Restlessness and the Pursuit of Happiness

“And how is work going?”

“Work is going good, I really can’t complain.  But . . . I don’t know I have been in kind of rut, it is hard to focus.”  *My mother made some soothing listening nosies* “I’m not sure exactly what is wrong because honestly I have a great job with great bosses, I should be happy with it.”  *more soothing listening noises*

Then finally realizing I would never get there on my own, she chimed in, “You’re restless.”

“Well, I mean I don’t know . . . yeah I suppose you are right.  I’m restless.”

My whole life I have struggled to be content, even in the times when life is relatively good. I didn’t want to live my whole life waiting for the next best thing.  I had to learn to think of life as a journey not a destination.  It wasn’t so much about where I was going in life that mattered but what happened along the way.  It helped with the restlessness because I started seeing life as something to enjoy as is and not as somewhere I needed to get to. I do mean helped.  I am far from cured.

I started spending a lot of time reading and thinking about what it meant to actually enjoy my life no matter where I was or what my circumstances were. Life gets hard and it moves way too fast.  I have been trying to find ways to make the most out of the time I have and the best out of the bad situations.  In my youth and naivety I decided to create a list of things which have helped enjoy my life a little bit more.  I don’t want to saying that this list has made me happy, because happiness is fleeting and not something that can be permanently attained.  But these things have at least made me happier and less restless.

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What Makes a Home

Growing up I was lucky that I never had to move as a child.  Perks of being the daughter of a farmer, moving isn’t normally in the cards.  This place will always be my true home and I am grateful that ever time I leave I know it isn’t goodbye forever.  I love the way the cherry trees bloom in the spring and the how the apples trees smell in the fall.  I love the anticipation of turning out our long gravel driveway and knowing that I am almost home. 

Home

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 However since I have been 18, I have moved twice every year.  I have become an expert at moving.  I have a very tried and true packing system.  I have also learned just how easily I become attached to the places I call home.

There is something heart wrenching about see the place that you use to call home, empty and unrecognizable from the place you came to love as your home. It is if all the memories you have there, all of the adventures, all of the growing, all of the nights you stayed up late trying to figure out what it meant to BE in this life, are just gone.  Washed away in the bare walls and the empty cupboards. It just gets me every time.  I walk through to say my final goodbyes and replay the best moments.  Then I see the empty rooms as erased memories and I just cry.  I am not sure if I am weird or normal for doing this, but I have always been a bit of sentimental sap about these things.

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All my Single Ladies

It is a rough time of year to be single.  Just when you think you made it through the holidays.  You know the whole not having anyone to bring home on Christmas, or kiss on New Years Eve, plus eating chocolate alone on Valentines day fiasco.  Just when you think you survived all of that, you are hit square in the forehead with wedding season.  Don’t get me wrong, I love wedding season.  I love watching my friends and family fall in love with their soulmates.  But every wedding is just another reminder that mine should be right around the corner.  Only its not.  Only I am no where near even being in a serious dating relationship no less a marriage.

The realization that I am no where close to marriage makes me wonder if I didn’t miss a step in life.   I know that in the grand scheme of things I am still very young, but as the days go on I feel like the reality of marriage becomes more unattainable not less.  While I was happily enjoying my freedom and exploring my youth, should I have been more focused on falling in love?  But that doesn’t seem right either because I wouldn’t trade those years for anything, even a wedding dress.  Those were my most formable and memorable years.  While everyone else was busy falling in love, I was busy discovering the world and how I fit into it.  But now at the still young age of 23, I feel like I missed this window of opportunity that I didn’t even know existed.

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Whispers of Love

I was reading a story about a new mother who just had twins.  Lots of people came to see them in the hospital and as well meaning people do, they would hold one of the twins and say in their baby voice something like, “You look like you are going to be a football player.”  The mother would gently take her baby back into her arms and whisper, “don’t listen to them, you can be anything you want to be.” I think I will probably be that type of mother.  The type of mother who is overly protective about the words society tries to whisper into my sweet baby’s ear.  Because despite the saying, words have the power to hurt us more than sticks and stones ever could.

I like to think that God is that type of father too.  Society doesn’t stop labeling us once we grow up.  It seems that everyone everywhere has an opinion on what type of person we are or should be.  Sometimes they keep it to themselves, and sometimes they feel the need to let us know we are not doing a good enough job of being ourselves. It is impossible to escape this feeling that we are not enough – that we are not doing enough – that we do not have what it takes to ever be enough.

It is in those moments that I believe God pulls us into our arms starts whispering love back into our tattered soul.   He whispers for us not to listen to them because he created us to be smart, loved and valuable.  He whispers that He has made us to do wonderful things with our lives and no one but Him can tell us otherwise. Continue reading

For John

I think the hardest thing about leaving Caribou Coffee was leaving behind the regulars that I had gotten to know well.  Sure there were the ones that I that I purposely hid from in the back, but there were also the ones that I loved seeing everyday.  They just had a way of making you smile or just treating you with a since of dignity that one does not always get as a barista.

