Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My Fairytale Vulnerability


Two weeks ago, I visited Leslie and Reed in Phoenix. We spent my last evening wandering amidst the Botanic Gardens, where caricature-like live succulents were intertwined with stunning Chihuly glass sculptures. It felt like a fairytale. And this setting got me thinking.

You know, I've spent a disproportionately large part of my conscious years living in a fairytale. I am an idealist. I love that about myself. But I can't articulate the number of times I've been crushed by this attribute.

I have, for the longest time, believed in the notion of a soul mate. Although the terminology makes me sound like I'm writing for a Hallmark card, the English language doesn't have another proper word to explain what I mean. This ambiguous and trite word represents the thought that each person on this planet is destined to meet another whose energy mirrors all of their deepest values, thoughts, emotions, fears, and treasures--most of which have never before been fully recognized by anyone. And my thought, is that it is our life goal, or the meaning of life, we can say, is to find this person. To find that person, and share as much as possible with them. To adventure with them in place, and mind, and body. To share absolutely everything, especially the grimy parts. To know that regardless of where you are or what you are doing, that person is with you, because your souls are intrinsically and inextricably linked forever. From past lives, for future lives, even if you've never met in this conscious place in time.

Yes. This is what I believe. (To my future husband, if you're reading this, please don't be scared off. I promise I'll make a case for myself. And if nothing else, I can make a mean apple pie.)

So each day, I wake with those thoughts in mind. Each day, I move forward with my work, my studies, my family, my friends, my life, my hobbies, my passions, my loves. But all the while, this thought is in my heart. Where is this person? Have I already met them? Which one? When will I meet them? How will I know?

And you know what? These questions make things really damn difficult. How can we look around at the unhappy and divorced couples and still be an idealistic young woman who believes in soul mates? Do we choose to believe the romantic words of Dean Martin upon which our values of love were planted? Do we bluster through life, naively believing that our parents were wrong, our grandparents were wrong, our cousins, our friends, everyone must have it wrong. Because this love thing. This soul mate thing. I've got it down. I'm with Dean.

So I find myself, stuck in limbo. When my past relationships have ended? Catastrophic. Because I was convinced--that person was my soul mate. I shared parts of myself with them I had never shared before. Those fears, those dreams, I already told them to someone. And if they're not my soulmate. Well then what? Did I waste that mirror? The reflection staring back at me for months, years--was it time wasted? What did I do wrong? What did he do wrong? Can we go back and fix it? Will we fix it down the road? When is it too late? When will someone tell me: yes, Tawney. He is the one. Stop searching. Stop trying to make it fit. This is it.

And I watch, and wait, and wonder. Because I have no idea. There have been billions before me, and there will be billions after me. And nearly every person on this planet has felt that kind of deep and profound love for another. So why can't someone tell me the secret? Just tell me- either there is a soul mate out there for me, or there is not. 

At the moment when I go to delete this whole rambling passage, I stop and think. How much crazy can I let out? How vulnerable can I be? I will surely regret pressing that 'publish' button- whether I do so tomorrow morning, or in three years. But I will go forth, and be embarrassed and vulnerable. Because I am 22, and I really firmly believe with conviction these words that pour from my heart. And this is a time and place where this type of openness is permissible, because I am still an idealist. Thank god.  

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Tightropes, Sharks, and Glass

Frozen mangos numb my mouth as I sit and wait for roadside assistance. The symphony of a dulled action movie playing on the floor above me, and the skin on my shoulders radiating the slightest splotchy tinge of warmth from the speckles of a sunburn. Just moments remain before my 22nd birthday. My senses feel heightened. For reasons not yet explained, this one feels more monumental than ever. 

Never in my life have I been on the brink of so many things unsettled. I am walking a tightrope. Under me to the left is a choppy sea of sharks, and under me to the right is a field of concrete with broken glass and nails. I cannot fall off the rope. But if I do, should I fall left, or should I fall right? No time to think, just keep walking. Keep walking even though I cannot see the end of the rope. Keep walking, even as this rope looses its taught nature and becomes a slack line. I am losing my balance, my arms splay out in an attempt to catch myself. I look down. Left, or right? At the instant when I realize I am going to fall, I look below and notice someone has swept concrete clean the of the glass and thrown down a mattress. And there is now a life raft in the quickly calming waters. I hold my breath, close my eyes, and just fall. Not knowing if I'll land on the mattress, or in the life raft. Only knowing that I'll be okay. 

Oh how this 21st year has taught me about those people below the tightrope. There have been countless times during the last twelve months where I've simply thought: I cannot fall. Because if I fall, I will not survive. And each time, when I've found myself in that free fall, rapidly approaching the glass-laden cement, or the shark-infested waters, I've come to trust in my guardian angels. 

