panacea | 11.06.17

panacea • [pan-uh-see-uh] • noun
1. a remedy for all disease or ills; cure-all
2. an answer or solution for all problems or difficulties

Don’t you sometimes wish that there was some big red button to push, a magic spell that you could recite or that just a simple snap of the fingers could solve all of the world’s problems? Could you imagine? No more wars, no more poverty, no more waiting in line at Costco on a Saturday afternoon. Never again would you have to experiences any depression or face any challenges in your life. Especially with everything that’s going on with the world right now? I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wish for it.

Unfortunately, there is no real cure-all. There may be false panaceas, but those are only distractions. We only have so much time and so much energy. Spending it wistfully hoping for something that just doesn’t exist doesn’t make sense. Now that’s not to say that we should just give in and decide that the world is always going to be this dark dismal place or that things are always going to be unjust because “that’s life”. Why not take that energy and channel it constructively? Into ways that would incite change and conjure strength. I really do believe that we have the power to change the world.

“There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.”

Jim Morrison

I feel that if you focus on figuring out who you are and on learning to love yourself that you will wake up and see everything in a new light. Once you have that strong love radiating inward for yourself, I believe that it will naturally radiate outwards as well. And that it will spread and grow exponentially. Love and fear are the only two fundamental emotions. Love can change the world. I’m trying really hard to change myself and to further educate myself on various teachings and concepts of people who have already made the journey. I have spent the vast majority of my life being programmed to think and feel certain ways and let me tell you – breaking bad habits is so much harder than forming new ones and I never thought forming new habits was easy to begin with. You are the most important person in your life – it all starts with you.

Even though there’s no extraordinary cure or any way to never suffer from any disease – whether physical or otherwise – that doesn’t mean that there’s no hope. Take the time for yourself and soon enough, I think that you will start to see that change that we all hope for.

Advertisements

mitote | 10.23.17

“Sometimes my thoughts get so crazy, they’re like those little bingo balls flying around in that cage or like radio static while trying to tune into a station – any station, just something that comes through clear.”

Yes, I did just quote myself, thank you for asking. It’s an excerpt from one of the posts that I wrote soon after we moved to Oregon. That analogy is how I describe what goes on in my head sometimes. It can be so frustrating. I try so hard to focus, to pinpoint what may have triggered the anxiety or just to think and reflect. Something so simple can be really hard when all you have is a frantic swarm of bees flying around in your head. The blur of thousands of thoughts flying around and the buzz of the background noise that i can’t seem to cancel out. It’s like the scene in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone where Harry, Ron and Hermione are ambushed by the horde of magical flying keys. I could keep coming up with analogies but I think you get the idea.

I recently started to read The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and was shocked and relieved to find him mention that exact experience. He describes how this mind haze is defined by the Toltecs – ancient Mexican women and men of knowledge. The Toltecs called it mitote. It is the chaos inside one’s mind described as a “poisonous, contagious virus” in which thousands of voices are speaking over each other and not a one understands another. Even if I am able to reach out and grasp one of these flying keys, these bingo balls, it doesn’t quite make sense. There’s some sort of disconnect. Even if I am able to tune into a radio station in my mind, there is still not enough clarity. That is one thing that I have trouble with. Clearing my mind. I’ve tried many things and so far the only thing that even kind of helps to alleviate the feeling is just to write it all down. Word vomit everywhere, just writing my train of thought, whether or not they’re concise thoughts. I’ve tried to meditate without much success so far. I try to spend time practicing these strategies and exploring new ones that may help. I want to develop the skills needed to calm the storm raging through my mind so that I really can take the time to reflect and think. What tactics have helped you to focus and to clear the mind?

fighting the good fight | 10.20.17

One thing that I’ve heard a lot over the years is how I – and others – are “battling” depression, “beating” depression. I guess that’s true. As hard as it gets sometimes, I’m going to keep fighting it and keep moving forward. If nothing else, it’s all I’ve done these past few years. I don’t like those phrases though because they insinuate that depression is something that must be defeated before one can live their life. That there’s something inherently wrong and needs to be fixed. Well, surprise everyone – I haven’t been fixed, I haven’t been cured but I’m still able to find happiness in life. I’m finding peace.