In a sense, our Caribou regulars became like close friends.   Only they were the type of friends you know by drink order and not by their actually name.  As baristas, we watched many hours of their life in Caribou.  It was like getting an inside peek into the movie of their life.  We got to watch as they drank gallons of mango black tea trying to finish their masters thesis.  We watched them fall in love on their first date, and cried as we watched their break up.  We knew more about their lives than you would probably want your barista to know.

But my favorite regulars of all of my favorites were this endearing older gentlemen that came in every weekday morning.  They were like a band of brothers laughing and aruging as they sat at the same table everyday.  I like to think that I was also their favorite barista.  It didn’t matter if I wasn’t working front that morning, I took care of them.  Even if it was just me whispering over the headset to the new girl, “citron green tea in a mug, medium dark roast and don’t you dare put a lid on it.”  I can’t put into words why these guys touched me so much, I only know that they did.

I stopped into Caribou about a month ago one morning before work.  I had seen these guys in months and I wasn’t sure if they would remember me.  I saw them sitting there like a perfect picture I had never left.  They were all happy to see me and fussed grandfatherly.  They told me that being a paralegal suited me, but that being a lawyer would suit me better.  They asked if I had made a decision about law school yet, and offered me about five hundred references for when (when not if) I go to law school.  I was reminded again why I was so touched by them.  They were just so endearing, and they cared about an ex barista they barely knew.

One of them was named John and some of the newer baristas thought he was cranky.  I guess could see how some might see him as a little cranky, but I never saw him that way.  Sure he could be gruff at times, but in the way of someone who is weathered and storied not someone who is mean.  Mostly he just got upset when the new people would put a lid on his coffee.  I never did though so he liked me.  I could always see the slight sigh of relief when he walked in and saw that I was working.  I would have his order ready for him before he got to the counter and his eyes would smile like we shared a secret every time I remembered to keep his lid off.  He would give me his money and then share bits and pieces of his knowledge and wisdom.  I never thought much about our exchanges until one of my old coworkers showed me this picture.  She told me John had passed away suddenly from a heart attack and that they tipped over his favorite chair in his memory.  It just broke my heart.

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I don’t think that death is something we ever get use to.  Whether it be the death of a near stranger or the reminder of the death of a dear one we lost years ago, death still crashes into our hearts in a way that makes us believe something is trying to rip our hearts from us.

So for John, thank you for your smile everyday.  Thank you for sharing bits and pieces of your wisdom and knowledge.  Thank you for always treating me with dignity and respect.  Thank you for teaching me that the way we interact with the people we see everyday matters, because our influence on the lives of those around us matters.  Thank you for showing me how you saw people as people and not just a means to an end.  Because you knew how easily someone can come into your life and touch it in a way that you are not the same after they have left.  For John, thank you.  You will be missed.

The Question about Truth

I ran into one of my old professors at Barnes and Noble the other day.  He works there part time because that is how much he loves books.  So every now and then I run into him, and he is always happy to see me.  He always asks me if I am still writing, and he always tells me to write more.   He teaches LAR, which is a general writing and literature class that all freshman at USF have to take.  So I am honored that after five years of teaching many different freshman, I am still one of his more memorable students.  He was the first professor to tell me that my writing was good, and he has been encouraging me ever since.  When I started writing satire pieces for the school newspaper, he always read them and always told me the same thing, “keep writing.”

However, the other day he told me it was more than just my writing that vaulted me to his student hall of fame.  It was my response to the question he asks every class on the first day.  He asked if I remembered, I said vaguely.   He told me that every year he writes the word truth on the board, and asks his students to come up and write in one word what the word truth means to them.  He told me every year he has waited for someone to have a better answer than me, but no one has yet.  The scene was starting to come back to me.  I could see a shy freshman me, nervous to go up to the board because I hadn’t yet learned how to share my thoughts.  But I couldn’t remember what I wrote.  I felt a little guilty that over five years and hundreds of students, this professor thought I had the best answer and I couldn’t even remember what it was.  As if to rub salt in my wound, he asked me if I remembered what word I wrote.  Ashamed, I said I didn’t.  “Void,” he said, “You wrote that truth is void.”

I have always been a little bit of a rebellious thinker, the type that likes to think outside of the box.  So while this didn’t quite surprise me, I was curious as to what freshman me thought when she wrote that truth is void.  I know I didn’t mean truth is void in the sense that the world is a hopeless place where you can’t trust anything or anyone.  I wasn’t quite that angsty as a teenager.  And although I wasn’t a science major, I do know that there are some truths in science that are more or less absolute.

Truth is a big word, one that is scary for me to talk about without people thinking that I have completely dropped off the deep end.  But I am going to try, so here it goes.

Since I relate my thinking to the social sciences, I think I meant that social truths are more static than we like to believe.  Meaning that truth can so easily be skewed depending on the perception we have at the time.  There is no absolute truth when it comes to our perception of the world.

