sue Ellen Thompson

Sometimes, in the middle of a crowded store on a Saturday
afternoon, my husband will rest his hand
on my neck, or on the soft flesh belted at my waist,
and pull me to him. I understand

his question: Why are we so fortunate
when all around us, friends are falling prey
to divorce and illness? It seems intemperate
to celebrate in a more conspicuous way

so we just stand there, leaning in
to one another, until that moment
of sheer blessedness dissolves and our skin,
which has been touching, cools and relents,

settling back into our separate skeletons
as we head toward Housewares to resume our errands.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Thirteen

Today, I met a girl.
Thirteen. Bright. Talented. Intelligent. Lovely.

We talked.
We shared.
We drank tea.

I was told we might have a few things in common.
That I could have something to share.
Something worth hearing.
To speak of with wisdom.

She just got out of an intensive eating disorder treatment program.
And indeed, we had a lot to talk about.

I shared my story.
She shared hers.

I hope she was strengthened.
Given hope.
Because I surely was.

Today, roughly seven years removed from my own anorexia diagnosis, I don't think about it that often.
I don't count calories.
I don't fear social gatherings with food.
I don't schedule my life in between my three work-outs per day.
I don't center my life around the hub of an eating disorder any longer.
And it's hard to believe that I once did.
That this was my story.
That I've come this far.

I told her that this is what recovery looks like:
It means settling at a weight I never imagined would feel comfortable, but it does.
It means taking pride in my body for what it can do.
Choosing clothing because it feels good on my body.
Avoiding scales like I avoid snakes.
Choosing to thank people for the compliments they give me.
Often struggling to believe them.
Being disappointed some days at my reflection in the mirror.
Being overjoyed some days at my reflection in the mirror.
Forgetting sometimes that I am more than a body.
Remembering daily that I am a strong, confident, intelligent, beautiful woman.

Recovery looks like re-engaging with my own life.

And looking in her eyes today, I know that she wants that too.
And it will take time.
And transparency.
And guts.
And all the courage she can muster.

But she'll find herself again.
Stronger.
Wiser.
And more whole than she ever was before.









Saturday, December 15, 2012

Santa

Last week, I sat in a "holiday" concert at our elementary school. The whole school was invited to hear the rehearsal for the performance taking place that evening for the parents. I watched with Drake, a sweet fourth grade student with glasses and a mischievous grin.

Between two songs, Drake leaned over and whispered to me, "Ms. Bo, do you believe in Santa Claus?"

A whirlwind of thoughts and ideas instantly flooded my brain: Oh my gosh, do I answer him honestly, or is this one of those occasions where it's perfectly acceptable to lie? Does he know? Does he not know? Is this a decent opportunity to let him in on the truth?

"No," I decided upon. "I don't."

"What? How can you not believe in Santa Claus?" his little, high-pitched voice raising in volume.

"Well," I told him, "It's just a story."

Drake sat quietly in his seat as we listened to the violins whine a few notes that constituted a song worthy of much applause.

After the song ended, Drake stated, "Ya know, there was a candy cane explosion at the North Pole?"

Without shifting my gaze from the shuffling students in the clarinet ensemble, "Oh really."

"Well, yeah," he persisted. "That's the truth."

"Oh."

The clarinets belted out a song about a dreidel and a trumpet played out of turn. We clapped.

"Ms. Bo, if Santa isn't real, who brings you presents on Christmas Eve?"

There was no turning back. This was it: "My parents."

Drake sank a little deeper into his chair: "Oh."

Another song began. Another song ended. We clapped. At the end of the concert, I stood up and Drake looked at me smiling: "Ms. Bo, I believe in Santa Claus."

I smiled at him. "Cool. That's perfectly fine."


I came home and told Jeremy about my humorous conversation with Drake about Santa Claus.

"You did what?" he said. "You demolished a little boy's Christmas dreams!"

"Nooo!" I argued. "He had to find out at one time or another. And obviously he knew there was some speculation since he asked if I "believed" in Santa instead of assuming everyone did."

Tsk, tsk, tsk.


I've spent most of my life avoiding little children. They've never been super cute. I've never been the one called to babysit. I've never oohed and ahhed and begged to hold babies. And now, I find myself spending 7 hours a day with six year-olds: tying shoes, resolving childish conflicts. and giving hugs. We share germs and we share cookies. We cheer for masterpieces made of construction paper and we cheer for the alphabet.