IMG_6455.jpg
Beale Street, Memphis, TN

One of my new favorite artists and Instagrammers is Bunny Michael. They create “Higher Self Memes” that are posted daily. As they said in an interview with Posture Magazine, “the Higher Self memes are messages of self-love and expressions of how we can all treat ourselves better, that we are more powerful than we even realize.” One of the first ones that was shown to me was this:

bunny michael meme
@bunnymichael

I love their memes because they’re funny and relatable and so, so very spot on. I feel like the spiritual path, personal growth, recovering from living with mental illness… All of those go hand in hand. It’s never as easy as it seems. It sounds like growing spiritually would be a journey filled with rainbows and butterflies, but more likely it will be a stormy one. Even though I’m learning and growing, and I feel like I’m moving in the right direction, this journey is by no means an easy one. I still struggle, I stumble, I fall. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done and it can be painful. I have wanted to give up more than anything. But you know what? I know that it is worth it. Becoming more of a spiritual person, more enlightened, more aware isn’t just a trend or hobby, or a cool, hip thing that the kids do these days. It’s more than that. It’s a change in lifestyle that requires effort throughout your lifetime. It’s something that brings change, compassion, understanding and consciousness into your life and into the world.

People always say that it’s harder to break a bad habit. I always thought that would refer to biting your nails or picking your nose. Bad habits are easy to pick up and often go unnoticed until they’ve become an integral part of our daily lives, so much so that they’re hard to just let go. For example, I’ve spent my whole life being told certain things and being led to believe these false ideas about myself and my life. I wasn’t happy and I developed a negative way of thinking and of being. I used to be in such a bad place and I would go through these cycles, trying my hardest to develop good habits and practice self care and then falling back to square one. I tried everything. Nothing seemed to work. I honestly don’t remember how I got to where I am now, but I think that’s part of it. I wasn’t feeding into the negative as much. I didn’t actively participate in the defeatist attitude I had acquired. I didn’t always focus on it and let myself stew over all the negativity floating around inside me. Gradually, I was able to naturally pull myself out of that hole. Just by being. Existing. Becoming aware of all of this makes it a bit easier to move forward. That being said, it’s still hard as hell but I’m trying to understand more in order to find peace.

Since being back in Maryland, I’ve run into more than a few challenges and roadblocks but I’ve always found my way back on track. I really am trying to make a more conscious effort to do right by me and to do the things that will help me to continue on this journey. I signed up for a bunch of courses on Udemy that I am very eager to dive into. I’m teaching myself about photography. I’m reading more – right now I’ve picked up The Way to Love by Anthony De Mello again, as well as The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz. I highly recommend both of these books to anyone and everyone. They’re such easy reads but are so eye-opening and powerful. I’m trying to get outside into nature more, too. Doing the little things that I know will aid me in increasing my physical, mental and emotional well-being. A couple of steps forward, a couple back, but I’m still trying and I’m still fighting. A lot of the things I write about are lessons that I have learned and am trying to put into practice into my own life. I am by no means an expert. I have to work really hard every day to unlearn everything that I have been programmed to accept and to reteach myself how to be.

What kinds of things do you do that help you get out of a funk? Or that you feel helps you grow and move forward? Or even just things that you do that make you happy, that you’re passionate about? I would love to hear about them!

expectations | 10.08.17

“Expectations were like fine pottery. The harder you held them, the more likely they were to crack.” 

– Brandon Sanderson, The Way of Kings

IMG_6258
Grand Canyon, South Rim, AZ

While on this trip back to Maryland, I’ve really come to realize how much of a hindrance expectations can be to an experience. Regardless of if it’s a positive or negative expectation, it’s unnecessary. There’s no reason to base what’s to come from past happenings or maybe on something that you think may occur in the future. Then, the concept of remaining in the present comes back. I’ve written about that before, but everything I’m learning and unlearning is connected. That’s starting to become apparent more and more to me; everything is connected and everything has a balance.

