Where are you Christmas?

I cannot get into the Christmas season and it frightens me. There are six days left and I am nowhere near the level of cheerfulness and brightness that I normally aspire to. The tree does not seem as decadent this year. Hot chocolate at Starbucks just is not doing it for me anymore.  I am practically hurling myself around the house, looking under cushions and random junk to see if the season is hiding on me.

But regardless of if my heart isn’t feeling its usual holiday self, I am taking a step back to see that it’s ok.

A lot of people are having a heard time this holiday season. The economy is disabling people while breaking hearts and dreams. More people are sick, more accidents are happening, more people are passing away. I think it is even more difficult to lose someone during the holiday season because their absence becomes so present.

They are not at the front of the table where they used to sit. They are not laughing wildly at the grown up table or leading the game of football with the family.

Losing someone, during this season that is so invested with friends and family, is by far the hardest thing.

A great friend of mine interrupted a rant session a few of us were having right before finals began to tell us that a man that she knew from home was dying. He probably would not live until Christmas. He would leave behind four little boys and a wife that loved him very much. I sat there with a rock in the pit of my stomach as she told me this. I imagined what it would be like to lose someone so close to me during this time of the year, or any time of the year for that matter.

Unfortunately, of all the things they can sell in stores to supposedly make our Christmas season a better one–  the brightest lights for the tree, the hottest toys under the tree, the most delectable desserts for the party– the stores can do nothing to aid the gaping hole of a loved one lost at Christmastime. You won’t find the relief on Ebay, in the Target $1 aisle or at the Christmas tree farm. It is not lurking around anywhere. It is not 50% off.

Perhaps that is why it hurts so bad. Here is the season where we simply find happiness. All the things that money can buy submerge us in the sugar coma state of the most wonderful time of the year. But the market cannot materialize the loss of a loved one.

So we must.

We must make the choice to make those who are missing this Christmas reappear and be more real than ever. We must bring out the memories we have with this person, scatter them on the big dinner table, pick up each one, talk about it, laugh about it and then settle it into our souls for safe keeping.

Keep in mind what they loved the most, carry on those traditions. It is not the same. It never will be.  But it is the way they would have wanted it. Picture them looking down and smiling because they know you are moving forward and trying your hardest.

The Christmas after my grandma passed away was definitely the hardest one yet. I cried a few times through the Christmas Eve festivities and I just thought it was not fair. But my tears would not make her anymore real. I had to make her real. So I said a Christmas prayer, I proceeded downstairs to rejoin the chaos and I dared to bring her into every part of that Christmas. We laughed, we reminisced and ultimately, we thanked the heavens that she had once been there to make this season so special to us.

It is never an easy thing. It is always a hard thing. But with the support and love of friends and family who are near and dear to us, we somehow find the way to make it bearable.

So today I will pull out the photo albums and old scrapbooks and attempt to find the Christmas joy. It is not in the stores or under my tree. It is in the memories that have already been made with the ones, past and present, that have made me who I am.

“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” –Kahlil Gibran

Hold tight to yourself. No one else can.

How quickly we forget how much we are worth.

So I am not “the brightest crayon the box” but I can admit that I am a smart girl. I have always studied hard in school and aced my tests and quizzes. However, I learned in the 8th grade that guys like “ditzy” girls. Woof.

Well since I did not exactly fit that mold I decided to make myself.

I began dumbing myself down to get a laugh out of a cute boy. I made stupid comments. I claimed I did not know that Montana was a state (now that a super star has rhymed my name with it there is no chance that I will ever forget it).  I asked dumb questions like “Can you tan in lightning?,” in front of all my classmates. Everyone. All the time. I sat with the guys at lunch and they would drill me with questions pertaining to geography, politics and history. I got the answers wrong on purpose.

I will always remember a boy named Andrew who once approached me after lunch to say, “Some girls just pretend to be dumb. You really are dumb. That’s cool.” For a long time I held that “compliment” close to my heart.

Sure this insane dumbness got me attention, but not the kind of attention a girl should ever want. It made me less than I really was.

Halfway through high school, when I wanted to shake the ditz off of my self it was nearly impossible. I worked hard to make my self dumn, pretend to be dumb, so that guys would like me. Dumb.

