Embracing the Discomfort – Emily Eldridge

One of the first things we talked about way back at the start of this program (a whole 5 months ago, which sometimes feels like a lot longer) was embracing vulnerability, and the discomfort that comes with it. In case you couldn’t tell by now I’m the type of person who haaaates vulnerability and feeling uncomfortable. Back in August, we were talking about Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly, which I read admittedly in kind of a rush, but which I filled with highlights because I identified so strongly with her words about the discomfort of vulnerability.

In one of Kirsten’s and my early sessions with our group therapist we practiced sitting in silence and focusing on the awkwardness we felt. I don’t know about you, but I’m the kind of person who tries to avoid and ignore awkwardness as much as possible, and sitting in silence with other people almost always feels uncomfortable. But the point of the exercise was to notice how it felt, keep going, and see how the discomfort lessened.

A couple of weeks ago when I was thinking about what to write for this blog, I expected to write a little about this being about the halfway point of the program. I had a vague idea of summarizing some of my favorite moments and talking about how I finally felt settled in and comfortable. However, things have gotten pretty uncomfortable again since then. A lot of the routines I’ve built up are changing, and the future is a little hazier than I would like.

I had to push through the discomfort just to go on last weekend’s retreat, which in all honesty, I was wishing I could skip. I knew there would be expectations of vulnerability and I was not feeling like opening up to a dozen new strangers on top of the anxiety I was already feeling. But as it turned out, braving that discomfort was a good thing for me. Remember I wrote about hating talking to new people? I talked to a bunch (by my definition anyway) of new people over the weekend and it wasn’t as difficult as I expected. I ended up being glad that I went on the retreat.

So my life does not feel as stable as I would like right now, and there’s a fair amount of anxiety and awkwardness to deal with. I just have to remember that there’s something better on the other side of the discomfort.

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I don’t have much to say…

Today I don’t have much to say, it has been a busy couple of weeks. I’ve set up a small personal alter next to my bed, I have a few images up there and try to pray at my alter nightly. Recently i stopped by the Hare Krishna temple here in Denver and had a great time with two of the devotees, PK and Jorge. I got there and met a girl named Diana who works in the cafe they run there called Radha Govinda’s, its a completely vegetarian cafe attached to the Temple. Diana was a very sweet, welcoming face to meet as I arrived. after meeting her I went down to the basement and took prasad, which means food that is first offered to a deity before eating. Then after some food and conversation with a man named Arjuna, PK and I went to his apartment where he lives and assists devotees on their path to Krishna Consciousness. He basically is there to help them along the way and to do his best to help keep their consciousness in the right place. He and I and Jorge sat and talked for an hour or so, maybe a bit more. The convo is always of a serious matter, but many laughs are had, real laughs…loud laughs. That day I was needing that sort of connection and I thank God for PK, Jorge, all the devotees of Krishna, and for the whole religion. Everyone I meet from this faith is so warm and welcoming.

 

Hare Krishna.

 

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In Defense of Exploration – Even When I’m Exhausted – Erin Lammott

“Do you feel more confident now?”
[Pause]
“Well it’s funny because I would say I know less now than I thought I knew. But yeah, at the same time, I do feel more confident.”


This one is for the gentle souls, the moldable, the learners, the wandering, the wondering. There are always seasons aren’t there? Seasons of play, seasons of excitement, seasons of hope, seasons of comfort, seasons of challenge, seasons of disappointment, seasons of self-doubt, seasons of disillusionment. Well, tis the season. I’m exhausted right now. I’ve been thinking a lot, but not quite ready to publicly share a full post.

Instead, today, I would like to share with you the lyrics to one of my favorite songs. It is called Lost Stars, sang by Keira Knightley, in the movie Begin Again.* I’d recommend giving it a listen too.

Lost Stars
Please don’t see just a girl caught up in dreams and fantasies.
Please see me reaching out for someone I can’t see.
Take my hand, let’s see where we wake up tomorrow.
Best laid plans; sometimes are just a one night stand.
I’ll be damned; Cupid’s demanding back his arrow.
So let’s get drunk on our tears.

And God, tell us the reason youth is wasted on the young.
It’s hunting season and this lamb is on the run.
We’re searching for meaning…
But are we all lost stars trying to light up the dark?