IMG_6284
Campground in Stow, OH

Whether it’s something as basic as a seemingly silly stereotype or something more complex like “What am I going to do with my life?”, I feel like I need to start letting go of those expectations and attachments. There were several instances on this trip where Bryant and I would find ourselves in potentially unfriendly and uncomfortable situations, based on where we were in the country. Granted, it was usually a bit over-exaggerated and done somewhat jokingly. However, being the only people of color and the only ones without camo and confederate flag embellishments wasn’t the most welcoming of atmospheres. That being said, we had gone into a couple of these environments hesitantly, with a “let’s just do what we have to do and get out” kind of mentality and were proven wrong in the best ways. The clerk at a gas station in Texas went out of his way to make a fresh cup of coffee for Bryant when we stopped late one night. We were in the middle of a 700+ mile trek from New Mexico to San Antonio and were beyond exhausted. Not only did this guy offer to make some coffee just for us, he also gave it to us for free for being patient for waiting. That definitely wasn’t my first guess at how that would go, us walking into a tiny gas station in the middle of Who-Knows-Where, Texas at 10 o’clock at night. Just the other night we were so hungry on the road and had gotten sick of tortillas and peanut butter – which we were running low on anyways – so we stopped at a Mexican restaurant in Tennessee. We had just passed an area on the highway where we just saw one confederate flag after another, which didn’t feel like the town would have good vibes. We walked in and were immediately greeted by the host and manager with big, genuine smiles. It was such a warm, friendly and fun environment. I’ve still got to remember to write them a good Yelp review. Those were just a couple of small instances where my expectations and the stereotypes that have been ingrained in my head were proven wrong by some really good people.

IMG_6281
Ledges Overlook, Cuyahoga Valley Nat’l Park, OH

Situations like that have shown me that you really never know what might come of a situation and to go in with an open mind. When looking at the bigger picture, I often question myself and the possibilities for my future. It’s a pretty daunting thing, the future. I overthink and stress about it way too much. But why? It doesn’t even exist. I could set expectations or create scenarios of how things will go, but to what end? That will be of no benefit to me. I’m trying to learn to release some of the anxiety and tension that I have and be more open-minded and free in every facet of my life right now.

 

being here | 08.06.17

“It’s being here now that’s important. There’s no past and there’s no future. Time is a very misleading thing. All there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past but we can’t relive it; and we hope for the future but don’t know if there is one”

– George Harrison

Time truly is misleading; it can be complicated and confusing. But when it comes down to it, it’s really pretty simple. All we have is right now.

img_5004
Jackson Lake Dam, Grand Teton National Park

I was originally going to call this blog Sempiternal Ataraxia, meaning an everlasting and eternal feeling of emotional tranquility. That sounds nice, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, that’s an impossible and unattainable ideal. Nothing lasts forever. We all wish that some things could and we also wish that some other, less pleasant experiences and feelings would disappear. We can’t control those things and so they’re not worth wasting our energy worrying over. It’s also not worth spending our limited time and energy striving to achieve this non-existent feeling of eternal peace. I think that what really matters is that we try to realize what we have right now. I spent a lot of time – and still spend too much time – worrying about all of the “what ifs” of the future and the regrets from the past. It’s not worth it. You can’t change the past – what’s done is done – and the future doesn’t really exist. I’m working on channeling that energy I would be spending on worrying into experiencing the present. Into right now. Love, beauty and life are multi-faceted. In order to fully experience them, we must feel both the ups and the downs, the joy and the pain. Sometimes we just need to put aside the stress and negativity. Today is a beautiful day. Take the time to embrace it. Live for right now.

Idaho Falls, Idaho

light | 08.02.17

img_4837
High Trestle Trail Bridge, Madrid, IA

Sometimes, we might feel lost without a sense of direction or purpose. I was feeling very stuck and unsure of the future for a long time. We all need to find some sort of light to guide us and to ignite our passions. As cheesy as it might sound, I found that light in Bryant. His confidence, energy and spirit are so beautiful, strong and contagious, even. He has always and continues to inspire, motivate and empower me to better myself every day. The more and more time we spent together, I soon came to realize that the light I saw in him wasn’t what was powering me to move forward. It was the light inside of myself. Little bit of a nerd alert, but one thing that it kind of makes me think of is a particular scene from Lord of the Rings – go ahead, start laughing if you want. Galadrial had given Frodo the Light of Eärendil, saying “May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out”. Later when Sam and Frodo are entering Mordor and come across the spider, Shelob, they used that light to drive her away and to guide them through the web. What I’m getting at is that the light was given to them by Galadrial, but they were the ones who made use of it. The light served as a valuable tool to get them out of that situation, but they would never have escaped if they themselves didn’t have the courage and strength to fight through it. We all have that light, that fortitude. It just might take some time to find it and we may need some help now and again, but it’s always there.