We do this alot. We take ourselves and we criticize instead of praise, we find out faults instead of our best qualities. We tangle ourselves up in relationships and friendships that bring out the worst in us. We change and transform and morph into what we think will be more pleasing to the world. We let people step all over us and we convince ourselves that this is ok.

Well its not really. It is never really fine when we start forgetting how beautiful we are as individuals and how unique each one of us is. We want to be like other people, like celebrities and magazine covers. We aim to wipe out anything that sets us apart from society. We forget that all these crazy qualities that we have been given are a blessing rather than a burden. We let the media and society whisper in our ear at the end of the day. Our heart softly saying, “You are perfect just the way you are,” is hushed almost instantly by society yelling “BE MORE! DO BETTER! BE SKINNIER! WORK HARDER.”

It is not an easy task to stop listening to what the world is telling us and start focusing on what we really want for ourselves. I am trying to master this every single day and I wake up still seeing the obstacles in my way. The covers of magazines. The TV shows. The billboards. It is not easy to tune it all out but we can either let it roll off our shoulders or let it kill us slowly and softly. I opt for letting it roll.

SARK, if you have not heard of her then Google her. She is an amazing author with a kind and creative spirit. Her books have taught me to find my own forms of self love and harvest them on a daily basis. Today I use one of her quotes as a mantra to myself. Whenever days get tough, whenever I start to believe I am not enough I repeat her words in my head: You have enough, you do enough, you are enough.

Click this image to get to the Planet Sark homepage

And oh yea, now a senior in college, I have finally and officially shaken off the ditzy side of my personality. It is so much cooler to be  the smart girl Turns out, guys will proably like you even more if you know that Montana is a state.

Placing the happy in front of the ending

Things end.

We grow up knowing this. Anything that is good surely cannot last forever. Anything worthwhile and special to us relies on the fact that it has some kind of ending point. An expiration date.

We can convince ourselves that good byes don’t exist and that we can hold time in the palm of our hand and dicate when it will stop and when it will go. But be warned, a sad reality awaits around the corner when another ending comes to sit at our feet.

We need to live with the ending in mind. If I have learned anything in this past semester, more valuable than the papers that I wrote and the lessons that I was taught in the classroom, it is that when we keep the ending in the picture the story line becomes all the more sweeter.

When we keep the ending in mind, we start to think “why not.”

When we keep the ending in mind, we start to say “we should.”

When we keep the ending in mind, we forget the “I will find time later,” or the pushing of people to the back burner.

When we keep the ending in mind, every moment becomes special.

When we keep the ending in mind, we remember that these days are not to be played with, they are to be treasured and used.

Now I dont ask you to treat your life like a story book with your thumb placed on the last page, but I do encourage you to look at the people all around you, today and tomorrow and think about how much you value their presence. What would life be like without them? Would you be the same person? Have they taught you something that you would not have learned otherwise? Do they know this?

We should always be mindful of the fact that we cannot slap timers on peoples’ backs and expect them to stay forever. Life does not work that way. Some endings come when we least expect them.Some endings are known from the beginning.

Either way there is no excuse. There is no excuse for not telling someone how much they mean to us. There is no excuse for not making time for the people that we love. There is no excuse for not building relationships that make saying good bye so hard to do. I have decided that I would much rather have a memorable experience, one that I can hold close to my heart rather than one that I held back from because I knew it would end too soon.

Keep the ending in mind, not because it makes life seem cruel but because it’s there. But dont let the ending get in the way of starting something or letting something grow. The ending should remind us that this moment is sweet and once in a life time. This moment will never be duplicated. We should never take the time we have been given and the people that we have been blessed with for granted.

Forget the clock on the wall.

Go hug your friends. Call your family. Let people know how you really feel.

Things end. Don’t let the fact hinder you, let it remind you of what it really and truly important.

This post has been dedicated to Celia Fox. Today we found our ending point but have already forged a new beginning. Let the world be your playground. You are ready.  

If you love me, do the obvious. Let me go.

Has it always been like this?