Let me give you an example of this from my own life to better make sense of this.  I was a criminal justice major, and like so many people in America, I believed that criminals deserved to be locked up.  Then I spent over a year working in a penitentiary, and my perception changed.  Because suddenly I didn’t see inmates as dangerous people who made the world a worse place.  I knew a lot of inmates that were better people than some of the people that strut around in a suit and tie.  Suddenly I saw inmates as the people that society had forgotten about.  The people who grew up in foster care or on the streets.  The people that we as society don’t know how to deal with so instead we just hide them behind prison bars.

My perception changed, and so did the truth attached to it.  Now it breaks my heart if someone tells me that they think a criminal deserves to be locked up.  I just want to shake them and say, “You don’t even know what you are talking about.  You have no idea of the horrors that are locked in the closets of their childhood.  Who are you to judge?  You who have grown up with a place to call home and a family that loves you and supports you.  Who are you to say what they deserve, because it certainly wasn’t the childhood that they got.  So yes they grew up as deviants, but who is to say that you would have not turned out the same if you were in their shoes?”   But I don’t, I just bite my tongue and try to offer grace because I know they do not have the same perceptions as me.

My point is that sometimes we can think one thing to be true until we experience something that shows us a different side that we never considered.  So I don’t want you to think that I am saying we should never believe anything.  Not at all.  Instead I want you to look at the world with open eyes and discover what it is that you believe and why.  Because I think so often we accept things as “truth” because we are told to, but we never stop to think why we believe something to be true.

Maybe it is just the way I am wired to see the world as gray instead of just blank and white.  Maybe for others truth is more set in stone.  But for me I have to analyze everything from every point of view before I am willing to set an opinion on something.

Truth is a big word, one that holds a lot of punch because truth holds such promise.  It is the promise of something to believe in, something to put our faith and hope in, something that we can trust to always be true.  Until one morning we wake up and realize just how empty truth can really be when we just accept it without hesitation.

So five years later, do I still believe that truth is void?  Yes, yes I do.  This is just some thoughts about truth, but if truth is indeed based on our perceptions, then I would love to hear yours.  How do you view truth?  In keeping with my professors original question, what one word do you associate with truth?  Please leave your comments below I would love to hear them.

No Use Crying Over Spilled Milk

“On a scale of 1 to 10 how bad is your pain?”

“I mean for neck pain it is probably like a 7, but for normal pain pain it is like a 4.”

“Describe your pain for me.”

“Umm its like here and like uhh a dull tight ache.”

“Is it worse on one side.”

“Umm . . . *tilts head side to side* I’m not sure.”

“Are there any activities that make it worse?”

“Uhh . . . sitting?”

“How often do you feel pain?”

Oh for crying out loud “I don’t know.”

I recently have started seeing a chiropractor because my neck would always be sore which would cause me to have horrible headaches on a pretty regular basis.  I am not sure what caused it.  Maybe it was sitting at a desk for eight hours every day, maybe it was clinch sparring in Muay Thai, maybe it is because I stubbornly refuse to sleep on my back, or maybe it is just because when I get stressed I put all of that tension in my neck.  The answer is probably d) all of the above.  I didn’t know and honestly I didn’t really care.  All I knew is that I hurt all the time and I wanted it to stop.

Every time before I saw my chiropractor I would have to sit through this long list of ridiculous questions, think about my pain, and try to describe it to a stranger.  But I knew that the more detail I could give them, the better they would be able to help me.  So I endured it, and I thought about my pain. And when you think about pain for long enough you realize that the only purpose that pain serves is to let us know something is wrong.  Pain is our body’s way of letting us know, “Hey, you should probably pay attention to this.”

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Tears and Rain

I love rainy days.  I know, how melancholy of me.  I love sunny days too, but every now and then when the mood is right, rainy days hit the spot.  Today was one of those days.  This might be one of the more personal blogs I will share, which will also make it one of the more harder ones to share.

For those of you who have not shared anything artistic or personal – it is a lot harder than it looks.  It is basically putting your bleeding heart on display for the world to see and decide how they feel about it.  You may be wondering why then would I ever willing do that to myself.  Me too.  I blame my mother.  In the best way of course.  In the way we blame our mothers for feeling sick to our stomach after all of the delicious food they cooked for us.  My mother has told me two things recently that I have stuck with me.

First she told me to write more.  She is always encouraging me to keep writing, and more so to share my writing.  The truth is that probably only 20% of my writing ever makes it to this blog. It is too raw, too personal.  It is not the picture of a put together life that we have been taught we must constantly show.

The second thing my mother has told me is that we must allow ourselves to feel our emotions.  We must allow ourselves to grieve.  I have found that my heart will be sad whether or not I choose to acknowledge it.  However, the sooner I acknowledge it, the sooner I can move on.  Hearts, like youngest children, need a lot of attention.  (Did I just admit I need a lot of attention?  My siblings will never let me live that down . . . )

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