img_4870
Maquoketa Caves, Maquoketa, IA

We are all capable of so much and I don’t think that we always give ourselves enough credit. Saying “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for so and so” I think is still a valid statement. Over the last several years, I have had amazing support and love from some very important people in my life. I don’t know where I would be without them. But one thing I needed to realize and to remind myself is that even though they were there for me through everything… so was I. I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for me. I vividly remember the night that I finally came to that epiphany. I remember hanging out at Bryant’s house, word vomiting all of my feelings. Really just spewing my train of thought and all of a sudden I said “Oh my god… I’m the reason I’m still here. I got myself here. It was me“. Once I realized that, it was like a door to a whole new world opened up. Warm, fuzzy feelings and light spread everywhere, angels started singing and there were butterflies and rainbows, too. That thought was almost like in the movie Inception – Leo DiCaprio’s character said it perfectly… Yes, I’m about to quote another film. I used to watch a lot of movies, okay? He said that “an idea is resilient… highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it’s almost impossible to eradicate. An idea that is fully formed – fully understood – that sticks; right in there somewhere.” Sounds a bit scary, especially if it’s referring to people who are planning on bouncing and poking around in your brain trying to manipulate your dreams and influence your thoughts, but that fine, whatever, that’s not the point I’m trying to make. Once I was able to verbalize and form that idea into a coherent thought, that shed light on an entirely new perspective and way of thinking for me.

Navy Pier, Chicago, IL

Finding that light within ourselves is vital; becoming educated on awareness and enlightenment is kind of what helped me to see that light in me. I still barely know anything when it comes to all of that, but I have already made such a huge change in my life and I’m eager to keep improving and learning as much as I can. Something that I’ve learned over the last several months and on this trip is that facing fears is also a huge part of it. I have become more adventurous and I have rediscovered that sense of curiosity that I remember having when I was younger. I’m scared of heights but I’ve climbed mountains. I don’t like certain foods but I’ve been cooking meals for myself and Bryant that I normally wouldn’t even think of going near. I have always been pretty shy when it comes to people, which is still true to a point. I’ve been able to get out more and put myself out there more than I ever have before. Stepping outside of my comfort zone and proving to myself that I really can do a lot more than I thought I could has really boosted my confidence and given me a sense of accomplishment that has fueled me to keep doing more and more.

attachment | 07.31.17

Forked River, NJ

Only five days into the trip and it feels like we’ve gone on a month’s worth of adventures. Every experience is new and unknown, spontaneous and exciting. Between car camping in Walmart parking lots and pitching a tent in Middle-of-Nowhere, USA, MTV Cribs would be loving our glamorous living arrangements. My family and I took Bryant on a boat for his first time and we got to swim in the Atlantic Ocean off of the New Jersey shore. We climbed the Ledges Overlook and Brandywine Falls in Ohio and we enjoyed a beautiful sunny day at the beach in Indiana (weird, I know).

Ledges Overlook, Cuyahoga Valley, OH

There has been one thing that has been a bit difficult to adjust to – not seeing friends and family every day. I’ve never really left home like this before and it’s hard to not have the same kind of interactions with people as I would back home. It’s not quite a homesick feeling for being in Maryland so much as a homesick feeling for the people there. I’m beginning to learn and understand the concept of attachment and how the relationships I have with myself and with other people are changing.

Brandywine Falls, Cuyahoga Valley, OH

Co-dependency is not good in any kind relationship. I’ve noticed that it is often driven by a fear of loss or of rejection. Depending on someone isn’t inherently bad, but like anything there has to be a balance. I will no longer allow my happiness to be dictated solely by another person or thing. My happiness is paramount. There is nothing selfish about putting yourself first. Like I said before (and like I will probably say a thousand times again) – balance is key. There is a median between an unhealthy, interdependent relationship and being entirely self-reliant and sovereign without allowing for meaningful relationships to develop. It became pretty simple once I realized that I don’t need anyone. I do enjoy the time I have with loved ones and I embrace every moment I have with them. It isn’t “I can’t live without you, I need you” so much as it is “I am aware that I don’t need you in order for me to live fully and happily, but I choose to spend and to enjoy my time I get with you”. Even though this idea is pretty simple, that doesn’t mean that it is easy. Now that I have a better understanding, though, I feel more confident and that feeling is helping me through a lot of the feelings of separation and distance with my friends. They are all with me in spirit no matter where I am, even if it’s 3 thousand miles away.

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

I hope that I am able to better develop my self-confidence and independence so I can keep enjoying this trip to the fullest extent. Meanwhile… onto Iowa!