Or maybe we recently have come to a day and age where we love people so much that we let them go, we risk losing them forever, just because we have this wild infatuation with the world. There is not much time to watch movies (I plan to catch up over my winter break) but of the great love movies that I do see, there is normally a scene where the two tangled protagonists part ways. On purpose. Is this the romantic way to do things?

I can picture myself by an airplane terminal and then “he” (whoever “he” is) comes running up, pushing through the throngs of people, yelling that he simply cannot live without me. And then there is the choice, to stay or to go.

I think I may have started off the year wanting something similar to this. Wanting to find someone who made leaving so hard. But do I really want the pain and the heartache that comes paired with it? Do I really want to have to tell a person that I come to grow and love that I have to go off and see the world for myself? By my self. Singular. 

It is tough, like all things in life. I don’t understand it. Maybe when I fall in love with the right one I will not have to roll this question around in my head. I will just know that he is worth sticking around for. My mother and I often get into this kind of debate. I say that someone should love you enough to let you go, she says that sometimes you love someone enough to decide to stay. Perhaps it is a delicate combination of both. 

If we go- well then we might miss out on the greatest love and be doomed to the typical movie plot. The person writes us letters and then our evil parents hide them from us, normally in the trunk of the car or wrapped up in nice ribbon, all 365 of those letters. Our lover is so heart-broken over the distance that they unexpectedly fall in love with someone else who can console them with their grief. And we can’t ever hate the person they fall in love with, because they are always so damn nice. It just gets messy when we come back from where we have been and figure out that our feelings are still raging and wild. Or perhaps if we go, they wait, and then there comes the chance of being together. 

I think our hearts are too restless to stay put. Most of us have this itching and passion to see the world and if we are held back from it then we never fully develop. We find some kind of regret to cling to. We always wonder “what if?” 

To stay or to go. 

I could very well be headed off to Haiti or South Africa in 2010, so does that mean I ward off any kind of love? I know that I will eventually depart, standing by terminal 17, sick to my stomach. 

I think its more glamorous in movies, harder in real life. It hurts more off-screen. But it may be worth it. It may be worth it to know that someone loves you enough to wait for you. Or that someone loves you enough to ask you one question, to never leave them, to wake up every morning in their arms. The real question we must ask our selves, when we encounter this kind of love, is not whether they will let us leave but rather if we will choose to stay.  

A list of 30 reasons…

So I must be on a happiness kick. I really must be. Or I must just be really happy, that works just as well.

Even though I am in an extremely good mood (done with finals, getting ready for some Christmas celebrations, getting to spend some much needed time with friends) I am also too aware of how when things are down we forget to look up. During a week full of this doom and gloom I came across these 30 reasons.

We all have those weeks when NOTHING is going right. N-O-T-H-I-N-G. We feel sorry for ourselves, we pity ourselves. We think that everything is wrong and cannot seem to find the good anywhere.

I had one of those weeks at the beginning of the semester. I burst into tears at the drop of a hat. There was too much to do, I was fed up, I wanted to quit moving forward and just throw a huge temper tantrum. Then one day my best friend left a note in my mail box. The folded up piece of paper had an explanation on the front. During her freshman year, her roommate would make these lists for her “30 reasons to be happy,” whenever she was upset.  Now she makes them for her self whenever she gets bogged down to remind her self of all there is to be happy about.

Try it. I swear it works. You will get so caught up in your list that once you finish you will feel a lot better from when you started. Also, you probably will not stop at 30. I made one the other day and came up with 98 reasons.

OR… If you know someone who is going through a particularly rough time, pass the gift along to them. I know when I felt like the world was crashing down and my best friend passed this along to me I felt a) happy b) loved and c) more assured that I could make it through.

So I will leave you with a list of 30 reasons that I have to be happy at this particular moment.

1) Coffee dates with the girlfriends.

2) Having the gift and ability to write.

3) Going home in a few short days to enjoy the Christmas season.

4) Having people in my life that make it so hard to leave them for a month.

5) Forming a friendship this semester that means more to me than words can ever describe nor sum up.

6) Having drive, motivation and passion.

7) Being done with service applications!!!

8 ) Trips to Trader Joes

9) Being able to surround myself with good books this upcoming break. (Will post my winter reading list at a later time)

10) Hearing sweet stories of others’ lives.

