I Will or I Won’t

In an age of primetime scandals and uncertain politics, there are four things I like to watch: fun TV shows like Steven Universe and the Punisher, fun YouTube videos from creators like Lockstin & Gnoggin or Bird Keeper Toby, satirical news commentary from personalities such as Seth Meyers (if only he were single) and John Oliver, and TED Talks.

TED Talks, as it happens, also form the basis of the mindfulness elective I’m currently teaching. Inspired by the works of Kelly McGonigal and Brene Brown especially (my self-help gurus), this course strives to provide my students with a stress mindset intervention as well as strategies they can employ to conquer stress and shame and boost willpower.

Rather than a large number of quizzes and exams, most of the course is driven by self-reflective journals, and throughout this month, I’m committing myself to reflecting on each of these journals alongside my kids. Practice what you preach, right?

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Stillness Between Breaths

Yesterday I began reflecting on some recent challenges in my relationship with Harel, and it’s a topic I’d like to return to. I feel it’s worth mentioning that although I can’t describe exactly what’s going on without breaching Harel’s trust and confidence in me (he has not said if I may share what’s going on), the general motion is that the circumstances within which our lives are suspended have shifted, and despite no change in our love for each other, it’s unclear if a long-distance relationship can be sustained in the way these new situations would require.

It is, ultimately, an ongoing process we’re both trying to figure out.

So while this post won’t, and can’t, address the details of what we’re going through (and ultimately, I’m not sure I’ll discuss those details publicly, even with Harel’s consent), what I wish to return to is a discussion the strategies I’m using to get through it all.

Because after two years of being engaged, news like this isn’t easy to digest.

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Onward, Odysseus, I am with you

My goal when the year began was to live this year with love. To live in love, to live with every action imbued with love, to draw my intentions all in line with love.

It’s an ambitious goal. It requires reflection, introspection, and mindfulness. How else will we uncover our deepest motivations? Our deepest passions? Our deepest...fears?

When I turned my compass toward love, I had no idea what sea I was sailing into.

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Satisfaction/Distraction

ZoloftBlack clouds. Rain clouds. Grey clouds. Large black dogs with floppy ears and wobbly feet. Shadowy hands holding you back. Globs of dark fur, drenched in the rain, peering at you through an alleyway as deep as dreadful. All these things, and I’m sure many more, have been ways that people have tried to visualize depression.

For me, I’ve always considered it a bit more comically, more commercially even. Do you remember that little guy from the Zoloft commercials? It’s so cute, but so sad, so small yet so poignant, altogether insignificant.

It’s a frown, a sigh, an expression of anguish or uncertainty as the weather darkens, but you look outside and it’s still sunny and warm.

Perhaps it helps to visualize depression. Perhaps it helps to make it human. Or perhaps putting a face to these feelings isn’t at all what we need.

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A Return to Happiness

Polarity is an interesting animal. We think we know opposites–day and night, sun and moon, light and shadow–but then we’re faced with nuanced categories that defy perfect dualism–male and female, black and white, good and bad. Here there isn’t so much a binary system as much as a continuum, and it’s easy to get lost in the grey matter.

So lately I’ve been longing, lingering, languishing…and I’ve been fighting against it, feeling frothy and shameful, and it hasn’t gotten me anywhere. So I’ve been perusing TED Talks, because they’re awesome, and sometimes a little awesome makes you awesome, too.

And in a way, somewhere in this mess of chaos, a new story began.

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From Bliss, to Bliss

Three days ago I stood at security in the Mexico City airport. I hugged my hub-to-be and he held me more tightly than he ever has before. I felt the tears touching the back of my eyes, I felt the oceans rising beneath the moon, the highest tide willing and waiting to crash. I felt sheets of ice threaten to crush my heart, felt waves of magma pulse through my veins. I felt his arms tracing the contours of my body. I felt mine clenched around his body, tight enough to crack his ribcage and break through this hardened exterior.

I felt in love.

