Mental Portraits

I’m honing my mental portrait mode.

There are instances I’d like to hold onto forever in unimaginable detail and clarity. Mental portrait mode is crisper than regular memories and the image at the forefront is bright and in perfect focus, with the background falling out of interest to the viewer like mist.

I would hold onto Cailynn on the beach with her butt way up in the air, digging the deepest hole she could manage. My chest tightens for a moment when I remember that next year, she’ll be too old, too cool for such shenanigans.

I’d capture Meg on the couch across from me, both of us in our most relaxed state, perfectly at home. I know our days of adjacent couch dwelling are numbered, though our experience of connectedness is not.

I don’t want to forget the way the light comes into our kitchen window and touches the avocado pit we’re growing, just for the sake of seeing how it goes.

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Small and Obvious

I’ve been looking for the right words, but I’m only hearing music – some happy, some sad. Your big, bright, messy world has taught me that maybe that’s okay too.

As our seasons are changing, I hope you know that there isn’t a day I’m walking through without you.  You are an unconventional, inexplicable part of me.

You have made me the most creative, most playful, most patient, most adventurous, most intuitive, and most grateful version of myself I have ever known.

Three years ago, I would never have thought to dream of alternative career options for princesses, where the neighbors are headed at any given time, or what the mailman’s dog’s name is. I would have never named my feet or answered every phrase with a rhyme. I would have never understood why parents occasionally have wine for dinner.

I wasn’t prepared for what you would teach me and how much you were readying me for a world beyond my comprehension.

I didn’t know what I believed in until I found myself humbled by your occasional torrential rage but mostly, by your love.  Unapologetic. Relentless. Unconditional.

I hope someday you’ll grab the hands of my own kids, all of us with watermelon sticky fingers, and teach them to crazy dance at Concerts in the Park, enveloped by the orange glow of the late summer sun.   

“Thank you” feels inadequately small and “I love you” seems laughably obvious.

So, here’s to the small and obvious.

Another Circle Around the Sun

In three weeks, my 27th year of life will draw to a close. I’m generally not someone who hems and haws over aging or the passing of another year too heavily but be that as it may, I have found myself thinking about the past year a lot. It was a beautiful trip around the sun.

Here are ten things I would tell myself a year ago if I had the chance:

  1. Go ahead and laugh out loud (like, with tremendous volume) at what you believed a linear career path for you might look like. I’ve heard some people have one of those, but my experience in the “professional world” has looked and felt a lot more like a psychedelic board game that combines Frogger running across traffic, Mario jumping through tunnels, and being sent back to start by the giant Trouble clicking dome. Get used to this and welcome it.
  2. Stop buying clothes for the body you may someday have, whether that be smaller or larger than the one you exist in today. Yes, even if it’s an unbeatable sale and you love the item. You’re fine right where you are with what you have.
  3. Nearly everything gets better when you say it out loud. Your mind is a dangerous neighborhood to walk through alone and you are SO lucky that you have people around that care to listen. Be brave, speak up.
  4. Some of the people who think the most highly of you (and vice versa) have four legs or are two feet tall and don’t know how to pour their own milk yet. You should be proud of that.
  5. PMS anxiety and depression are real and they will kick your ass, but they will also always pass. Read that again.
  6. People are not mind readers. Clear is kind. (And for good measure, may as well say “I’m sorry for not communicating that well” while we’re at it).
  7. Boredom can feel uncomfortable, but it is NOT an emergency; it is an invitation. Let your mind wander as far and wide as it needs to go and follow it with a curious and nonjudgmental lens. You’ll be surprised and entertained by the dreams and worlds that live there.
  8. Your breath has always been and will always be your safest and surest road back home to yourself. Ancient wisdom, contemporary woo-woo’s, and now modern science are beginning to agree on this. Just keep breathing and keep listening.
  9. You have always known this, but it’s worth repeating for the year ahead: the sound and smell of the waves is curative, grounding, home. It’s an essential oil. It’s the best fix for when you desperately need to feel simultaneously small and empowered, surrendered and guided, relaxed and inspired, heard and taught. PS: As a deeply feeling and deeply thinking, perpetually moving human, it’s okay to need this often.
  10. You have already spent enough time on this earth looking out there for facts and ways to calculate, accelerate, idealize your growth, nutrition, fitness, body size, education, morning routine, relationship patterns, and anything else you can think of. It’s great to learn from others, but the reason you haven’t found the Magic Elixir of Bliss in order to do and be everything perfectly forever is NOT a lack of diligence or analytical research skills. You won’t find the answers you need out there simply because they aren’t out there at all. The teachers and helpers are out there, but so is a lot of extra noise. The truth you always needed was in here all along.