11) The blessing of having warmth and heat and a nice bed to sleep in.

12) Knowing God is in my life.

13) Getting cards and letters from home.

14) The apartment lit up with Christmas lights.

15) Did I mention I was done with finals?!

16) Being healthy.

17) Memories to look back at during the Holiday season.

18) Friends who really care.

19) Being passionate.

20) Hot chocolate, enough said.

21) Hands, eyes, ears, mouth– mobility.

22) Who I was and who I am now.

23) The ability to read.

24) The feeling of change in my pocket and money in my bank account.

25) Support from my parents to follow my dreams.

26) The chance to take a step back and breathe.

27) Knowing that I tried my best this semester.

28) The gift of good conversation.

29) All that I need right at my fingertips.

30) A wonderful, magical, brilliant life.

What are your 30 reasons?

“Think about numero uno”

A year ago today I was sitting in the middle of a dimly lit hallway, bundled up in a blanket, attempting to finish a final paper. My battery power dwindled low as the computer made its way into power saver mode. I sat next to a blender and a powerstrip, down the hall I could see a group of guys cooking hot dogs in a toaster oven.

Not your typical, run of the mill finals week. One year ago an ice storm devastated the city of Worcester and left us without power for four full days, and half our finals weekend. Today I am lucky enough to be sitting snug in a library (done with finals might I mention). But I look back and think “Wow, a lot has really changed since then.”

If you want to be happy, be. ~Leo Tolstoy

The biggest difference between then and now? Simple. I am happy now.

How did I learn to be happy in the last 365 days? Did it just spring up one day out of nowhere, did a Monday roll around and tote happiness along with it? To be honest, I think I adjusted the way I was thinking and came to one huge realization. This is my life.

We treat happiness like it is a luxury, like we would only be so lucky to have it. We treat happiness like it is an event, “once I finish this THEN I will be happy,” “Once I turn 21, THEN I will be happy.” We treat happiness like a stranger, questioning why it is that a smile is coming across our face or why we feel contented with the moment. We analyze, scrutinize and dissect happiness when really it is not meant to be thought about, just felt.

Last year I was not doing anything to make myself happy. I was hindering myself thinking that I had to get through the hard stuff to eventually get to the good stuff. That mentality does not get us anywhere. That mentality pushes us to believe that we have all these days stacked up and available to waste when really tomorrow is not even a guarantee.

If one is not happy then they should be stopping to ask why. They should not stay fixated on this idea of pushing forward, keeping moving, when they are no finding no purpose in it. Sure we can all tap dance through life, but does it really mean anything if there is no rhythm in our step and no purpose to our shoeing? We deserve to have happiness in everything that we do. Of course life is hard and some days we just will not be feeling it, but that does not mean that we are at a loss for happiness, there is just a cloud hovering over our otherwise sunny day.

Somewhere amidst the 365 days that separate my unhappy days from my now happy days, I took control of my life. I decided that I was number one and that if I found out what I wanted to do first then the rest would just follow.

Someone very close to me approached me one day at the beginning of the semester. I was sitting at a table working on applications for service but also questioning whether I should pursue graduate schooling. I don’t think I am called to do graduate school at this point in time but I was feeling the pressures of others, the mounting expectations and the little voices in my ears to do what was practical and in line with “the plan.”

Find the moments in which you were really and truly happy. Never let them go.

He sat with me for a few moments, took the notebook that I had been working from and the pencil that I was writing with and scrawled a few words across the top of the paper. “Think about numero uno,” the best possible way for him to tell me to think about myself. Obviously not in an egotistical manner, but to put myself at the forefront instead of in the backdrop.

I am pretty important. You are pretty important as well. We all are. And when start to realize this and take it into account every single day then happiness becomes easier, more attainable. This mindset allows us to see that we deserve happiness. We deserve to smile and mean it. We deserve to see ourselves as important and our purpose in life as radiate. The next step is fulfilling that purpose and scooping up the happiness that piles in the process.

The shoes that fit our feet

Girls in particular will get this next one.