And three days ago, as we parted, kissed one last time, hugged again–because one can never be enough–our met eyes, smiled, assured each other (as we always do) that we’ll make it through this, that soon we’ll be together, that soon we’ll never have to say goodbye again. Then we waved, blew kisses, mouthed “I love you” until we passed from each other’s sight. My heart trembled like tectonic plates. My body shook like the earth wobbling on its axis, drawn around the sun in a cosmic whirlwind of gravity and dark energy.

I felt in love.

And three nights ago I crawled into my bed. I shivered beneath the sheets. So cold. I clutched my comforter, but there was no comfort: it could only remind me how empty my arms were, how his body was not sewn to mine. I awoke wondering where he was; I hit the snooze button again and again, because that’s what we do, because every time I turn off the alarm, we have another moment with each other–we have another moment free from the world, another moment to share for ourselves, to love and be loved.

I felt in love.

And the night before last, as the seconds ticked away on New Year’s Eve, I wrote to him: I am kissing you in my heart right now. And I wondered, what’s so big about the New Year? Why do we glorify January first? Why do we say this is the time to make life right? To make resolutions? To make goals? Why only now–why only now?

I am in love.

It permeates my cells like a virus, a disease–it fills my mind with fever as I lay beside him each night. One night I discovered why he burns against my skin: whereas my average body temperature is below average, his is above. Whereas I tend to feel warm easily, he is easily freezing. So when nothing separates our bodies, his furnace fuels my flood, and though I hate the heat, he has made me cold-blooded: without him to bring me to life, without his sunshine on my cold scales, I remain lethargic, lifeless, incomplete.

I am in love.

It is a state of being. It is the awareness that my heart beats for two. That as I yearn for him, he yearns for me. It’s the awareness that I need nothing else in my life than his presence. It is the grandeur of knowing we are true partners: that we’ll be here for each other no matter how far apart we are, that our greatest happiness is witnessing the other’s happiness, that our futures are one and the same.

I am love.

And it made me question the glory of New Year’s. This past year I have reevaluated my goals every month, and why should I change things now? Why should I close this chapter? What says I must start anew? To live every day like I’m dying–what does that mean? Living is dying. I want to live like I’m living–but what does that mean? What does that mean when living is loving?

I am love.

I want to love. I want to erupt with passion, overflow and blow like a hurricane in fury–the fury of mesmerization, disillusionment, realization and actualization. I want to be the best person I can be. I want to change the world, change the world, change the world. And what is the world? My world or yours–ours? And who are we? My personal circle of friends? My university, my city, my country? The world? Whose world?

Love.

That is my goal this year: to pursue what I love. To worship my body: to offer it nourishment through good food and pleasing activities, to express myself on the page, to indulge myself in guilty pleasures–late night reading and deep, dreamless sleep. To love: to write, to wonder, to realize. To share. To act. To do. To be.

Love.

Love.

Love.

My future is uncertain–and that’s scary. That’s fear. And love is the antithesis of fear. But the secret is understanding the distinction that love and fear are not feelings, but verbs: we can fear, or we can love–but we must do so actively, intensely, and absolutely: we must control, we must choose, we must believe.

I do not know if I will be accepted into either the master’s program I’ve applied for or Teach for America–if neither option comes through, by the end of May I will have no idea what I’m doing in life. I do not know if this will be the year I marry my fiance: we still must secure a sponsor, our visa petition may be denied, and other unexpected delays may arise. I do not even know when I will see him next–because for all of the above.

I could choose fear. I could collapse under the pressure of the world waiting on my shoulders, crumble and split apart like the beads of light that wander too close to a black hole, information preserved but forever indecipherable. Or I can choose to love. I can accept whatever stress and consequence fills the next 365 days. I can let go of blind terror; I can throw myself headfirst into every endeavor. I can love. I can open my heart, my soul, and let the world ravish me with all its wonderment–both the good and the bad.

I can love.

I am love.

Love.

This is my goal. This is my destiny. This is the fabric of my body.