San Diego Mom Jordan Is Ready For Fall

More than three times throughout the past month, I’ve been asked how my summer was.

I’m a little confused by this because I’m not a) an eight year old child returning from summer travels in my family’s minivan or b) a teacher following a traditional school schedule.

I’ve struggled to find answers because the honest one is long and complicated.

My real answer would scare a lot of people away and they’re really only asking to be polite, a fact that took me far too long to learn. Here’s exactly what I’d like to tell them:

“It’s just like any other season, only hotter. I’m slightly peeved that I cant get the obnoxious curls that form near my forehead and nowhere else, to stay in line with the rest of my hair because I’m literally never not sweaty. To add insult to injury, the air conditioner in my car broke so I almost feel like I could maybe make a few extra bucks by driving fancy people around and telling them it’s a mobile sauna and the combination of the motion, the wind, and the heat balances their chakras.

Last week, the spoiler of my car became halfway detached and I had to drag it along the road behind me while people stared. There were squinted eyes and heads tilted at the spectacle, but a few people rolled down their windows to kindly shout at me, “Hey! Your spoiler fell off! It’s dragging behind your car!” I know the outbursts were with the most genuine, helpful intentions and I did appreciate the sentiment but for God’s sake, the windows were down (see above paragraph about air conditioning). I smiled and waved, thanked them for their concern, like any calm and collected adult would have.

To ice the cake of this beautiful season, yesterday I was accidentally on the nightly news because the World Famous San Diego Zoo was historically closed for the first time anyone can remember. I kid you not, the news headline states: “San Diego Mom, Jordan, and Her Two Little Ones Had To Find Something Else To Do Today!” I had piled Maisley and Coura (not my offspring, by the way) into the car with so many sandwiches made, several changes of clothes packed, and every inch of their perfect baby skin rubbed with sunscreen. We were delighted in ourselves for celebrating the beautiful day with an adventure to the Zoo and signified the occasion with “Zoo! Zoo! Zoo!” chants on the 25-minute car ride there.  Unfortunately, the exact spectacle we had our hearts set on had experienced an unprecedented closure due to a dangerous and extremely unexpected gas leak. Naturally, the person delivering this news to me happened to work for…the news, and thus – my 12 seconds of fame.

I can’t pretend that this season has been strictly bad news and overheated toddlers; there has been magic too. Sandwiched between the ridiculousness and the heat, I’ve had some friends receive amazing, life-giving news. Other friends have walked through the most painful year of their life with more grace than ever before, beautiful to me in the honesty and love that they approach the world with. They’re the type of people who run around lighting others up like fireflies on a warm Southern night and their loss has somehow made their love feel even bigger this summer for reasons none of us can explain.

In the past month, I’ve taken two amazing trips. We made the kind of memories that felt, even in the moments they were happening, like the Good Old Days. My best friend got engaged to the love of her life and my heart feels so happy for them that it probably could burst.”

So each time I’ve been asked, I’ve answered with more certainty, less trepidation. I smile and I say:

“It’s been life, just warmer.”

A Word on Haircuts

My age is sneaking up on me in mysterious ways. I’ve become inordinately concerned with going to the dentist, I pay attention to when my car is actually due for an oil change, and last week, I caught myself watching a young mom of three wild boys and saying to her “You’ve got your hands full there,” with a sage nod.

There is, however, one notable facet of adulthood and growing up that I can’t even pretend I’ve come close to mastering.

Haircuts.

I set out at the beginning of this year to find myself a real, grown woman hair salon. I hear it’s a burden that many women grapple with (hence the finding a hairdresser that works and then following her to the ends of the earth stories you hear), and I decided that this was going to be my year.

I made a vow to  Meg, after a healthy amount of teasing, that I would not trim my own hair as I did during my beyond broke study abroad college days. I’m a broad on a budget after all. Nevertheless, I have kept my promise.

My car slows, threatening to stop at every Supercuts I see along the road and somehow, I haven’t been able to go in. Supercuts feels like a regression haircut, like a low confidence attempt to slink back to childhood.

This week, I made myself an appointment at a local salon celebrated by Yelp with one dollar sign, meaning I can probably make the cost work. I’ve also gotten my brush stuck in my hair twice in the past month, so I have to face the reality that it’s something that needs to be done.