Did we not learn anything from Cinderella’s ugly step sisters? Of course I am not calling any of us ugly, but really, why were they so adamant to make that darn glass slipper fit? My friend and I had a conversation about this this past summer, why, even if the shoe does not fit, do we insist on jamming our foot into it? No, I am not talking about those killer heels that I found at DSW the other night, I am simply talking about guys. Cliche, yes, but guys are like shoes. There are those shoes that don’t fit but we kill ourselves to  try and make them, the shoes that fit but they hurt the whole time we are wearing them, and then there are those shoes that we simply grow out of… we loved them while they lasted but now they only exist in old photographs.

Shoes that don’t fit

My roommates, best friends and I subject ourselves this kind of torture on a regular basis. We meet guys, nice guys, guys you might want to bring home to meet the parentals and yet you just don’t click. Why?! Why can’t we fall in love with the guy who has it all together, the guy who has the killer resume and looks extremely good on and off paper? Its especially disheartening when we meet a “keeper” but then try as we might, we have no interest in keeping them. I haven’t figured this one out yet, why we are so determined to try to wedge our little feet into these kinds of shoes, we will deal with being unhappy or faking it because they look good on us, they send a message to people, they show off that we are capable of having the whole ensemble. But are we ever fully happy with these shoes? Do we ever fully get to love them? Sometimes I think, as hard as it is to except that we don’t always adore the guy who comes off as prince charming and will treat us like a princess, maybe it is best that when we try these kinds of shoes on and we know they don’t fit that we leave them on the shelf. That we don’t even buy them because we know eventually we will have to use the receipt.

Shoes that just plain hurt

Girls are idiots a lot of the time. Being one, I can attest. We have all met those guys who give us attention and they make us feel special but they hurt us in so many ways. They are the pair of heels that are too high for comfort, the ones that leave us blistered at the end of the night. We cry over these ones, our friends yell at us to come to our senses, but we never listen and we just shove themselves into these small and crowded menaces.

In the original story book of Cinderella, the ugly stepsisters actually cut off their toes in order to fit into the tiny shoe. Talk about painful. But we are just as guilty when it comes to those guys that will say mean things and put us through hell. We get rid of parts of ourselves, we change for them, we convince ourselves that if we grow our hair longer or if we wear better clothes then they will finally want us. They will finally love us. Sad story, too often the story line of many people in our lives, including our selves. Sometimes we just need to accept that we should not have to change in order to make a shoe fit, and we should not allow a shoe to hurt us. At the end of the night, it really isn’t all that fun trying to make the trek back to the apartment but being barely unable to move.

The shoes we grow out of

When we love something its simple. We love it. In terms of a person, we want to spend all of our time with them, we want them to know we care, we want them to know that our heart is reserved for them. There is nothing wrong with this. This is the heels that are actually comfortable, the great boots that we love to slip into after work, those flats that go with just about everything.

But shoes get tattered. They get torn. The soles wear out. Our feet grow.

I don’t think this is something that we really ever want to admit to ourselves, that we have moved on, especially when that pair of shoes have been so reliable in the past. We fall in love with people, we think that they are our everything. We are content and it feels amazing. But in a lot of cases we reach a point where we know that we need to move on, that there is more out there in the world and heart is just not ready to settle down.

Accepting this, well its never easy. We can meet someone that will show us the person that we want to be, will push us out of our comfort zone to do great and amazing things, but after a while we need to let go. We need to realize that some people are not meant to stay in our lives forever, they are meant to serve us for a small amount of time, fill the crevices and cracks in our hearts, and then move forward. It would be amazing if we could stay with them for a lifetime, but life is crazy like that. We end up wanting new shoes, ones that fit the person we have grown to be, ones that fit the person we want to become.

But this is not meant to discourage any one. Cinderella did fit into that glass slipper and she did live happily ever after. We all have a pair of soles of out there that are simply perfect for us. I think we just need to learn to never settle for the shoes that don’t fit, the shoes that hurt us too bad to even walk in them, and the shoes that we know need to be put back in the closet because they no longer fit. We all have that real fit out there. And I am sure if someone told the stories of the step sisters, what happened after Cinderella rode off into the sunset, I think we would find that they eventually found love too. They eventually found the shoes that fit their feet.