Ten Weeks

Have you ever felt happiness so raw your cheeks hurt from smiling? Have you ever felt such joy your eyes are forced to squinting because it’s too overwhelming to see how beautiful even the most mundane corners of the world have become? Have you ever felt longing so intense every cell seems polarized, pointing in unison toward that point on the horizon where all your hopes and dreams stand in wait, longing equally for you?

I’ve been keeping a secret from you, dear reader, and I’m too excited not to tell.

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Around the Block

Plans are made to be broken and clichés are meant to be forgotten, but when the sun rises, even if the blade is blunt, it hurts all the same. I’m making no sense, and doesn’t that leave me without change?

Cut the homonyms, they don’t work as well in writing.

Where to begin? It’s been an adventure–and every step unexpected.

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Happy

Today I’m happy. And for as much as it fills me up and pours in puddles upon the ground wherever I step, I’m somewhat surprised by how unbridled and brimming I am. It’s like the sun rose inside me and now shines its brilliant rays through my pores–endless light everywhere I look.

Yesterday was a long day. I slept late, missed my tutoring session (even after running across campus in the April heat to try to make up for it), and when I got home, my bedroom light had died. Thankfully I’ve got a bedside lamp I was able to use, but it wasn’t nearly bright enough to keep me conscious and focused.

So when I went to bed, I didn’t have much happiness to hold onto.

Then: this morning, my alarm set for 10:30, I woke up at 7:30. I expected to feel terrible if I got out of bed, and knowing I had time, I rolled over and tried to sleep some more. It worked only partially, and within an hour or two I was out of bed–but despite fewer than six hour of sleep, I felt vibrantly awake–vivaciously alive.

I spent some time doing a few yoga asanas (since I exercised last night with a run and some push-ups every so often down the line) and then I did some graphic design stuff for the mere fun of it and organized a list of things I’ve got to get done today. I’m right where I need to stand to finish up the semester, except I’m a fair bit behind on my research paper–which is on a topic I love, so why I’m procrastinating, I just can’t say.

But when I left my room this morning, I just felt overflowing. I played some music and sang my way to lunch, then sang my way to class. I haven’t stopped smiling. Not one moment. Well, I might have frowned a bit when I saw the 75 I got on my last math test, but with my professor’s adjusted grading scale, it’s still a B, so I’ve still got something to smile about, don’t I? I just need to study more and do better on the final, that’s all.

Back to my room, I studied another Duolingo lesson–I’m about two behind where I’d like to be before I leave, but I can catch up in the airport if I have to–and then I got to other work: I even took a five minute break to call on Representative Ellmers to sign on as a cosponsor for ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that will grant federal workplace protection to the LGBT community, and trust me, it felt great.

The smallest things, you know?

Only a few days ago I was writhing in stress–piles of homework, unmanageable amounts of reading and research, the terrifying excitement of meeting my boyfriend–but today, all that anxiety is gone. I got to speak with a trusted counselor on Thursday, I got to visit with friends yesterday, and all the while I’ve got to talk with him–the love just bubbling up between the syllables of every word we share. I’ve given up counting the days until I see him–now I’m counting the hours, the hours so slowly yet swiftly disappearing into minutes.

Today I’m happy. I’m overflowing with joy and jubilation. And I’m thankful–because I’m not the only one responsible: all the people who teach me, who guide me, who love me and care for me–they’re why I’m happy.

And it’s an amazing feeling.

Count the Leaves

It’s been a long time since I’ve said this and an even longer time since I’ve sincerely believed it, but today I feel happy. Genuinely happy. And for the life of me, I can’t even say what’s changed.

It feels like, for so long, dark clouds have held their hands around me, ethereal and tornadic fingers twisting around me, tumultuous chaos attacking me from every angle. Today the wind awoke over the world and while I was crossing the Brickyard–an open courtyard at the heart of campus–I felt the wind whipping around me, awaken the wind inside me, and in a burst of ecstasy I spun around and watched as the world itself twisted beneath me….

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