When All Is Said and Done

One of the reasons I am infinitely glad to have journaled faithfully throughout the years is the unique perspective it provides when all is said and done. I will often dig out my old journals and read through past entries with pure fascination and curiosity as though someone else had written them.

I am so surprised to read about (and be reminded of) the worries, concerns, fears, victories and priorities of the past. And I am even more surprised (at times) to see how the situations (i.e. worries, concerns and fears) have worked themselves out. To take a step back and see the picture that time has painted for me. An image that time and only time truly can.

Time is incredible in that it is the only thing capable of explaining our lives to us with the greatest amount of detail and accuracy. When allowed to do it’s job… it will reveal secrets, provide solutions and share with us endings to stories and answers we’ve literally been dying to discover.

If you think about it… sometime when things are quiet and you have a few moments to be alone with your thoughts — write them down. Record them. Because I promise you that they will change and they will evolve and if you don’t… those thoughts and feelings may slip away from you.

One day—when all is said and done—you will stumble into the answers and they will not hold the value that they could have had you remembered to make note of the questions.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
Rainer Maria Rilke

A Couple of Blank Pages…

As much as I hate to say it, I am honored that there seems to be an increasingly widening audience in which to say it to.

I am taking a little break from the blog. And I truly do mean that: a little break. It may only be a few days or a week… tops. And even though it is just a short pause, I feel the need to acknowledge it since I post faithfully on a daily basis and many of you have expressed how much you appreciate that.

… Believe me, on those not-so-creative days you are the reason I sit down and write…

But for some personal reasons I am stepping back for a bit. I do hope that when I return, you will also come back to read my rants and ramblings.

Until then, my friends, readers and fellow bloggers… take care. Have a great week and weekend. And I promise to see you shortly… on the other side!

Filling the Pages

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain

Inspiring words, no matter your age. And although I cannot yet say that I am examining my life from the perspective of 20 years ago … I believe I am far enough to say that I wholeheartedly agree with him. Ideally each one of us would look back on our lives and feel no disappointment whatsoever. But realistically, when we do look back—if there is any disappointment present—it most likely lies within the things we did NOT do rather than those we DID do.

The opportunity we did not explore… The path we did not take… The dream we did not chase. The place we did not go… The thing we did not say…

On the night before I went off to college, I sat on my bed journaling. I was thrilled about all of the things that were in front of me. It may sound cliché, but I remember the feeling like it was yesterday. The world was my oyster. Places to go, people to meet and experiences to have. Trying to capture my excitement in ink, I wrote the following: “I feel as though my life is rolled out in front of me like a warm and welcoming stretch of highway. I cannot wait to see where it will lead! Soon these things will be over and the pages of this journal will be full and everything will be a memory.”

I am twice as old today than I was when I penned those words. I am grateful that I grasped that concept when I was only 18 because those very pages are now full of some awesome memories. But I just can’t believe how quickly they filled! As we age and the restrictions of responsibilities creep in, it becomes more challenging to adopt Twain’s philosophy, but it’s not impossible. I believe that his words are not only for the young. As long as we’re breathing there are pages left to fill. Starting now… Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Wanderlust

I climbed up the ladder to the loft above my bedroom in search of a place to store a journal I had recently filled. I opened the cabinet doors, slid a couple of boxes out from their resting place and peered inside, unsure of their contents. Suddenly a clear plastic storage bin caught my eye. I put down the cardboard box I was rummaging through and switched my attention to this container. Removing the lid I quickly realized that this one was a treasure trove! It was filled to the brim with old photographs, journals and letters from my high school and college days.

On a rainy Sunday afternoon, this was quite a find! Inching closer to the light from the plate glass window, I situated myself high above the world below and dove in. It was so entertaining to flip through the photos and read the words I had scrawled 18 years ago on the yellowing pages. It felt a bit surreal awakening so many dormant memories from my more “adventurous” days.

Of course I found a lot of journal entries comprised of the usual hopes and dreams of an 18 year old girl: Where would I end up? What kind of job would I have? When would I fall in love? How would we meet? What would he be like? Would I ever get married? Would I ever have children?

But even more interesting than those things, was a recurring theme in my writings. I was obsessed with escaping my small Ohio town in search of adventures and experiences in the wider world. My mom used to tell me that I had “wanderlust,” and I believe she was absolutely right. The dictionary defines wanderlust as:a strong, innate desire to rove or travel about. And I certainly had that! There were so many fascinating places I wanted to see and interesting people I wanted to meet… and I couldn’t seem to begin this wandering soon enough!

Fortunately, from the time I turned 18 I was able to do just that. I had the unique privilege of working on a beautiful Colorado Dude Ranch during the summers while in college. And I lived and worked in New Mexico for 12 years after graduation… allowing me to experience a completely different culture from the one in which I grew up.