The last two months have taught me quite a lot about kids. More than I ever cared to know. And I think they're getting to me. Because I like them. I've stopped setting the kiddos up to adult expectations. I've ceased getting frustrated when they have illogical crying fits and have instead mastered the art of commiseration and conflict-resolution catered to developing brains. It's awfully hard to get upset--after all--with kids like Eli who have big, brown eyes, Vans tennis shoes, and a sweet drawing they made "just for you."

I'm unsure as to what was the "correct" response to Drake's wonderings about Santa Claus. This week, he asked his teacher, "Do you believe in Santa Claus?" And she masterfully responded, "I don't know. What do you think?"

I looked at her with playful frustration, thinking: you would.

I still have much to learn in the realm of appropriate kid responses, but I'm well on my way to greater compassion and tenderness toward these little germ-carrying, emotionally-loaded, energetic, ever-forgiving, and joy-giving kids.



Thursday, December 13, 2012

Seven Month Anniversary

It's that time of the month. The thirteenth. Which means that exactly seven months ago, Jeremy and I were married. On a beautifully clear spring day in May, dear friends and loving family watched as we vowed our lives together forever and always. And much has happened since that day.
-we slept in the same bed for the first time
-we went on a cruise to the Bahamas for our honeymoon
-Grandpa died and we said our "goodbyes" in Colorado
-we packed up and moved to Idaho to work at a summer camp
-we made new friends
-we took an extended road trip through Moab, Utah
-we watched a friend get married
-we spent a month with my parents in Colorado
-we trekked back to Nebraska to friends with open arms
-we moved into our teeny apartment
-we got jobs
-we made a home

That's a lot to do in seven months. I don't think I've had that many life changes in several years. And while it seems daunting on paper, it's been doable with my best friend holding my hand. This whole adulthood thing is ridiculous. Quite a steep learning curve, but we're doing all right and we're figuring it out one day at a time. Heck, we've even educated ourselves about paying bills and Roth IRA's. Whew.

And now, as we head into another calendar year, I know we're yet again plotting our next move. And seven months from today, we may be in another state, at different jobs, at yet another phase of this unpredictable path of marriage.And we'll be okay.


Peanut Butter

What I know for sure is that there is healing in baking a good batch of cinnamon rolls,
in smelling,
and tasting,
and melting butter.

What I know for sure is that I may never care for my skin tone next to the color gray.
Or yellow, for that matter.

What I know for sure is that Jeremy loves me.
Even when I feel frumpy.
Even when my bangs do this flippy, floppy thing.
Even when I think he shouldn't.
He does anyway.

I know for sure that if denied all foods but one, I'd pick peanut butter.
Every time.

I know for sure that I can change a flat tire.
And maneuver my way through a snowstorm.
And cut my own hair.
And dance like a crazy person.
With soul.

I know for sure that wool socks are the way to go.
That I wish pajama chic was the new business casual.
That I can totally own too many bags.
And flossing will never come naturally to me.

What I know for sure today, is not necessarily what I knew for sure yesterday.
And that feels good.
To be moving.
And growing.
And making progress.
Even if only in the cinnamon roll making arena.
That counts.

I know this for sure.

Friday, December 7, 2012

I Want To Take My Time

We all tend to be narcissistic about our own time.

We remember our childhood as unique.
We tell stories of our "one-in-a-million" Senior year of high school.
We talk about our generation.

We live as though this cycle of birth and living and dying doesn't just keep repeating over and over again as it has for thousands of years. We are somehow different. Our generation matters more. Or something. As if the next won't think the exact same thing.

I remember as a kid trying to fathom the beginning of time. Trying to imagine the moment before the first moment that ever was. And where I fit. And how I came to be. And getting confused and scared and dizzy.

I had a similar moment just this last Thanksgiving.

I sat with my family and watched a video-interview of my Grandpa talking about his life and his experiences in World War II. He got married. He was drafted. He served in Japan. He sent money home. He started a life. He had two sons. He outlived three wives. He had grand kids. He farmed. And now he's gone.