Who are we? Just a speck of dust within the galaxy.
‘Woe is me’ if we’re not careful turns into reality.
Don’t you dare let our best memories bring you sorrow.
Yesterday I saw a lion kiss a deer.
Turn the page; maybe we’ll find a brand new ending.
Where we’re dancing in our tears.

And God, tell us the reason youth is wasted on the young.
It’s hunting season and this lamb is on the run.
We’re searching for meaning…
But are we all lost stars trying to light up the dark?

I thought I saw you out there crying…
I thought I heard you call my name…
I thought I heard you out there crying…
But just the same…

And God, tell us the reason youth is wasted on the young.
It’s hunting season and this lamb is on the run.
Searching for meaning…
But are we all lost stars trying to light up the dark?
Are we all lost stars trying to light up the dark?

 

 

*According to Wikipedia – “The song was written and produced by Gregg AlexanderDanielle BriseboisNick Lashley and Nick Southwood. It is also performed by actress Keira Knightley in the film. The music was recorded in New York City at Electric Lady Studios in mid-2012.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost_Stars

Inspiration and Creativity – Emily Eldridge

This month in weekly Formation we’ve been talking about creativity. Last week, we watched a TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert (the author of Eat, Pray, Love). She talked about the pressures of creativity, and how inspiration used to be seen as something outside of the creator. Genius was something that came from someplace else, choosing to speak through one person or another, not something some people had. I was thinking of her words yesterday when we had a project to do and I said I didn’t have an inspiration gremlin.
All of that is to say that I got home tonight knowing I needed to write a blog post and I had not a single inspiration gremlin for it. Yesterday Henry suggested using my lack of inspiration as a subject for the project, so that’s where I decided to start with tonight’s blog post.
Creativity is not an easy thing, but I often think it comes to me easily. Except, of course, in those moments when inspiration is absent. And while it can be easy for me to create, it gets much harder when you add the expectation that what you create will be shared with others. That was part of the TED talk too: creativity is vulnerability. Especially because genius is now thought of as personal, we feel that what we create is only worth sharing if it’s amazing, and we fear other people thinking that what we create isn’t good.
This also applies to this blog post. Though I am creative in general, a pretty good writer if I do say so myself (I get it from my dad), and – I am coming to realize – I process thoughts best and communicate most clearly on paper, writing blog posts scares me. Writing in a journal, or even publishing an anonymous post, would be a lot easier than trying to find the right words to share.
The TED talk came to the conclusion that you should create anyway. Even if the gremlin isn’t showing up, even if you don’t think what you’re making is good enough: create anyway. So this is my blog post about not knowing what to blog about, and this is the painting an inspiration gremlin showed up for yesterday.20171219_111452.jpg

Dealing With Death – Anthony Suggs

It’s been a little less than a month since my grandmother died, the day before Thanksgiving. She had been sick my whole life and had gotten her “6 months notice” from her doctors around 5 years ago, so we’ve been enjoying lots of extra time since then. The last few weeks had been especially hard with over a decade of reduced oxygen from lung disease taking its toll on her mind. In hospice, she became increasingly delusional and was put on heavy medication to keep her at peace. She passed after two days, in peace, with family around. I wasn’t there for her passing, at least not in person.

For Thanksgiving this year, I decided to drive from Denver to San Diego to visit a good friend from college who I hadn’t seen since around the time of our graduation. This required two full days of driving and lots of energy bars, PB&J’s, fruit, and Doritos in the passenger seat; not to mention a night camping out in my car just outside of Zion National Park. The first day of driving was the day she was put on medication and the second was when she passed. I had been in San Diego for a grand total of 30 minutes when I got the call from my mother. The first thing I heard after that call was my friend’s voice saying, “1/4 of you is her. She’s alive and well in you, right now, right here.” She was right.

Dealing with death is a complicated process and it’s almost never the same for each person or situation, but here’s how I did it and continue to do it. In my situation, her death was a given. Granted, death is a given for all of us, but it becomes much more obvious when chronic illness is involved. However, because of that chronic illness and the idea of extra time after her “6 months notice,” she and I were able to have a handful of moments together where we were positive it would be the last time we’d see each other. Those “see you later” moments really helped me begin the process of dealing with death before it happened. Death often takes us by surprise; but not this time.