My creative universe’s practice in letting go of control begins at the shampoo bay. I lean back and let this perfect stranger guide my head to the cushioned rim. In spiritual circles, we call it leaning in to the experience, emotion, etc. and it seems like perfect poetic irony that in this excruciating situation, that phrase applies so very literally. So I lean in. My head rests against the questionably sanitary tiny tub and I let the Eastern European woman with kind, bored eyes named Katrinka  scald the shit out of my scalp. I tell her everything is fine when she asks about the temperature. She lets the first droplet of water dribble down my neck and my body tenses. I’m sure she asks me questions, but I am only aware of the second water droplet, which runs on a perfect line between the corner of my eye and the inside of my nose. If there’s a hell, I think I’ve found it. I am stiff and a headache begins across my temple, where I hold my tension.

There is nothing more humbling than being forced to stare at my own face in that mirror with the black cape concealing my neck and body with a threateningly tight grasp. “Has anyone’s head ever looked more like a basketball?” “Why have I never noticed how grateful I am for my neck?” I make a mental note to thank God for necks, the unsung heroes for those of us self-conscious about our round faces.

I start to wonder where my eyes are supposed to travel when I realize I’m warm and not just slightly. The sweating begins and my eyes become nervous darts. Should I close them or is that creepy? Surely it’s better than whatever is happening now.

I watch helplessly as several inches of my knotty ends fall to the floor and I observe how strangely sad this makes me feel. The sweat continues to bead along my forehead while Katrinka commences her 40 minute blow dry trick. I scratch and claw at my insides to make it through the small talk about the color of my hair, as if this is a topic anyone has ever been interested in. I feel lightheaded with the inability to scratch my own nose. I’m daydreaming about a Gatorade to replenish my electrolytes and joining some religious cult where cutting your hair is fiercely prohibited. Then I briefly consider re-enlisting in therapy.

Katrinka rings me up; the total is $10 more than the price listed on the wall – a sweating fee I imagine. I don’t even care — I’m free. Perhaps 2020 will be my year.

9 Honest Confessions of a Highly Sensitive Person

Many of us grew up with the sense that we had something different.

Many of us kept a lot inside.

We have known all along that our inside worlds are rich and abundant, but that some 80% of the population regards us as introverted, closed off, or timid.  We might have struggled to find our voice amidst a larger culture that is constantly demanding that we are too anxious, too “in our heads,” and too easily exhausted by large social gatherings. Here’s a list of just a few of the things I’ve kept inside that I want you to know: 

 

1.I’ve experienced a lot of guilt over the fact that my family is entirely too much for me.

I arrived on this planet as an HSP to a wonderful family who happens to be very loud, very nosey, and very indifferent to alone time. I have made peace with the fact that I can love them exactly as they are, accepting that their idea of fun and comfort might not be the same as mine. However, there were many years during which my sensitivity to their natural tendencies made me feel cruel and ungrateful because it has been always been difficult for me to spend long periods of time with them (cough, also an empath). As an HSP, there has been nothing more unifying and settling to learn to embrace our differences and understand that our variation does not mean I love them any less.

2. My anxiety is never higher than when you’re watching me perform a task.

By the time the task begins, I have already internalized what I believe your judgments about me might be (because I’ve been preparing diligently). Work observations are torture and I’m likely sweating profusely and stumbling over my words in a way that is generally atypical for me. It’s not that I am nervous because I feel I am incompetent, more that I am hyper-aware of your attention and I can feel it throughout my body.  As a former collegiate athlete, I took on-the-field personal failures so hard that I often let perceived criticism become a symbol of my self-worth. Striking out in front of a crowd, for example, was devastating for me – and my inner critic (influenced by what I thought you believed about me) was often abusive. Looking back, what my coaches called “playing scared” or making mistakes out of the tension that comes from the fear of making the mistake before it happens – pretty much defines my athletic career.

3. I have had issues with my relationship with food (and sugar especially) for as long as I can remember because excess food and excess exercise numb my internal experience.

For many years before I understood why my system was so easily frazzled (which I know identify as a trademark HSP / Empath quality), quieting the world with food (always alone), was the only way I understood how to cope. I knew the behaviors were unhealthy as I was practicing them, but the need to escape from the constant stimulation has a mind of its own.