Those angels have come in the form of poorly animated palm-to-face dumb jokes from my father. They've come in the Skype calls with one of the dearest and most foreign friends, Amelie, with whom I share no common experiences, but every common thought. They've come in the fish-sauce eating brother in law who makes me laugh at every turn. The late night texts from Catherine for a life saving trip to 21 Choices. The new cookbooks and restaurants introduced to me by those who understand my passion. The t-rex shirt wearing, in-the-grass-rolling Reed. The sister who flies in 1500 miles to pick my broken heart up off the floor. The sister who lets me fall asleep in her lap and plays with my hair, knowing the unspoken need to feel nurtured. The person who, after the worst falling out, and months unspoken, still knows and loves the depths of me. The new friends who take me to see museums, drag me on hikes, ask me really good questions, and treat me like something precious. The once arch-nemesis turned kindred spirit who sends me flowers and argues with me about the meaning of it all. These guardian angels have come in my increasingly broad definition of family, however crazy, frustrating, generous and sincere. These angels are in the sanctity of my bedroom, where everything feels safe and secure. These angels are in the notes, encouragement, love, and advice from my father--even on matters financial and automobile related. And they're in the form of my mother who has talked and mentored me through each day of this 21st year. 

This year has been a tightrope at times, a slack line at others. There have been countless times when I've been certain I couldn't survive the fall. But there has not been one time when the shock of the fall has not been eased by one of these countless guardian angels. I cannot repay you for saving my life time and time again. I can only pay it forward, by trying to ease the pain of the fall for others around me. And maybe, just maybe, I can start to enjoy the free-fall a little bit. Because I will fall. And I will survive. And at each fall, I meet another person who teaches me that this life is far from the moments of triumph or failure. These rarely occurring moments of extreme highs or extreme lows are those that might spark the most pain or joy in our hearts. But it's the moments right after the fall, when you realize you're okay, and everything is a little subdued, that make you understand what life is comprised of. Its really just rowing a boat with someone you like, who also likes you, knowing that death is right on the other side of your rubber-inflated raft. But if you can share some laughs and make light of the situation, you can both climb back up on the tightrope. I'm still not sure what lies at the end of the tightrope, or when I'll even get to the end. But the angels I meet along the way make the triumphs a little sweeter, and the falls a little softer. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Romance I've Been Waiting For

Something spectacular has happened. I've met someone. The one. I haven't told a soul about this person, because I've been so nervous. There have been a few times where I thought I had met the person I was going to be with the rest of my life--the life partner. But I've thrown all caution to the wind this time around--I am certain of this love. It is not a perfect romance, but it is a true love. A true, deep, and meaningful love.

I have fallen madly in love with myself. What a revelation--right? To truly love yourself is to know all of your flaws. All the things you have hated for years. All the things you have attempted to hide. All the things you've said to yourself in the shameful and bitter inside voice. It is to know all of these things, and know that the person staring back at you in the mirror is a beautiful soul. And that to love that person, is the beginning of the greatest love story never written.

I grew up in a house where humility was modeled and bragging discouraged. I am so thankful that I  had parents who gave equal parts praise and notes for improvement. It made me ambitious and driven. It also made me slough off every compliment I received. Rather than a 'thank you', every note of praise was followed by "No, but..." or "It's just..." I still value humility above all else. There are few things more unattractive than arrogance. But this is not a commentary on inflating your ego. It is a commentary on loving your messy, broken, faulted, but worthy soul. A soul that is worthy of all the love in the world.

I have been dramatically disappointed by some very important people in my life. In recent months, I've struggled with the idea of true friends, true love, and true self-worth. It is not uncommon-I know few (if any) people who don't face this. It is something I've really been battling for as long as I can remember, and something I will surely continue to fight head on. But this time, I am choosing to take off my armor. Like many young women, I've thought that I would only be worthy of romantic love and self love once I looked a certain way. I thought that once I had learned certain things, received certain diplomas, I would be worthy of respect. I thought that until I lived a certain number of years and in a certain number of exotic-but-not-kitschy-foreign-countries would I be a true adventurer. The list is infinite. As was the process to throwing all those thoughts away with the bullshit self doubt and self loathing.

I've been carefully nurturing this romance with myself. From small gestures like giving myself daily hugs, to the bigger, more daunting tasks of overcoming a broken heart. But all of these things have led me to discover: I am one of the coolest people I know.

Yes. Thank you. I am. No qualifiers, no sloughing off that compliment.

When I look at myself in the mirror after a particularly rewarding, or a particularly trying day, I just think (and sometimes say aloud), "I am so damn glad that it's you I get to do this with."*

And it feels so good. Imagine what could happen if we all started to cultivate that steamy and romantic love affair with ourselves? It's not important to like yourself. It's more important to love yourself. But it is crucial to know that you are one of the coolest people you know. It is crucial to know that you are worth so much. In fact, you're irreplaceable to everyone that's been lucky enough to know you.  

So tomorrow, and the rest of every day of your life, look yourself in the mirror. And be so glad that you have someone who knows you so well, who truly loves you, and who will never let you down, to carry you through every crevice and mountain of this life. I am so glad it's you. I am so glad it's you.

I would normally never post a photo like this for fear of appearing vainglorious. But that is particularly what I am. And I think the world could use a little more of that. 

*this wonderful thought and practice was inspired by one of those true friends, Ellyn Erving

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Dance when you're perfectly free

“In silence there is eloquence. Stop weaving and watch how the pattern improves."

"You suppose you are the trouble
But you are the cure
You suppose that you are the lock on the door
But you are the key that opens it
It's too bad that you want to be someone else
You don't see your own face, your own beauty
Yet, no face is more beautiful than yours."

"Only from the heart Can you touch the sky."

"People of the world don't look at themselves, and so they blame one another."

"Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” (Rumi)
“Dance, when you're broken open. Dance, if you've torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you're perfectly free.” (Rumi)