With my car in San Diego as the funeral plans were being made, it became apparent that it was not going to be possible for me to make it to the funeral. So, I decided to celebrate her life by continuing to do something she loved: road trips. She and my grandfather were big road-trippers. With their RV, they’d make trips near and far to enjoy creation and time with each other. So, every desert, mountain, forest, river, lake, bluff, rest stop, souvenir shop, and gas station I encountered, I encountered for the both of us. Every picture I took, I took for the both of us. All of it was my own way of remembering  and celebrating her. Dealing with death is never easy, but the only way to do it is to start.

Beyond Optimism – Anthony Suggs

I used to identify as an optimist; operative words: used to. I often hesitate to say this out loud because people often interpret that statement like so: “I’ve lost all hope in the world. Life has no meaning. All I do is sit around in despair and eat ice cream and pizza!” Aside from eating ice cream and pizza, none of that is true. My journey to no longer identifying as an optimist is closely tied to my pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in history and having my eyes opened to the reality of suffering and oppression.

My experience of history before college, which I believe is a common one among white Americans, can best be described as a rosy look at an incredibly dark past; a past that still lives in the present. My eyes weren’t opened to this darkness until I began studying history at the college level. It was there that I discovered how truly upsetting much of history really is and it was there that I realized that my optimism, which I had previously seen as a virtue, was actually preventing me from being bold, prophetic, and honest in my assessment of my history and my culture. If we are truly honest about history, we cannot be merely optimistic; we must have a deeply rooted hope in a better world.

From the philosophical perspective, optimism is the belief that this is the “best of all possible worlds.” In other words: life is good. While this may be a noble way of pursuing positivity and happiness, it negates the reality of deeply felt suffering in this world. Hope, on the other hand, is not dependent on the way things are or have been but on the way things might be. My favorite definition of hope, from Webster’s Dictionary, is “to desire with expectation of obtainment or fulfillment.” Recently at The Wilderness, a contemplative service of the Eucharist at St. John’s Cathedral in Denver, Father Broderick Greer preached on wisdom. He described it as having the foresight to align our present lives with our hopes for the future; it is the ability to shape our actions not solely for the way things are but for the way we believe things should be. In losing my optimism I gained a desire and an expectation that, if I align my life with God’s vision of a better, more just world, things will (hopefully) get better.

Giving Thanks When It Doesn’t Feel Like Thanksgiving – Emily Eldridge

Ever have that feeling when your internal clock/calendar is thrown off and you don’t know what day it is? I feel like I don’t know what month it is.

It didn’t feel much like Thanksgiving to me this year. Most of the month was taken up with the museum’s annual fundraiser Festival of Trees – basically Christmas arrived in my life around November 7 in the form of 24 (beautiful!) Christmas trees, Christmas music, decorations and parties. I worked different hours than usual a lot for the event, and different days once or twice, which threw off my sense of time too. I had a blast, but it definitely overshadowed Thanksgiving. I had two weeks of what felt like Christmas, then Thanksgiving arrived with what felt like no warning.
On top of that, the day Festival of Trees ended, the Monday before Thanksgiving, I got sick. Just a cold, nothing I couldn’t handle with a quick trip to the store to stock up on medicine, orange juice, and chicken noodle soup. I didn’t mind terribly that I was still sick on Thursday and didn’t do anything to celebrate; Thanksgiving has become less and less of a big deal in my family over the years, and if I were at home it probably would have just been me and my parents and a little extra cooking. It’s not even the first time I’ve been sick and away from my family for this holiday, so I knew I’d be fine. And since my brain was halfway convinced it was already December anyway, I honestly didn’t feel like I was missing much by just staying home and resting.
But now I finally have a moment to catch my breath and remember that it’s not quite December yet, before Christmas Round 2: For Real This Time starts up. So I’m pausing to reflect on what I’m thankful for just a little belatedly this year.

The things I’m thankful for this year include:
 – That my illness was mild and I’m back on my feet
– That I had several invitations to Thanksgiving dinner, even after I got sick, and had a great Thanksgiving leftovers dinner last night
– My loving family, who were more concerned than I was about me missing Thanksgiving
– My wonderful boyfriend, who has been so supportive of my decision to move to Colorado for a year
– The time I got to spend with the awesome residents of St. Columba House, and meeting other service organization members, in Denver last weekend
– How fun and successful the Festival of Trees was
– The chance to be here in this program and this place, the experiences I’ve had so far and those yet to come