4. When I am neglecting my creative outlets, you can tell.

Those who are close to me describe it as a hollowed out version of the person they know. My inner world is so very much alive and I’m working hard to keep up with it nonstop. If I haven’t gotten the words, the ideas, the feelings, out of me somehow, I clam up and become emotionally blocked. During these times, I’m even more likely to retreat from a social obligation, call out sick from work to spend a day alone, or becoming highly irritable in my relationships. Long story short – I’m far from my best self.

5. If possible, I nearly always reach for a drink when I walk into a social gathering.

I’m not proud of this habit, but If there are more than a few people that I’ll be forced to socialize with in the same space, I find an adult beverage as soon as possible. I am painfully in tune with the energy in the gathering space buzzing with electric noise, smells, sounds and a glass of wine (or two) lowers my threshold to the environment. There’s also a great chance you’ll find me outside with the dog thirty minutes into the party.

6. I am prone to anxiety and depression.

While being an HSP comes with many gifts and strengths, it also comes with its apparent difficulties. In my case, my constantly overworking mind and sensitivity to the outside world means that I feel anxious often. When left unresolved, my anxiety can spiral into depression. As I am gaining awareness around the attributes of Introverts, Highly Sensitive People, and Empaths and the ways in which they impact my everyday life, my propensity to seek ways to take care of myself grows. Today, I use tools that have not always lived in my repertoire to identify my triggers as they arise. I let myself rest and work backwards when I catch my inner critic wanting to inflict shame that I require more down time than others. I am diligent about sharing my internal state with a few loved ones whom I trust greatly, even though it is painfully difficult for me to do.

7. As a kid, I took more books to slumber parties than anything else because I knew I’d need to escape somehow.

I am not necessarily anti-social and in all likelihood, I was looking forward to the sleepover. There’s an even greater chance that by 8pm, I would be completely overwhelmed with the screaming girls, the new surroundings, and another family’s foods and I would have regret coming. I learned around age 7 that I could last a little longer before snapping into overdrive if let my mind escape into a story for awhile. Let’s also not pretend that I didn’t have 1-4 of my best imaginary friends there with me to diffuse my experience. Today, I practice yoga, mindfulness meditation, and work to be conscious of my breath in everyday situations in order to tap into stillness in a world that seems to be moving at warp speed. Without these practices, my daily life felt a lot more chaotic and unmanageable.

8. No, I don’t think my clothes are trendy or super flattering either. But if a shirt with a scratchy tag over a poky bra and a tight pair of jeans is my reality, I won’t hear a word you say all day. 

I’m not joking here. As a softball player, I couldn’t wear batting gloves, despite the sand paper callouses that had formed on my hands because I would step up to the plate and the sensation of the gloves would take all my attention.  In elementary and middle school, I wore soccer shorts and a crew neck sweatshirt literally everyday. My hair was permanently plastered back into a tight tight mid-pony because the baby curly hairs on my forehead tickled so very much. By high school, I realized that as a straight female, I was expected to dress a certain way. I marveled (often aloud) at how comfortable everyone else seemed to look when I could conjure hives just looking at a pair of low-cut jeans. Thankfully, it’s 2019 and not only have a gained tremendous insight about what my “red light fabrics” are and I avoid them with swine flu level caution, but athletic clothing somehow became married to casual clothing in a wonderful cataclysm of HSP bliss.

9. Finding someone you can share your alone time with (and hell, actually want to) is the greatest feeling in the world.

Seriously.

Letter to the Darkness

We live in a world that glorifies the light, the spaces that illuminate, even with closed eyes. It makes us dark ones feel as though we are somehow damaged beyond repair because not all of our crevices are bright and shiny. Some days, those crevices are louder than the pieces of us that surface in search of the sun.

It’s okay to be in the dark sometimes I think.

 

To my own darkness,

 

I see you.

Today, I will give you the space you need to express yourself.

I’ve wasted many days trying to run from you and just for right now, my legs are tired.

Today, you can sit with me and I will do my best to let you be.

You are not invited to drive the car we’re riding in, but I won’t kick you out.

I know that tomorrow you evolve into my greatest strength and my brightest light.

Today, you are welcome here.

Things Happen

The notebook I was gifted read “MAKE THINGS HAPPEN” in bold, sparkly letters across the middle of the cover. The giver meant well; she thinks of me as a genuine go-getter and assumed this notion would inspire me. It’s been sitting on my shelf for three and a half years, every page blank.