During those 16 years I was fortunate enough to climb 14,000 ft. mountains—literally standing on TOP of the world! I spent time rafting white water rapids and exploring miles and miles of untouched Colorado wilderness both on foot and on horseback. I learned to fly fish in the Tetons and Yellowstone … catching, cooking & eating my fair share of indigenous trout. I learned to scuba dive… soaking in some of the Caribbean’s most active and colorful reefs. I plunged into the freezing-cold waters of Lake Tahoe and experienced the lengthy but rewarding struggle of pulling King salmon out of the open Pacific (throwing up the entire time).

I searched for banana slugs while feasting on the sweetest wild berries in the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest and took a 6-passenger sea plane into British Columbia where I participated in the carving of a community totem pole with native people. In New Mexico, Arizona and Texas I blistered my feet backpacking into (and out of) some deep canyons, visited various haunts of the legends of the “Old West,” herded cattle on horseback, learned to shear a sheep, brand a steer, breed a horse, and cook a rattlesnake. And my ultimate claim to fame: I once took first place in a grape-stomping contest at a local vineyard.

Please don’t misunderstand my intention for sharing these things. I didn’t list them to boast. I am proud of doing them. I am thankful that I got to experience those adventures. But mentioning all of these things helps me emphasize how totally mystifying I find the place that I am in right NOW. Today I come home to a peaceful old house with creaky-but-charming wooden floors. If there’s a foot of snow of the ground, I can simply pull on some boots and walk next door in my pj’s to enjoy a hot meal with my family. In the summer I can watch lightning bugs from the porch swing, enjoy a burger off the grill and sing obnoxiously during the 7th inning stretch. In the fall I witness the world around me turn a thousand different colors while tailgating before a big football game.

I’m not scaling mountains, carving totem poles or herding cattle. But strangely—unlike the person I was 18 years ago—I am not restless anymore. I still have that same wanderlust and I know I’ll still travel and seek out adventure, but these days I seem to find infinite amounts of joy in watching fluffy, white flakes fall from the night sky and in laughing with childhood friends over a cold beer.

Life is such an unpredictable journey. I tried so very hard to get out of Ohio—and away from home—only to discover years later that “home” is exactly where I now CHOOSE to be. Sometimes you have to surrender to your wanderlust and strike out on your own in order to travel back around and discover the fact that you’ve come completely full circle.

If I Could Tell Her

It is without a doubt, my favorite time of day. The house is dark save for the soft light pouring from the lamp on my nightstand. I’ve put to bed all of the concerns of the hours leading up to this one and I’ve curled up with just a pen and a clean, white page in my leather-bound journal. I scribble the date at the top of the page and begin to write. All is silent and still. These minutes belong only to me.

I write about anything and everything from the mundane events of ordinary life and noteworthy events to frustrations, disappointments, successes and failures. And naturally, there is the occasional, profanity-laced rant. The writing is cathartic. But sometimes just the feel of the soft leather book in my hands and the sound of the spine crackling as I pry it open, is a reward in and of itself.

On one particular evening while venting about a personal frustration, I looked up from my journal and out into the hallway. My gaze fell upon a single photograph hanging among many. It is a picture of a young girl, about 4 or 5 years old, wearing a little red sweatshirt with the hood up, tied tight. She is perched on a large stone step with her chin buried in the crook of her tiny arm, looking as though she’s carrying the weight of the world on her small shoulders. She is clearly contemplating something, though I know not what.

I’ve walked by this photo a thousand times, but on this particular night, I was struck by an overwhelming compulsion. I wanted desperately in that moment to run to her, scoop her baby face into my 36-year-old hands and tell her so many things! No, I have not lost my mind. I know that this was never a viable option. But so powerful was my urge to do this impossible thing that I imagined what the encounter might look like…

I would tell her not to be in such a hurry to grow up and to think before she speaks. I would caution her not to be so hard on herself as she grows older and to never waste precious tears on stupid boys who’ll break her heart and awful girls who’ll act like her friends when they are anything but. I would tell her that there are amazing things out there! So many places to see, experiences to enjoy, moments to relish and victories she’ll never dream possible.

There will be times of tremendous joy, celebration and heart-stopping laughter. And times when the pain will be SO sharp, she’ll truly believe that she cannot go on. She’ll love with her whole heart and grieve when the same love disappoints. That oftentimes with incredible discovery can come unimaginable loss. Yet I would also impart to her that strength can be found in the smiles of strangers and on the big, broad shoulders of true friends… and that sometimes salvation will be found when and where she least expects it. I’d share with her the valuable secrets that she will one day stand on top of mountains and delve into the depths of the ocean. I would tell her that Life is really just one giant, scary, lovely, messy adventure and that she shouldn’t waste one single breath of it thinking she’s not enough.

But then again, perhaps I wouldn’t say anything to her at all. She will find out entirely on her own… everything in its time… and it will make her the person that I see in the mirror every day.