And as we watched Grandpa's face on the TV screen, my Dad began to cry. And I realized--for unfortunately the first time since he died--that Grandpa was a real and whole person to my Dad in the exact same way my Dad is a real and whole person to me: full of memories and experiences and life lessons and emotion. We are not merely a catalog of life events, we are whole.

Later, during the weekend, we watched scratchy home videos of us kids playing, taking baths, going on family vacations, and celebrating birthdays. Again, I saw Grandpa, as if I'd never really seen him there before, but I also saw my parents: young, thirty-somethings figuring out marriage and adulthood and careers and parenthood and family and balance and the future.

And that's when I realized two things:
#1. The grown-ups in my life were once young like me. 

They worried.
They struggled.
They took pictures.
They made bad choices.
They chose careers and partners.
They lived.

#2. And I will one day be older like them.

I will soon enough be thirty.
Forty.
Sixty-five.
I may have children.
I will get gray hair.
I will grow older.


I am humbled to grasp that I am small.
That many have lived before and many will live after.
That my story--while valuable--is one of many.

I believe it to be significant that I have never met a person--who in the wisdom of their elder years--said, "Wow, life went by so slowly!" No. Everyone seems to wake up absolutely perplexed that they're forty-seven and cannot account for where the years have gone.

I so badly don't want that to be me.

I want to be aware of my place in this big story.
I want to acknowledge where I came from and where I've been.
I want to observe and take notice.
I want to take my time and learn to slow down.
I want to feel each day. Even the crummy ones.
I want to learn to be excited at "long" weeks.
And awakened by weeks that just fly by.
Because while I may be living them.
I'm not fully in them.

Life is a gift.
Not granted to everyone.

And I want to take my time.









Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Compassion

I woke up this morning lacking compassion.

My reflection reeked insufficiency.
My mental state was destitute of alertness.
My mood felt a deficit of optimism.
My stomach was insufficient of nourishment.
Then, I went to work and shared this with everyone I came in contact with today.
Joy.

So I raised my voice to Devon.
I rolled my eyes at Adam.
I grabbed Trenton hastily and scared him.
I impatiently gave directions to Joseph.
And scowled at him when he disobeyed.

I woke up this morning lacking compassion.

I can blame it on circumstance.
I can blame it on the weather.
I can blame it on the kiddos.
I mean, come on, anyone would struggle with these kids!
I can blame it on my administration.
Or, I can be truthful, and put the responsibility squarely on my own shoulders where it belongs.

I woke up this morning lacking compassion...because I chose to.

When I repeatedly deny myself the same love and acceptance and care that I regularly dish out to others, we all suffer. Because if I'm not fed, no one is fed. If I'm empty, everyone's empty.

Compassion takes work.
It doesn't happen simply because we want it to.
It happens because we will it to.

And being as though "compassion" hasn't made the list ahead of cooking dinner, paying bills, and checking Facebook, I've been short, judgmental, and impatient.

"Compassion" needs a new place.
Nearer to the top.
If not #1.




Saturday, December 1, 2012

Today, I Thought of Death

Today, I thought of death.
And life.
And what it all means.

How we live and breathe.
We work and procreate.
We earn money and spend money.
And then we die.
Sometimes, not in that order.
But backwards.
Or too soon.
Or too late.
But in the end we die.

And others die.
And death is hard.
And confusing.
And uncomfortable.
And unresolved.
Especially for those left behind.
We never said enough.
Or we said too much.
We never appreciated what was there until it was gone.
And then it was gone.

And what do we do?
We live and breathe.
We work and procreate.
(You get the idea).
Essentially, we move on.

I'm not sure what to feel about this.
About the moving on.
About how best to honor.
About how best to remember.
Without forgetting.

So, I'll just think about him.
I'll remember what I learned.
And how I was changed.
And how his presence made me better.

And I'll think about others.
I'll look around at what I'm learning.
And how I am changing.
And how their presence makes me better.

Because if we only mourn death
without celebrating life,
than what's the point in living at all?

If we only appreciate what was once it's gone,
If we only dwell in the good once it's past,
If we only learn to feel in the end,
Than we're missing out on this moment right now.

And this moment brings breath.
And this moment brings warmth.
And in this moment my parents are healthy
My husband is wonderful
My friends surround me
And I have much good to be dwelling in.

Today, I thought of death.
And life.
And I have no idea what it all means.