I’ve been working with a writer soulsister friend on this whole notion of creativity and part of our practice involves writing three pages every morning, no matter what. If I have to wake up at 4:00am to write my pages before I start my day, I will sleepily drone on about the injustices of being given this desire to spark my creativity with a cup of coffee the size of my head resting at my forearm… but I get them done. I’m sure half of my pages at this point are a sincere compilation of my deep hatred for having been born a person who is made to seek. It’s a nice quality and all, but don’t the other people get so much more sleep?

At any rate, these morning pages have been clarifying and somewhat intoxicating. When I’m given a blank page with a sense of commitment sans rules, my mind falls quiet. It falls just quiet enough for me to be able to hear my soul. Some people call it their intuition, God, the light, the spirit, the inner voice, the higher self. To me, it’s all of them or none of them, because who am I to know? To me, it doesn’t matter what its name is. I can call it anything or nothing and it doesn’t affect the familiarity that resonates within me when I hear it, when I am quiet enough to hear it. When I give this inside voice permission to play for thirty uninterrupted minutes before I begin my highly chaotic day, I feel drunk on the silence of my busy head.

I decided to pull that old, virgin notebook from the shelf for this new venture. Still, I tormented myself with violent eye rolls when I read the inspirational message that tattoos the cover. And because I’ve become extremely aware of the satisfaction of listening to my higher self, I grabbed the scissors directly from my desk organizer. I pulled the blades apart and held them in a fist, scary toddler-on-the-loose style. I scraped and clawed with the scissor blade until the front of the notebook I have to look at 5:00am everyday is something I can live with. I scraped until the word “MAKE” was completely gone. My new favorite notebook now reads “THINGS HAPPEN” with the scar of torn paint revealing the hard cardboard underneath.

It’s perfect.

To Know Us

I think a lot about the things you are missing.

There are the obvious ones like Chayna’s high school graduation, Mom excelling at a job she finally loves, Jamie’s wedding, and every Christmas since that fall.

I think of the selfish ones like showing you my new favorite trail while we laugh about the fact that Chayna drives a forklift on a daily basis, the ugly truth that I no longer have an ally to duck out of family parties early with.

But I think the most about the subtleties – the number of times Chayna has changed her hair color, the people I’ve called to help me change a tire that weren’t you, the way Cailynn puts on her cleats. The way she loves and respects the game we did too would light you up and I wish you were around to see it. I wish you knew that she couldn’t wait to get to practice and that Mom has to drag her off after the stadium lights have gone off; she thanks her coaches at the end of every practice the way she learned from me the way I learned from you.

I think about the way it would feel for you to know us.

Chatter in the Breeze

Each step forward makes a cloud of dust underneath my worn out Nike’s and the endless mind chatter loses steam; both the winding path ahead and the wild heart within liberate me.

I’ve been highly critical of myself as of late based on how I’m choosing to spend my “fitness funds” and where I believe I’m deriving newfound mental energy. The answer to both of these propositions lies on the cushy floors of the bougie yoga studio down the road from my house. I started the free trial membership two weeks ago and was hooked. It really is worth all the pizazz. I’ve been obsessed with this notion that I am somehow a less authentic person because I’ve been moving my body in a warm, scented room with a bunch of other privileged individuals. I feel like I’ve been sneaking around, having an affair of sorts and cheating on my down-to-earth movement routines that feel like a symbol of who I am… and loving every second.

Then, the breeze across my cheeks on the trail calms my mind chatter and I am allowed to settle into myself. This breeze is an old friend and she reminds me that I’m okay and everything is exactly how it’s supposed to be.

It seems like such an obvious thing, but perhaps I was never taught that it was okay to be all the things and to keep exploring, to be unsure and curious. Maybe we all need to be reminded sometimes that impermanence is our only constant and we can do so many things that are new, scary, and interesting and still come home to our authentic selves, however evolved she might be by now.

The truth is, I think it’s bullshit that we get to be only one thing. As it turns out, I am allowed to love hiking, big ass trees, and getting unmentionably sweaty and dirty and be intoxicated by the experience of practicing yoga in a community that challenges and inspires me. It is permitted that I am equal parts invigorated by the rocky hillside and the smell of the spring air and scared absolutely shitless of any rustling brush because RATTLESNAKES. It is completely okay to be mutually devoted to the idea of getting lost in unnamed campgrounds and sleeping on the ground underneath a blanket of endless stars and that of a weekend on the couch with Sean, drinking our favorite wine and watching How I Met Your Mother.

It is my intention to accept myself in this new practice I’ve been enamored with.

It is an intention in love.

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